Challenges In and Out of the Battlefield

“Marawi City has been freed by ordinary soldiers doing extraordinary deeds.” — Lt Col Ramon Flores

One of the greatest challenges to the leadership of the Army was the magnitude and unexpected dynamics of the battlefield. As we were accustomed to fighting in the jungle, finding ourselves suddenly caught in the middle of an urban warfare was inconceivable at the beginning. Coupled with this dilemma was the lack of a sufficient number of trained and capable personnel on the ground. To address this, it was necessary for us to immediately mobilize and employ additional forces. The different troops deployed had varied levels of understanding and mixed capabilities in addressing our complex problem on hand. Some of our troops only had one day of preparation to include zeroing
of their rifles and completion of equipment, among others. The challenge to us was how to efficiently synchronize, harmonize, and manage our skills in order to optimize not only our strengths, but also those coming from other units as well.

As the battle went on, the challenges became even more difficult to manage and control due to their intensity. Earning the trust and support of the affected community in Marawi City proved to be difficult as well. There were some communities who supported the terrorists, while some were neutral on the issue. Moreover, the proliferation of negative propaganda against us had complicated and worsened the prevailing situation. The surprisingly huge force of the enemy, continuous casualties suffered by our side, and the hostage-taking of some civilians created a temporary
setback for our operations. At that time, it was important to carefully manage the perception of the community as we recognized its contribution to the success of the mission.

On top of these, the internal and external pressure from higher leaders and the community, respectively, had become two of the most difficult things to manage during the crisis. The public expected us to multitask and do everything in our power to liberate Marawi City in the soonest possible time. They also expected us to assume the responsibilities of the national government, foremost among these was to conduct civil-military engagements and diplomacy, humanitarian aid during the crisis, and lead the rebuilding of the MBA. These made us feel overburdened and pressured, not to mention the lack of sleep every single day due to the ongoing operations against the terrorists, inadequacy of nutritious meals to eat, and the absence of the warmth of family and friends. These were the things that the public did not have knowledge of. Still, we managed to address all of these problems and resolve them through exemplary leadership, teamwork, and good foresight.

This entry is part of Book 1: Leading from the Heart.)

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