During the Marawi crisis, our government forces utilized combined arms, joint, and interagency manner against the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group. Units with different competencies, functions, and skills performed combined arms operations in an urban terrain.
In the application of combined arms in Marawi City, we relied on the: synergy, synchronization, coordination, and integration of different maneuver, maneuver support, and combat sustainment units.
The Infantry and Special Operations Forces (SOF)
Special Operations Forces from the First Scout Ranger Regiment (SRR), Light Reaction Regiment (LRR), and Special Forces Regiment Airborne (SFR(A)) were the ones with the much-needed skills and capabilities in sniping, Close Quarters Battle (CQB), breaching, and offensive maneuvers. Having the preponderant number of forces in the MBA, SOF units played a major role in clearing the MBA of terrorist influence.
During the crisis, armor units from Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) headed by MGEN EDGAR GONZALES were among those at the forefront of the hard power approach in Marawi City. The modernized armored vehicles we had under our disposition played significant roles in the liberation of Marawi City. The modern weapons systems on some of these vehicles enabled us to observe and engage enemies both during the day and at night leading to numerous confirmed enemy kills.
Our fire support units played a key role during the crisis. We softened targets either through aerial bombardment from fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft or from artillery batteries that were positioned around Marawi City.
The M101A1 105mm howitzer under the Army Artillery Regiment (AAR) commanded by BGEN AGANE ADRIATICO was the mainstay in providing direct and indirect artillery fire support for the troops in Marawi City.
Sighting the target was basically done through the breach end of the bore with the aid of an improvised cross hair attached on the other end. The improvised cross hair was made from either two strands of grass laid in a cross that was held by a glob of grease or the bottom of a plastic container with its other parts cut out to resemble a cross hair. The use of howitzers for direct fire was quite effective in targeting the enemy positions and creating alternative avenues of approach for our attacking troops. This inevitably contributed to reducing the number of our casualties.
Aside from these, aircraft from the PAF and the PN conducted close air support (CAS) missions to soften enemy positions prior to the assault of our ground troops.
The employment in urban warfare of our combat engineers under the leadership of BGen Arnold Fernandez and BGen Dionisio Baudin was necessary, as they provided key passage for our operating troops. By doctrine, our combat engineers were there to provide support in terms of: mobility, counter-mobility, and for the survivability of our maneuvering troops.
During the Marawi crisis, the latest reports on the enemy locations were necessary in fighting the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group. However, because of the urban nature of the environment, gathering information for our intelligence buildup was a challenge for us. People reported that groups of individuals of varying ages seemed to be scampering along the streets, they could have been the enemy, friendlies, or even civilians on the move attempting to escape from the conflict. Therefore, drones were used to gather real-time images and videos of Marawi City during the crisis. Similarly, the enemy had their own drones during the conflict. In a way, the crisis in Marawi City can be said to have been, “the clash of the drones,” for both of us, relied on using commercially available drones for similar ends. We used our drones to get a better picture of the MBA. Compared to aerial photography from aircraft, drones were cost efficient, and a faster means of getting a bird’s-eye view of the MBA. Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, National Security Adviser (NSA) provided the JTF Marawi drones in support of the entire Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaisance (ISR) operations.
One of our best innovations for the use of our drones was when it was used to establish a line of communication by delivering written instructions together with a mobile phone unit for hostages trapped in an enemy held building. This innovation led to the dramatic rescue of 17 hostages.
COMMAND AND CONTROL COMMUNICATIONS AND CYBER SYSTEMS (C4S)
In urban operations, C4S was vital in supporting us in terms of communication and night fighting. Our communication equipment played a critical role in coordinating, maneuvering, and synchronizing the operation. Signal equipment and our signal personnel laid the necessary groundwork which provided us with a smooth and uninterrupted means of communication in Marawi City.