This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Background to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM).
- Part 02: Organisation of the AFPSOCOM.
- Part 03: Miscellaneous.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM), a major command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which commands a number of special operations forces (SOF).
Part One of this article looks at women and the Philippines SOF, then discusses the difference between tier 1 and tier 2 forces and highlights the methods of entry. It then outlines the roles and tasks of Philippines SOF before finally providing a brief history on its origins. Part Two looks at the organisation of AFPSOCOM, including political and military oversight. Part Two outlines the role of the Commander AFPSOCOM and identifies some key personalities, before moving on to outline the various SOF units and support units. Finally, Part Three provides some useful links and identifies other articles the reader may find useful.
The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command.
1.2 Women and AFPSOCOM
Women can join the various units within AFPSOCOM.
1.3 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Special Forces
Some of the units within AFPSOCOM are sometimes referred to as ‘Tier 1’ SF units because they are the units usually tasked with direct action. Other special operations forces are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units as they, usually, fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.
1.4 Method of Entry
Civilians cannot join AFPSOCOM directly. However, civilian aspirants who believe that a career with AFPSOCOM is their preferred career path should contact their local Military Recruiting Centre for detailed information on career choices.
AFPSOCOM recruits members directly from the AFP for a variety of roles. However, candidates must typically have a minimum of two years’ service and the method of selection is dependent on the unit and the position sought.
1.5 Roles and Tasks
AFPSOCOM, and the units under its command, have a variety of roles and tasks, including:
- Direct action (DA) operations;
- Counter-terrorism (CT) operations;
- Anti-guerrilla operations;
- Counter-insurgency (COIN) operations;
- Hostage rescue;
- Unconventional warfare;
- Jungle warfare;
- Foreign internal defence (FID);
- Special reconnaissance;
- Raiding operations; and
- Urban warfare.
1.6 Brief History
The AFPSOCOM was established on 06 April 2018, formally unifying the various special operations units and organisations of the AFP.
It took over the command and supervision role of the Philippines Army Special Operations Command (PA SOCOM), since de-activated, and the other major Services (discussed later).
Although AFPSOCOM was established in April 2018 on the basis of PA SOCOM and the AFP Joint Special Operations Group, it can trace its origins to the Philippine Army Special Warfare Brigade (ASWABde) established on 16 January 1978 (this date is marked as the official anniversary of SOCOM).
The establishment of the ASWABde was a first attempt to bring together Army SOF, the Special Forces Regiment and the First Scout Ranger Regiment, and was disbanded in 1986.
Re-activated as PA SOCOM in 1995, it once again brought together Army SOF under one command, including the Light Reaction Regiment from 2003.
PA SOCOM was reborn as AFPSOCOM and elevated to an Armed Forces Combatant Command.
The purpose of establishing of AFPSOCOM was to (Parameswaram, 2018):
- Create an integrated command structure;
- Foster greater interoperability between the various units and organisations;
- Boost the ability to confront security challenges; and
- Further develop joint operations involving Special Forces.
PART TWO: ORGANISATION OF AFPSOCOM
This part of the article outlines the various units and organisations which make up AFPSOCOM.
AFPSOCOM is headquartered at Fort Magsaysya, Nueva Ecija.
2.1 AFPSOCOM Mission
The mission of the AFPSOCOM is to plan, conduct and support special operations in all operational environments in support of the fundamental missions of the AFP.
It enables this mission through the following core capabilities:
- Unconventional warfare (UW);
- Direct action (DA);
- Special reconnaissance (SR);
- International and domestic counter-terrorist (CT) operations;
- High value target (HVT) raids;
- Hostage rescue;
- Foreign internal defence (FID);
- Counter-narcotics operations;
- Humanitarian assistance and disaster response; and
- Security assistance.
2.2 Commander AFPSOCOM
The Commander AFPSOCOM is a Brigadier General (OF-6) (Parameswaran, 2018).
2.3 Units of AFPSOCOM
AFPSOCOM is organised into:
- Philippine Army SOF:
- Special Forces Regiment (Airborne).
- First Scout Ranger Regiment.
- Light Reaction Battalion Regiment.
- Civil Affairs Group (now under the AFP General Headquarters).
- Philippine Navy SOF:
- Naval Special Warfare Group.
- Philippine Air Force SOF:
- 710th Special Operations Wing (SPOW).
- Philippine Marine Corps:
- Marine Special Operations Group.
- Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Special Operations Group (AFP JSOG).
2.4 Special Forces Regiment (Airborne)
Established in 1962, the role of the Special Force Regiment is to organise, train, equip and provide rapidly deployable forces and conduct unconventional warfare in all types of operational environment in support of AFPSOCOM’s mission.
The regiment’s core capabilities include UW, DA; SR; psychological warfare and mass base operations.
2.5 First Scout Ranger Regiment
Established in 1950, the role of the First Scout Ranger Regiment is to organise, train, equip and provide rapidly deployable forces and conduct special operations in support of AFPSOCOM’s mission.
The unit was modelled after two World War Two fighting groups, the intelligence gathering American Alamo Scouts and the US Army Rangers.
The regiment’s core capabilities include guerrilla warfare, DA, jungle warfare, SR, and sniping operations against hostile positions.
2.6 Light Reaction Regiment
Officially established in 2004, the Light Reaction Regiment is the premier CT unit of the Philippine Army and the Special Mission Unit of the Philippines.
Due to its specialisation in CT operations and its formation with American advisers, the Light Reaction Regiment has been sometimes referred to as the Philippines’ Delta Force.
2.7 Naval Special Warfare Group
Established in 1956, the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) is the SOF of the Philippines Navy.
The unit’s core capabilities include sabotage, psychological warfare, and UW. It is heavily influenced by the United States Navy SEAL’s.
2.8 Marine Special Operations Group
Established in 2018, the Marine Special Operations Group, also known as the Force Reconnaissance Battalion from 1995, but can trace its lineage back to the 1950s.
The Marine Special Operations Group of the Philippine Marine Corps have similarities between the NAVSOG. Also trained in the same capabilities, although their capabilities are not as well known.
2.9 710th Special Operations Wing
Established in 1991, the 710th Special Operations Wing (SPOW) is the SOF unit of the Philippine Air Force.
The unit’s core capabilities include hostage rescue and CT operations.
2.10 Joint Special Operations Group
Officially established in 2003, the AFP Joint Special Operations Group is assigned to the AFP counter-terrorism force.
PART THREE: MISCELLANEOUS
Parameswaram, P. (2018) What’s in the New Philippines Special Operations Command? Available from World Wide Web: https://thediplomat.com/2018/04/whats-in-the-new-philippines-special-operations-command/. [Accessed: 27 August, 2019].