This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Background to the Philippine Army’s Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) (SFR-A).
- Part 02: Organisation of the SFR-A.
- Part 03: Training for the SFR-A
- Part 04: Miscellaneous.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), a unit of the Philippines Army within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The unit is based on, and regularly trains with, the US Army’s Special Forces, aka the Green Berets.
The regiment is one of several units that form part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSOCOM).
Part One of this article looks at women and the SFR-A, 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 the SFR-A before finally providing a brief history on its origins. Part Two looks at the organisation of the SFR-A, identifies some key personalities, before moving on to outline the various SOF units. Part Three outlines the training courses open to potential and veteran SFR-A members, as well as the training pipeline for SF aspirants. Finally, Part Four 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 Special Forces Regiment (Airborne).
1.2 Women and the SFR-A
Unsure if women can join.
1.3 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Special Forces
The SFR-A is sometimes referred to as a ‘Tier 1’ SF unit 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 the SFR-A directly, one must join the AFP first and then apply.
1.5 Roles and Tasks
The role of the SFR-A includes a number of specialist tasks, for example:
- Unconventional warfare (UW);
- Psychological warfare (PW);
- Counter-insurgency (COIN);
- Counter-terrorism (CT) operations;
- Special reconnaissance (SR);
- Airborne operations;
- Riverine operations;
- Direct action (DA);
- Foreign internal defence (FID);
- Hostage rescue;
- Counter-narcotics operations;
- Security forces assistance; and
- Disaster relief operations.
1.6 Brief History
The SFR-Awas established on 21 June 1962 by then Captain Fidel Valdez Ramos, who would go on to become the Chief of Staff AFP, Secretary of National Defence, and then President. Ramos also fought in the Korea War and was a non-combat civil military engineer and commanding officer of the Philippine Civil Action Group (PHILCAG) during the Vietnam War.
Key dates include:
- HQ established at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
- SFR-A personnel form and train an army of militia, known as the Civil Home Defence Forces (CHDF), to distract and gather intelligence on communist insurgents as part of Presidential Decree No.1016.
- HQ moved to Fort Andres Bonifacio in Makati City, Metro Manila.
- CHDF disbanded after the People Power Revolution.
- July 1987, Executive Order 275 formally dissolves the CHDF, and other paramilitary units.
- July 1987, Executive Order 264 established the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), providing an opportunity for CHDF members (approximately 25-70%) to once again perform their duties.
- HQ moved back to Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
Notable campaigns include:
- Anti-guerrilla operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
- CT operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiyah, and Al Qaeda operating in the southernmost Philippine Island of Mindanao.
- Anti-guerrilla operations against the New People’s Army (NPA).
- Anti-guerrilla operations against Communist Dissidents at height of the Vietnam War in support of the PHILCAG.
- Anti-Coup D’état Operations during the riots on 01 May 2001.
- Anti-Coup D’état Operations during the height of the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.
- Anti-Coup D’état Operations during the height of the 2006 Coup attempt.
- COMELEC Marshalls during National and Local Elections.
- Provided force-on-force multipliers for government forces during the height of the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege.
PART TWO: ORGANISATION OF THE SFR-A
This part of the article outlines the organisation of the SFR-A, including its commander and the various units and sub-units within it.
2.1 Commander SFR-A
The SFR-A has previously been led by a Colonel (OF-5), based at the headquarters (HQ) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
As of August 2019, the current and immediate prior commander have been Brigadier Generals (OF-6).
2.2 Key Personalities
Key personalities include (Oliva, 2019):
- Commander: A Brigadier General (OF-6).
- FSRR Course Director: A Captain (OF-2).
- Deputy Regiment Commander.
- Chief of Staff.
- Battalion/company commanders.
- Battalion Sergeant Major.
- First Sergeant.
2.3 Units of the SFR-A
The combat organisation of the SFR-A is based on a 12-man team, similar to US Army SF, and each team will have the full range of SF military occupation specialties (MOS).
“Since its inception in 1962, the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) (SFRA) has continuously grown and evolved from being simply a company, to being a group, then to, today, being a regiment.” (Lastimado & Rojas, 2004, p.23).
In 2004, Lastimado & Rojas (2004, p.23) state the SFR-A had approximately 1,200 personnel and was organised as follows:
- HQ and HQ Service Company.
- Three Special Forces Battalions with three Special Forces Companies each.
- Special Forces School.
As I understand it, the SFR-A (as of December 2014) has approximately 2,000 personnel and is organised as follows:
- HQ and HQ Company.
- 1st Special Forces Battalion.
- 2nd Special Forces Battalion ‘Sabertooth’.
- 3rd Special Forces Battalion ‘Arrowhead’.
- 4th Special Forces Battalion (Riverine) ‘Dolphin Warriors’.
- 5th Special Forces Battalion.
- 6th Special Forces Battalion, with HQ at Antequera, Bohol (de-activated September 2004).
- Special Forces Training School.
Battalions can be led by either a Major (OF-3) or a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4), though typically an OF-4.
The following companies form part of the five battalions.
- 1st Special Forces Company.
- 2nd Special Forces Company.
- 3rd Special Forces Company.
- 4th Special Forces Company.
- 5th Special Forces Company.
- 6th Special Forces Company.
- 7th Special Forces Company.
- 8th Special Forces Company.
- 9th Special Forces Company.
- 10th Special Forces Company (Airborne), a.k.a. ‘COBRAS’ or Company of Brave Reverent Army Soldiers.
- 11th Special Forces Company.
- 12th Special Forces Company.
- 13th Special Forces (Knights) Company.
- 14th Special Forces Company.
- 15th Special Forces Company.
- 16th Special Forces Company.
- 17th Special Forces Company.
- 18th Special Forces (Riverine) Company.
- 19th Special Forces Company.
- 20th Special Forces Company.
In September 2004, as part of the downsizing the regiment, some of the personnel of the then 16th Special Forces Company (SFC), 3rd SFC, 17th SFC, and 28th SFC were merged to establish the new 4th SFC of the 3rd SF Battalion. The remainder personnel were allocated to the 3rd Infantry Division.
2.4 Special Forces Training School
The Special Forces Training School (SFTS) is located at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
PART THREE: TRAINING
3.0 Training Courses for Special Forces
There are a number of courses available (Nepomuceno, 2019a & 2019b; Oliva, 2019):
- Basic Airborne Course;
- Special Forces Combat Qualification Course (SFCQC);
- Special Forces Assessment and Selection System (SFASS);
- Special Forces Operations Course (SFOC);
- Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD);
- Psychological warfare operations (PSYOPS);
- Intelligence operations;
- Riverine operations;
- Combat diving;
- Military Free-fall (MFF); and
- VIP security training (in preparation for a re-assignment with the Presidential Security Group).
3.1 Special Forces Training Pipeline
Two articles from 2015 (Ramos, 2015; Arsua, 2015), outline the training pipeline SF candidates will go through in their quest to become a SF soldier.
- Pre-selection process, known as the Special Forces Combat Qualification Course.
- Delivered at the SF School.
- 2-week Special Forces Assessment and Qualification System.
- 8-month Special Forces Operations Course (SFOC).
- Trains each candidate in the basics of SF and UW operations, including operations and intelligence, weapons, medics, communications, demolitions, air operations, and combat diver.
- It also includes a 1-month combat test mission.
3.2 Special Forces Qualification Badge
- Special Forces Combat Qualification Badge and Tab.
- SFCQC Patch and Badge.
- The OG1, SFR(A) is proposing the following Policies and Guidelines on wearing of the SF Combat Qualification Badge and Tab:
- A personnel can wear the SFCQC badge and tab (SPECIAL FORCES WARRIOR) if he is a graduate of said course. Special Forces Warrior tab means exceptional combat skills of SFCQC graduates.
- Upon completion of Special Forces Operations Course, SFCQC badge will be replaced by an SF Badge and Tab (Special Forces).
- Tabs are not part of the unit patch.
- Facebook 03 December 2014 (https://www.facebook.com/specialforces.mil.ph/?rf=385213948323215). [Accessed: 28 August, 2019].
- Are graduates of SFOOT-UWOC authorised to wear SPECIAL FORCES TAB?
- No, they are not authorised to wear the SF Tab or patch, only the graduates of SFOC and its honorary and associate members are authorised.
3.3 Special Forces Alumni Association
The Special Forces Alumni Association Incorporated (SFAAI) is located at Camp Peralta Jr, Capiz. It is a non-profit organisation.
The SFAAI has aided in the development of a Special Forces Park and Museum (Special Forces Alumni Association Panay, 2018).
PART FOUR: MISCELLANEOUS
4.0 Useful Publications
- Lastimado, A.R. & Rojas, A.G. (2004) The Armed Force of the Philippines and Special Operations. Master’s Thesis. Naval Postgraduate School. Available from World Wide Web: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a429856.pdf. [Accessed: 21 August, 2019].
- Headquarters Philippine Army Letter Directive dated February 24, 2004, Subject: Rightsizing of SOCOM.
- PAM 3-071: Philippine Special Forces Operations Manual.
- Dagger: The official publication of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne).
4.1 Useful Links
- Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/specialforces.mil.ph/.
- SFR-A (Official): http://www.afpspecialforces.com. (Defunct).
- Special Forces Alumni Association Incorporated (SFAAI): https://www.facebook.com/Special-Forces-Alumni-Association-Panay-768780953299004/.
Arsua, K. (2015) WATCH: Incredible Recruitment Video of the Philippine Special Forces. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.wheninmanila.com/watch-incredible-recruitment-video-of-the-philippine-special-forces/. [Accessed: 30 August, 2019].
Ramos, K. (2015) Philippine Army’s Special Forces Regiment (Airborne); honed to perform the toughest military operations. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.digitalfilipina.com/philippine-armys-special-forces-regiment-airborne-honed-to-to-perform-the-toughest-military-operations/. [Accessed: 21 August, 2019].
Special Forces Alumni Association Panay. (2018) Facebook post 27 June 2018. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.facebook.com/768780953299004/posts/d41d8cd9/964377607072670/. [Accessed: 30 August, 2019].