THE military will be doubling the strength of the elite Light Reaction Battalion that saw action in the successful operations against Moro National Liberation Front fighters during the siege of Zamboanga City last September.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, interviewed yesterday after the traditional joint New Year’s call of the defense department and the Armed Forces in Camp Aguinaldo, said the military has decided to transform the LRB into a regiment size due to its “effectiveness” during the Zamboanga City siege.
LRB forces were trained and equipped by the US in 2000 as part of its global fight against terrorism. It currently has three companies (a company has about 120 soldiers) which were all deployed to contain hundreds of MNLF men that seized several Zamboanga City barangays and about 200 hostages last September.
Eight LRB personnel died and 37 were injured during the operations, said Army spokesman Capt. Anthony Bacus.
He also said the 4th Light Reaction Company will be formed this year and the two others “will be organized onwards.”
Coballes said they were inspired by the accomplishment of the LRB in the campaign in Zamboanga City that led to the rescue of the hostages, killing of about 200 MNLF fighters who were members of the Misuari faction, and capture or surrender of 300 others.
“We saw the effectiveness of the unit during the Zamboanga siege as part of our anti-terrorism efforts. That is why, from a battalion, we’ll increase it to a regiment. We’ll make it bigger. It will be a big help in terms of reacting to similar events,” he said.
The LRB is based in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. It is directly under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), also based in Fort Magsaysay.
SOCOM has two other elite units under it, namely the First Scout Ranger Regiment (based in Camp Tecson in Bulacan) and Special Forces Regiment (based in Fort Magsaysay).
Coballes said the AFP will ask the assistance of the US military in the training of the three additional companies.
“Maybe it’s going to be minimal assistance. This effort to increase (the strength of LRB) is our idea so in terms of training, we’ll get assistance from them,” he said.
On the equipage aspect, Coballes said, “We are going to equip our own...This is what we want so we will provide them equipment.”
The current LRB personnel are equipped with MP5, P90, M4 carbine, cal. 45 for assault operations and M24 and SR rifles.