Monday, February 16, 2015

A CORNFIELD TOO FAR - the last stand of the 55th SAF

The official presentation of the Special Action Force (SAF) Top Brass finally gave me the opportunity to understand what happened to the 55th SAF Company (35 KIAs out of 36 deployed).
I reconstructed the last stand of the 55th SAF based on the info disclosed in such presentation and the Mamasapano satellite map provided by Google Maps.  And as can be seen above, it presented a grim picture.
It appears that the 55th SAF was ordered to take a blocking position across a river.  This effectively separated it from the main SAF force of 320 men and its back-up armor of V-150 Commandos.  Its only lifeline back to the main body of troops was through a wooden footbridge.  When a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) force was able to control the end of that footbridge on the Main SAF Force side of the river, the 55th SAF's fate was sealed.
Why the 55th SAF was ordered to position itself across the river, in the first place, is something that eludes me.  For it to be an effective left flank blocking force, all it had to do was position itself at the end of that footbridge on the same side of the river as the Main SAF Force (the same position which the abovementioned MILF force took).  36 men would have been enough to prevent even 1,000 men from crossing that footbridge.  The river would have simply done the rest.

What made it worse, it appears that the SAF's blocking position was obstructed from the highway by a treeline, thereby effectively depriving it of any direct fire support from the .50 cal Browning HMGs of the V-150s, as well as any visual assessment of its situation by the Main SAF Force. Had the 55th SAF been positioned on the highway side of that treeline, the V-150s would have been in a position to rake with HMG fire any hostiles that would try to overrun the 55th SAF position.  And considering that the Army was able to send as reinforcements six (6) Simba armored vehicles by 0820H of January 25, the direct fire support available to the 55th SAF would have been tremendous.
So, who do you think is responsible for ordering the 55th SAF to assume that blocking position?

POTPHI?  Secretary Deles?  The AFP?  The Philippine Army?...
Somebody gave the 55th SAF a direct order to make a blocking position on that desolate patch of cornfield on the wrong side of the river.
And when the moment to come to the aid of the 55th SAF arrived...
It was just a cornfield too far...


actually... the situation could still have been remedied at the tactical level... once an MILF force occupied the other end of that footbridge, the 55th SAF should have attacked them with everything they had and crossed back to the Main SAF Force side of the river... at that time, it was still dark, and they still had the tactical advantage because they had sniper rifles with night vision scopes... they even had a 90 RR that could have easily neutralized the exposed position of the MIs... but they just sat on that cornfield and waited for the end to come... i, in all honesty however, cannot blame the 55th SAF CO for this tactical oversight... he is, after all, a policeman forced to fight as infantry... by a flawed national defense structure...

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