Scout Rangers: The legend continues

- Maj. Harold Cabunoc () - November 26, 2011 - 12:00am

CAMP TECSON, San Miguel, Bulacan, Philippines – Since its activation over six decades ago, the Army’s First Scout Ranger Regiment has continuously produced a long list of heroes.

Trained and organized by the late Gen. Rafael Ileto, the Rangers are the first elite military force in the country.

In 1955, Ileto rose to become the first commander of the striking force, which specializes in anti-guerrilla warfare.

Since the Hukbalahap campaigns in the 1950s, the “Musangs” (local term for Scout Rangers) had left an indelible mark in the Army’s operations.

Technical Sgt. Francisco Camacho and Corporal Weena Martillana were among those who emerged as legendary warriors during that time.

They were both awarded the Medal of Valor after a successful combat mission behind enemy lines, which killed a notorious Huk leader in December 1955.

In the 1970s, the Scout Rangers were deployed to participate in the government’s campaigns against the secessionist groups in Sulu where they found themselves in the thick of the fight.

During the Battle of Sibalu Hill on Nov. 26, 1972, the Scout Rangers proved their tenacity in combat as they seized the heavily fortified enemy camp together with a contingent of Marines.

In Central Mindanao, another group of Scout Rangers established themselves as a force to reckon with during a firefight with numerically superior enemy forces in 1974.  

Led by 2nd Lt. Evelio Pugna, a seven-man team of Scout Rangers engaged a hundred rebels in the marshes of Libungan town, Cotabato.

Through their exemplary skills in small-unit tactics, the “Black Panthers” killed more than 40 rebels in heavy fighting which raged for hours.


The most popular Scout Ranger is the legendary Gen. Julius Javier, a native of Negros Occidental.

His daring exploits and unsurpassed combat accomplishments earned for him the moniker “Living Legend.”

Javier had survived at least three ambushes unscathed. People around him believed that he had an amulet that protected him from harm.

In December 1972, Javier and two others repulsed an overwhelming enemy force that ambushed the vehicle they were riding in as they reinforced a unit of the Marines who suffered numerous casualties in a firefight.

He was the only one who was untouched by the bullets whizzing around them.

His two buddies were wounded but were able to provide covering fire as he retrieved the others who were trapped in the middle of the engagement area.

Amid the hail of bullets, Javier carried six of his severely wounded comrades one after the other out of the kill zone. He also retrieved all the firearms despite the continuous hail of enemy fire.

“We leave no one behind. It is a sacred SOP (standing operating procedure) among the Scout Rangers,” said Javier, whose reputation as an invincible warrior was cemented by that heroic feat.

Respected warriors

Javier was widely known not only for his notable battle successes but also his ability to win the fight without using violence.

He led a seven-man team of Rangers who infiltrated the communist-infested areas in Real town, Quezon in 1974. Approaching unnoticed, Javier managed to capture eight rebels with their firearms without firing a single shot.

“We let them live out of respect for human life. Due to that incident, we left a lasting imprint in the minds of the enemies that the Rangers can reach them wherever they were,” said Javier, who once served as a commanding general of the expanded First Scout Ranger Regiment.

Operating in Basilan as a Battalion Commander in 1981, Javier received the most number of high-powered firearms when he convinced a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to surrender with several of his followers.

Since then, the Scout Rangers earned the respect of different rebel groups. The enemies knew that the Rangers do not hesitate to pull the trigger when necessary.

Modern heroes

Through the years, the Scout Rangers continue to live up to the expectations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the country.

A number of Scout Rangers received the Medal for Valor Award, the highest award given to military personnel for conspicuous acts of courage and gallantry in combat.

Corporal Romualdo Rubi is among the distinguished living heroes. He single-handedly fought at least 100 heavily armed communist rebels that attacked a military detachment in Claver, Surigao del Norte on March 18, 1991.

Undaunted by the overwhelming enemy force, Rubi engaged the communist rebels in a firefight, killing several of them, including the notorious rebel named Commander Lima.

Four years later, then Captain Cirilito Sobejana of the 1st Scout Ranger Company was awarded the Medal of Valor after displaying exemplary leadership and courage under intense enemy fire during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Basilan in 1995.

Though wounded severely in the arm, Sobejana continued to inspire his men to outmaneuver the enemy, thereby inflicting heavy casualties, including 30 dead rebels.

In 1996, Captain Robert Edward Lucero, the commanding officer of the 6th Scout Ranger Company, received the same award while fighting Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Carmen town in Cotabato.

Known as “Bakal” (steel) to his subordinates, Lucero was a fearless warrior who dared to confront numerically superior enemy forces on many occasions.

While defending the government’s infrastructure project in the area, Lucero paid the ultimate sacrifice but showed the finest traditions of Filipino soldiery.

Several other Scout Rangers earned the highest military award in the year 2000 onwards. During the attack on Camp Abubakar and the combat-rescue missions in Basilan, more “Black Panthers” gained prominence when they joined the elite list of living heroes.

While there remain hardheaded lawless elements that victimize hapless civilians, the Scout Rangers are there to protect them.

As the cutting edge unit of the AFP, they are regularly sent to every trouble spot around the archipelago.


Rangers lead the way

Aside from Javier, several Scout Ranger officers became prominent leaders in the AFP.

Gen. Efren Abu, one of the heroes in southern Mindanao, became the Army chief and later, AFP chief of staff.

Lt. Gen. Jesse Dellosa, a veteran of Sulu and Basilan, currently heads the Northern Luzon Command.

Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, who led the 1st Scout Ranger Company in several decisive battles against communist rebels in Northern Luzon, is the incumbent commander of the Southern Luzon Command.

Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes, a distinguished combat officer since his younger years, is the commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Zamboanga del Sur.

The newly installed commanding general of the Philippine Army, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, is also known as the hero of Nava.

As a young captain, he led 14 Scout Rangers belonging to the 7th Scout Ranger Company, which battled a hundred communist rebels in Nava village, Hinulangan town in Leyte.

Despite being outnumbered, Bautista effectively dictated the situation due to his outstanding combat leadership.

The enemies suffered several casualties including 50 rebels killed, forcing them to withdraw in disarray.

The rebels were flushed out of the communities, freeing the people from the heavy burdens of paying extortion money to the oppressive bandits.

On Nov. 25, 2011, the First Scout Ranger Regiment embarks on another major milestone as it celebrates its 61st founding anniversary in its new home in Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Several of the living heroes and warrior-leaders, including the new Army chief, are expected at the event.

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