Chairman Visits Joint Special Operations Task Force
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
CAMP NAVARRO, Philippines, Jun. 4, 2012 Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey visited this small U.S. military installation within Zamboanga City on the island of Mindanao yesterday after attending an annual Asia security conference in Singapore and before traveling on to Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is visiting the Philippines, a long-time U.S. ally, as part of a weeklong tour of the region.
The camp is home to the headquarters for Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, or JSOTF-P. The task force’s mission is helping the Philippine military defeat extremists in the south, particularly two al-Qaida affiliated groups: Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. The task force also delivers humanitarian assistance at the request of and in coordination with Philippine government agencies and military units.
Dempsey toured the camp with JSOTF-P commander Army Col. Francis Beaudette, a Green Beret whose command incorporates special operations forces as well as regular forces from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Beaudette’s headquarters element at the camp supports three subordinate JSOTF-P task forces operating alongside Philippine military units throughout the southern Philippines: Task Force Archipelago, Task Force Mindanao and Task Force Sulu.
The smaller task forces advise and assist Philippine military units working to defeat terrorists, eliminate safe havens and create conditions for peace, stability and prosperity in the southern Philippines.
The task force also includes a small number of service members who work in Manila, coordinating task force activities with the U.S. Embassy staff and the Philippine armed forces general headquarters staff.
According to Air Force Capt. Joost Verduyn, JSOTF-P public affairs officer, between 400 and 600 service members are assigned to the task force at any given time, serving tours of between three months and a year depending on their service and occupational specialty.
Beaudette introduced the chairman to dozens of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at Camp Navarro whose jobs included camp security, intelligence collection and analysis, civil affairs and information support, and construction and engineering.
Dempsey spoke to all of the service members the colonel presented, asking about their backgrounds, hometowns, families, education and military service.
To those with families, the chairman said, “Tell them I said thanks for letting you come over here and do what you guys do.”
While at the camp, the chairman also attended a briefing on JSOTF-P operations, alongside Philippine Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, commander of Western Mindanao Command.
Verduyn said the task force, which has a strictly noncombat role, provides subject-matter-expert exchanges with their Philippine counterparts. Exchange areas, he said, include:
-- Humanitarian assistance for communities;
-- Medical and dental civic action programs to deliver care where otherwise unavailable;
-- Engineering civic action programs to provide improvements such as schools, water wells, roads, piers and medical centers; and
-- Explosive ordnance disposal to safely destroy aging stocks of unstable munitions.
Over its 10-year history, Verduyn said, JSTOF-P has been successful in assisting Philippine forces to reduce the threat posed by Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.
In February, Philippine forces conducted an airstrike in Sulu province that killed a Jemaah Islamiyah leader and an Abu Sayyaf group commander, along with 13 other suspected extremists.