THE RIGHT MOVE
With all the news of civil wars abroad and the alliances of nations being made, the thought of war is not far from a lot of people’s minds. Hence, mandating the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) has been a hot topic lately. The ROTC is “tasked to train and develop college students in the rudiments of military service in order to produce capable Armed Forces of the Philippines reservists,” and for older citizens like myself, the reservists program in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
I, myself, joined the training to be a reservist in the Philippine Air Force (PAF). It is not for the weak of heart. You have to get up earlier than 4 a.m. for several Saturdays to start training. And so while I admittedly do not possess the strongest physique, in addition to having been a nocturnal, the tenacity of my spirit has pushed me to forge on with the training just so I can become a part of the reservists.
While others can become a reservist without as many training sessions through being commissioned or appointed in government, I chose the road less taken by many in my circle of friends. Why subject myself to such “ordeal” when I wouldn’t actually go to the battlefields and instead, contribute through my own skills as a journalist in case a war does break out? Because I know and respect that training is of utmost importance.
Training as the AFP says, is a major task in enlisting reservists; from Military Orientation Training Course (MOTC) to the Basic Citizens Military Training (BCMT) which I have been undergoing. There are two kinds of reservists. The first is the “Ready Reservists” or those who are “physically-fit and tactically-current reservist personnel that are always on constant alert and training and ready to mobilize once a mobilization order has been given,” and the other is the “Standby Reservists” or those who do not maintain currency in specialization qualifications but the base for expansion, support and augmentation to the Ready Reserve Force as needed.
While there are not yet as many women in the military, including the reservists, as there are men, it is noteworthy that the women in service have done such outstanding jobs. As of March 2020, it was reported that there were about 8,000 women in the Philippine military, which is only two percent of the 140,000-total population of the AFP. But these women, however small their numbers may seem, have left a significant impact on the forces.
It was in 1997 when the first batch of female cadets graduated as soldiers in the Philippines. There was Presidential Saber Awardee Arlene A. Dela Cruz. In 2011, an Ilongga who became Brigadier General became the first female general in the Philippine Army after being a regular officer, Ramona Go. In 2013, Philippine Navy Captain Luzviminda Camacho became the first female officer from the country who led “the Philippine contingent to a peacekeeping mission of the United Nations” and became the “commander of the 17th Philippine Contingent to Haiti.”
In the Philippine military today, a study by the National Defense College of the Philippines revealed that women are mostly found in support units whereas those assigned to combat and support positions are typically given support responsibilities. Due to their growing numbers, women can be viewed “as a pool of personnel that can be sent into combat operations being carried out by various AFP units.” It might likewise be a means of empowering the nation's female population.
And indeed, my own female reservist trainers in the PAF have been more than empowering- Col. Ritza Ann M. Jovellanos, TSg Aileen Joyce A. De Guzman, SSg Mary Ann C. Climaco, AW1C Engely Q. Solidario, AW1C Erika Jane S. Pante and AW Joy Rea L. Baylon. These are women who understand and know first-hand how to train women such as themselves without having to play second fiddle to the men who have dominated the forces.
Recognizing women’s leadership roles has indubitably shaped the directions of the nation’s peace policies, thus, supporting the growth of women in our forces can no longer be denied nor delayed as the current Marcos administration has committed to modernizing the AFP.
It’s no secret how much I have admired and respected our military, police and security personnel. Even when I was a young journalist, when nearly everyone was bashing traffic enforcers for “kotong” (bribery), I would not flinch to say that not everyone is as such the same way not everyone who belongs in a certain sector automatically behaves as “preconceived” by most. I am honored to be able to finish the training – something which is completely out of my character from waking up before the sun rises, physical activities to even being under the sun. But at the end of the day, if these are what I need to do to be able to get to that point that I can give back more to my country, it’s a small price to pay.