MANILA, Philippines — Marine Commandant Major General Nelson Allaga debunked criticism over the death of 15 of his men on a test mission in an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf last Saturday, saying there is “no laboratory for war” in Basilan and Sulu, where a military offensive is underway against the extremist group.
While the rules of engagement are under constant review, Allaga was lukewarm to removing the test mission as a final requirement for elite troops in training, like the frontline Force Reconnaissance Battalion of the Marine Corps.
“Let us not put the blame on the soldiers. It is very clear how they were willing to sacrifice their lives for the country,” Allaga told reporters after a necrological service for 13 of the 15 fallen Marines in Fort Bonifacio.
“We are continuously reviewing our military doctrines. There is no laboratory for war. Every engagement we have, we are drawing lessons, revising [and] improving our doctrines,” he said.
Allaga said the Saturday morning assault on the Abu Sayyaf camp by the Force Reconnaissance students was “properly supervised and properly prepared” by their trainers.
Marine spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan said it was not unusual for test missions to involve major operations.
He said the Marines who killed Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani in Patikul, Sulu on September 4, 2006 were also Force Reconnaissance students on a test mission.
Asked if he favored taking out the test mission as a requirement for elite troops in training, Allaga said: “The test is there. It’s the final test. That’s how it is in the elite units.”
“That’s your capstone. You really have to engage the enemy,” he said.