Thursday, February 17, 2011

Growing up Army brat and How to save the PMA and ROTC programs!

All set to bravely defend the Republic against its enemies!
My father who was with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and retired as a general officer had a son and once he could walk did not put him into a Gucci but into a Philippine Army uniform! The only "pabaon" General Vallejo ever had upon retirement after 30 years of service was a pistol and a high powered automatic rifle (which he was entitled to after serving the Republic in its wars against enemies sworn to destroy it). However after the 1986 EDSA revolution, he donated these weapons to the Philippine Army museum so that young soldiers will have an idea of what it means to defend the Republic.

Dad also spent countless hours training me to be a marksman and that began as soon as I first opened my eyes as a baby. By the time I was in high school, I was already trained to shoot and be deadly accurate at it!

But I never had that weapons fetish. I never got the wind about using guns as a way to project one's personal power. All I know is that a gun is a tool and a weapon with one uses to hit the target, and legitimate that target is. Dad imparted that Zen idea about using weapons. We hone our skills to a perfection which apparently will never be used. I have never fired a gun in offense or in self-defense (although at EDSA 1986, I was almost near to doing so!) I have never fired a gun in order to hunt animals too! That is something Dad found so abominable!

As for my weapons training, the US, Australian and UK governments know how well trained I am and I will not hesitate to use the skills I learned legitimately. I never lied on my visa applications! And in college, I had to undergo ROTC!

So I think that Tim Garcia bloke had it much better. He wears a Gucci and YSL boots while we Army cadets were condemned to wear AFP issued boots in ROTC training. Dad saw how bad the boots are and gave me a pair of boots issued to the US Marines. This is the closest thing I ever had to having YSL boots! The boots served me well in Ranger training and still is in my kit bag!

Former Representative Gualberto Lumauig now writes about destroyed image of the Philippine Military Academy.

Now I don't know if Tim Garcia ever had ROTC training. But there was a time, a more gentle and honorable time when sons of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) generals followed their fathers "to the mountains" as we at the UP ROTC used to say. And in the mountains, these sons become the lowest creatures in all of evolution. Not a few of them fell in battle as young lieutenants later. I have uncles and cousins on my mother's side who are Mistahs and all of them are honourable men. My uncle is a Mistah and two of his sons are also too.  On my dad's side, all are ROTC men.

So what has happened then? Public perception is that the PMA's image has suffered with all these corruption allegations in the military top brass . The Macapagal-Arroyo government (with an accomplice Congress) dealt a nearly lethal blow to the ROTC program that the AFP is in peril of not being able to get good young men and women as officers to replace officers who are fading away. PMA authorities  recently said that fewer applicants are applying for cadetships. The military is no longer an attractive career choice for many young people. The AFP is really in danger of not being able to get a "few good men (and women)"!

And soldiers are not just tasked to battle our Republic's enemies but to battle natural hazards too. After all the heroes who died in the Ondoy floods were all soldiers! If we had a good ROTC program, then we would have a lot of volunteer cadets who could have helped in the relief efforts.

Soldier's families traditionally supplied officers to the military but with changing values and mores and the lack of appreciation of sacrifice and a goal of getting wealth at all means, many military brats do not even consider a soldier's life. A soldier is under obligation to serve under command and have that strong faith in the performance of his/her duties. And that is why the Faithful Centurion of the Gospels is a patron saint of men and women under command.

But it is not just a soldier's life, even in civilian life, military brats know that there is this duty that has to be done and that not to do this duty endangers the community they serve. But this mindset disappears if we just value our own personal comforts.

Is there hope for the military and military training? I believe there is. The PMA and ROTC can only be saved by the cadets themselves since these military training institutions still have those ideals that never fade. They should at all cost desist from following the "traditions" set by their corrupt alumni.

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