Uncommon valor of a female SAF commando | Inquirer News

Uncommon valor of a female SAF commando

/ 07:26 AM October 29, 2017

SPO1 Junates Acacio (left) pauses for a selfie with her comrades in the 5th SAF Battalion. —PHOTO FROM HER FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants were “good snipers” and they hid themselves well in buildings or in some spots under the ground.

SPO1 Junates Acacio’s memory is very vivid of the cunning and slippery enemy they had battled for five months in Marawi City.


But Acacio, a member of the police’s 5th Special Action Force (SAF) Battalion, said there was no way good could not triumph over evil in the end.


She was the only female member of the so-called assault team of Joint Task Force Vector in the early days of the fighting.

“We were the assaulters, clearing the structures [of enemy fighters] and we were always careful because there were structures rigged with improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” she said.

Acacio noted that a unit of the government’s special forces was badly decimated by exploding IEDs and booby traps in buildings they were trying to clear.

And there was the constant threat, she said, of enemy snipers who could take down soldiers and SAF commandos from a good distance and impede their movement.

Acacio said her being a woman never prevented her from performing a soldier’s tasks — even if she was weighed down by about 60 kilograms of fighting gear, armor and ammunition each time her team conducted an assault.

“She’s really one of the boys. Her being a woman did not matter in the battle area. She was never a baggage,” said Supt. Ledon Damoslog Monte, the commander of the 5th SAF Battalion.


The policewoman from Ilocos said going after armed criminals was not exactly new to her, though the Marawi experience was her first in actual combat.

The Marawi siege was an eye-opener, she said, because they had to engage the determined militants in close-quarter battles, something new to government forces who were trained to fight in the jungles.

As a SAF member, Acacio said she and her team conducted assaults after assaults in the face of the enemy’s maniacal resistance.

But 13 days after her unit was deployed to the battle zone in Marawi on July 24, the female commando and her team found themselves pinned down inside a building by intense enemy fire.

She said the “unforgettable experience” convinced her that God was on their side.

“Trapped in a building for more than three hours with seriously wounded colleagues, I thought that was our last (stand),” she recounted.

The team grimly fought on and managed to extricate themselves from the area, killing and wounding several Maute group fighters as they finally broke out.

“I know God is always guiding us. I still believe that if it’s your time, even if you hide, you will die,” Acacio said.

As a member of the rapid deployment team, Acacio helped scour the main battle area for enemy fighters lurking among the ruins.

She showed her skills by swiftly moving alongside men from one building to another, said Chief Insp. Christopher Mendoza, the deputy commander of 5th SAF Battalion.

And it helped that Acacio was also a sharpshooter. She would not say how many enemy fighters she had killed or wounded in five months of battle, but her efforts were not lost on her superiors who consider her as one of the “men” instrumental in the defeat of the IS militants.

“She is the only female assaulter in our group (government forces) before the Marines and the Rangers sent women into the battle zone,” said Mendoza, adding he admired Acacio’s uncommon valor.

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“She is a living testament that women can also do what men can,” Mendoza added.


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