The History Channel Asia showed it third and last of its special feature on the Special Forces in South East Asia on Sunday, September 16, 2012, and this time it is Thailand’s Marine Recon force. I feel lucky I got to see this one on its first airing, and like Malaysia’s GGK episode, this one is quite impressive as well.
Their training started with a “Phase 1” training based on land. This phase was broken down into a stages, with the first stage consisted of extreme physical exercises that saw the weakest recruits both physically and mentally being weeded out. The next stage saw the recruits broken down into teams, and each team asked to not only to march but also navigate to a destination 100 km while away carrying heavy logs.
In the last stage of Phase 1, each team was placed into rubber boats and asked to paddle to a destination at night. As if that was not enough, upon reaching their destinations, the candidates were then dunked into barrels of freezing water after all that exertion to further test them mentally.
“Phase 2” of the training was based mostly in the water, and started of with candidates carrying specified loads being dropped from a helicopter moving at 10 knots from a height of 10 feet, then were asked to swim 500 meters to shore. This was followed by paddling again by boat for 27 kilometers, and then a forced march on shore carrying their boats for 12 kilometers.
The next days showed activities like walking a plank and dropping into the water from a platform 30 meter high, and then a swimming exercise where each candidate was asked to remove their uniforms and put them back on again in the water to test their swimming skills and endurance.
“Phase 3” consisted of live fire and explosives training, and finally with another forced march with the teams carrying their boats on their heads, before finally “graduating”, with their families allowed to greet them during their graduation.
All throughout the training there were a lot of distressing scenes of recruits passing out, or in need of medical attention, most especially at the start of the episode. What I found unique with this episode was first, how the Thai military leadership showed bravely how candidates were punished by whipping. Another was their admission that they were allowed a “Death Rate” during training of 5 percent, meaning they actually expected and allowed for people to die during the whole training process. Of course, nobody died in the episode.
Of the three episodes, I liked the Thai Marine Recon episode the best, the Malay GGK the next, and the Philippine Marine Recon the least. Also, the Philippine Marine Recon episode is not anywhere near the league of the other two episodes, its like showing Boy Scouts in a series about soldiers.
The Thai Marine Recon episode was better than the Malay GGK episode because it showed a lot more aspect of their training. The Malay GGK episode, while impressive, focused more really only on the initial or selection phase, while the Thai Marine Recon showed practically everything, from selection to the last day of the course.
‘More Philippine Force Recon Reflections’
Being a Filipino, of course I felt bad that our episode ended up lacking a lot of quality compared to the others. Of course there was more to the Philippine Marine Force Recon than what was shown, but how better, or worst it really is compared to the others we will likely never know. As it is, though, the episode showed the FR in a bad light, especially since there were points of comparison with the others.
I think the Philippine Armed Forces showed VERY BAD judgement in limiting only what to show, and what they showed was a MEDIOCRE part of the training. Even the trainers were mediocre: The other episodes showed the trainers to be very professional, all business, while the FR trainers were sometimes caught goofing off, or unsure of themselves.
As somebody said in the internet forums, either they showed their best, or not showed anything at all. If they had any doubts what to show, they should’ve just not shown anything, and waited and observed how the other countries did. I am sure that this series is not the end, there are Special Forces in countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar to be sure in future episodes, and after what happened this will put the FR into even worst light, especially if their episodes turn out to be as good as the Thai and Malay episodes.
I again went around the Philippine Defense Forum sites to look at the reaction of our Armed Forces people, and instead of admitting the stupidity of the Armed Forces leadership, they instead just kept making stupid, defensive remarks like how the Malay and Thai Special Forces would not last long in our jungles against the Muslim and Communist insurgents. These boasts are empty as other countries have clearly recognized themselves the competence of SF groups like the GGK.
The GGK, for example, has been deployed in Mogadishu, and was one of the SF teams that was sent to rescue the US Rangers and Delta Force personnel trapped during the “Battle of Mogadishu” that was detailed in the book and film, “Black Hawk Down”. The GGK was also the only SF team from SEA that served in Bosnia.
I can only shake my head, because instead of taking the criticisms and making corrections, it shows that the Armed Forces community seems to INSIST on defending and perpetrating the INCOMPETENCE of the Armed Forces right now. No wonder up to now we can’t score a decisive victory over our own insurgent problems. Having insurgencies is nothing to be proud of just because it gives our forces “battle experience”. A measure of an Armed Forces is how it is able to DECISIVELY defeat its opponents, something the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has not been able to do against the Muslim and Communists insurgents for 40 years now.
– Grup Gerak Khas Wikipedia entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grup_Gerak_Khas