1st Special Forces Regiment (Airborne)
People's Defense Regiment
Home Defense Forces Group (Airborne)
Special Forces Group
1st Special Forces Company (Airborne)
The 1st Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) traces its origins to an attempt to organize an airborne infantry battalion in the 1950s as part of efforts to contain the Hukbalahap Rebellion. The requirements of the day added to the difficulty in securing the required resources led to the conversion of personnel selected for the battalion being converted to regular infantry. The contaiment of the Huks by the middle of the 1950s led to a general downsizing of the Philippine Army as a whole.
However, by 1958 a team to work with US Army Special Forces to investigate the potential for creating a similar unit in the Philippine Army. On 21 December 1961, a training element to help inject Special Forces methods into the Philippine Army as a a whole was activated as part of the Philippine Army Training School. This concept was similar to the decision to include Ranger training courses at the Army School Center. The team, designated 11th Special Forces Team, reached its authorized strength on 1 April 1962. Most of the personnel were in fact graduates of the Army's Advanced Ranger Course.
In 1962 it was also decided that a special forces unit, to conduct actual operations rather than simply serve a training function was required, and on 25 June 1962 the 1st Special Forces Company (Airborne) was activated. The unit was eventually expanded into a Group, which included the 1st Special Forces Company (Airborne), a Parachute Supply and Maintenance Platoon, and A Company, 10th Battalion Combat Team. This unit saw its first action when it was deployed on counter insurgency operations in Sulu in 1964.
In March 1965, the Civic Action Center was placed under the command of the Special Forces Group. Also in 1965, the Republic of the Philippines reached an agreement with the United States to deploy a force to South Vietnam to help with the counter insurgency effort there. Volunteers from the Philippine Army filled the ranks of the new unit, including its security elements, a large number of which came from the Special Forces Group. So great was the shift of personnel into what became known as the Philippine Civic Action Group - Vietnam (PHILCAG-V) that not until June 1966 was the Special Forces Group declared operational again. In July 1967, its strength was cut in half as more volunteers poored into a PHILCAG-V replacement unit.
More seriously, the Philippines had become involved in a territorial dispute with Malaysia over the Province of Sabah on the Island of Borneo. In June 1968 it was revealed that the Philippine Government of President Fredinand Marcos was training elements of the Special Forces Group for infiltration into the province. Marcos immediately disassociated himself with the operation, claiming it had not been sanctioned, and essentially inactivated the Special Forces Group, placing many of its officers under arrest.
A new unit, the Home Defense Forces Group (Airborne) was activated, more a name change than a functional change, and Philippine Army special forces continued their particiaption in various operations. Elements of the 1st Home Defense Forces Company were deployed in response to the eruption of the Mayon Volcano in late 1968. In 1969, however, the Company was deployed to Mindanao to combat the rising insurgency there. In 1970, the HDFG(A) was attached to a Presidential Security Command task force in response to student demonstrations against the government.
By 1970 the HDFG(A) had also expanded to multiple independant companies. The unit was contracted in February 1970 to only 2 companies, as part of major Philippine Army reorganization of manpower. The 2nd Home Defense Forces Company had remained attached to the Presidential Security Command, leaving only one company for other operations. Still, in its reduced form the HDFG(A) continued to be an active participant in operations, particularly in the southern areas of the country like Mindanao, during the early 1970s.
By June 1975 the unit had again expanded to include 5 independant companies and a headquarters company. In 1976 the unit was placed under the command of the Philippine Army Training Command, a reflection of its increased role training local counter insurgency forces and militia. It was reassigned on 16 July 1978 to the Army's new Special Warfare Brigade, a unit designed to group the various special warfare elements of the Philippine Army into one command. By that time the HDFG(A) had expanded into 9 independant companies. Under these commands the unit continued to conduct combat and other operations, as well as training Civil Home Defense Force (CHDF) units around the country.
The Special Warfare Brigade was disbanded in June of 1983. The HDFG(A) was placed under the command of the Headquarters, Philippine Army. Most of its forces remained deployed in the hotspots in the southern Philippines training and monitoring local militia. The units forces were actively deployed during the 1986 revolution that brought down President Marcos. On 25 February 1986, however, the headquarters of the HDFG(A) in Manila declared that it had sided with the anti-Marcos forces. Following the revolution the unit was briefly redesignated as the People's Defense Regiment, before being redesignated back to the HDFG(A).
On 1 October 1986 the Philippine Army's Riverine Battalion was assigned to the HDFG(A) increasing its capability. For a period the HDFG(A) controlled all of the seaborne elements of the Philippine Army. By 1987, the unit had 12 independant companies, one for each of the military regions in the Philippine at the time, and continued to operated in all of these regions in the training of counter-insurgency paramilitary forces.
In 1989 the Home Defense Forces moniker was dropped and the elements once again became Special Forces. To further reflect the organization's growing size and responsibility, it was expanded and redesignated as the 1st Special Forces Regiment (Airborne). On 1 June 1996 the Philippine Army activated the Special Operations Command, a unit similar in organization to the former Special Warfare Brigade in that it was to act as a higher headquarters for the Army's special operatiosn forces. The 1st Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) was assigned to SOCOM along with the 1st Scout Ranger Regiment.
The 1st Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) continued to operate independant companies across the Philippines, expanding its size during the 1990s. In 2004 a decision was made to "rightsize" the Special Operations Command, the the Regiment was reorganized to 3 battalions, each with 3 companies, plus the Special Forces School. The 2 riverine battalions were inactivated.
In 2006 the 8th and 11th Special Forces Companies were reactivated. These companies were previous part of the Regiment's riverine elements. They were joined by the 12th Special Forces Company in 2007. By 2009, the Philippine Army had activated a 4th Special Forces Battalion in order to conduct riverine operations.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|