Confidential

Light Reaction Regiment: The Sharpshooters of Death

Light Reaction Regiment
LRR commandos; via Philippine government Public Domain.

The Light Reaction Regiment (LRR) is the Philippine Army’s counterterrorism unit that was officially established on February 1, 2004. The LRR is mandated to conduct counterterrorism and other special forces operations on Philippine soil. The unit is sometimes known as the Philippine’s Delta Force due to its counterterrorism experience and lineage from American special forces training [source].

The LRR is based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, where they are posted alongside the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) [source]. The unit is under the command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Operations Command (AFPSCOCOM) [source].

The unit’s motto is Tiradores de la Muerte (Sharpshooters of Death), which was adopted from the Luna Sharpshooters, an elite unit of marksmen formed by General Antonio Luna of the Philippine Revolutionary Army [source].

Colonel Monico E. Abang was appointed as the unit’s commanding officer, taking over from Brigadier General Monico S. Batle [source].

History

In 2000, non-commissioned officers from the Scout Rangers and the Special Forces Regiment were recruited to be trained under American special forces personnel from Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group [source]. From February to July 2001, the 1st SFG covertly trained the first operators of the LRC [source]. Further training was done in the 2002 Balikatan exercises.

After the LRC was established on February 1, 2004, the unit was deployed to Mindanao to conduct hostage rescue operations.

The unit, renamed as the Light Reaction Battalion in 2008, was temporarily posted in Metro Manila after the events of the siege at the Peninsula Manila hotel due to an attempted coup in November 2007 [source].

The LRB was in a scandal when 50 operators, including 3 officers, were placed on suspension due to possible involvement in killing civilians on February 4, 2008, during combat operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) [source]. An investigation later revealed that an unreliable informant provided false information so that he can take advantage of the ongoing combat operations to get rid of a rival clan [source].

During the hostage crisis incident at Quirino Grandstand at Quirino Granstand, Rizal Park in Manila, the unit was offered to the PNP to be involved in a possible hostage rescue op [source]. They were only told to be on standby and wait for orders.

In 2014, the LRB changed names again, this time to the Light Reaction Regiment, due to their efforts in fighting against rogue Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in Zamboanga City in September 2013. Defense Secretary Voltaire Defense Secretary Gazmin authorized the name change on January 16, 2014. This also included the establishment of three more companies to the LRR to complement the first three companies, giving the unit a combat strength of 600 operators [source].

On September 4, 2018, the U.S. Counterterrorism Train and Equip Program provided the LRR with 5 million rounds of ammunition worth Php117.4 million ($2.2 million) [source].

LRR commandos; via Philippine government Public Domain.

Missions

The unit is known in the Philippines for conducting counterterrorism operations, although they do special forces-type missions either by themselves or with support from other military special forces units and the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force. In most instances, they are deployed in special forces missions against the Abu Sayyaf Group, the New People’s Army and formerly against the MILF.

When the LRC was deployed to Mindanao, they were involved in hostage rescue missions where they saved Gracia Burnham [source] and Father Giancarlo Bossi [source] [source].

In 2013, the LRB worked with the other Philippine special forces units in the military and the police to clear Zamboanga city from rogue MNLF fighters and re-establish government control. At the time, its combat strength was estimated to be at 40% strength. 300 LRB operators were deployed [source]. Due to this, 45 operators from the Philippine Navy’s Naval Special Operation Group (NAVSOG) were deployed to provide assistance [source]. 9 LRB operators were killed with 37 wounded in action [source] [source].

In 2014, the LRR was involved in an anti-terrorist operation to hunt and capture Abu Sayyaf commander Sihata Muallom Asmad aka Sihata Latip, Ka Tatang, and Tatang for conducting kidnappings in Mindanao in 2001 and 2002 [source] [source]. 24 LRR operators were involved and disguised themselves as Muslim men and women, the latter wearing hijabs, going to a wedding [source]. When the jeep they were turned broke down, 13 LRR operators continued on with the operation [source]. Asmad was shot and killed when he tried to fight back, but one LRR operator was killed after being shot in the neck [source].

During the Marawi siege in 2017, the LRR was involved in the fighting by clearing Islamist fighters in urban warfare [source]. In other instances, they provided sniper support for fellow soldiers on the ground. According to the book Tiradores: Missions and the Men of the Philippine’s Light Reaction Regiment, Norinco CS-LR4s were provided for the LRR to alternate to the SR-25 during sniper operations.

Formation

In 2004, the LRC was established with a Headquarters, a Headquarters Company and three Light Reaction Companies with an authorized strength of 400 operators [source] [source]. In 2014, three more companies were established with a manpower of 600 operators.

In 2019, the LRR is known to have a combat strength of 700 operators [source].

Weapons

The LRR is known to have the following weapons:

  • Assault rifles
  • Sniper rifles
    • CS-LR4 sniper rifle
    • M24 sniper rifle
    • SR-25 sniper rifle [source]
  • Shotguns
    • Remington 870 shotgun
  • Pistols
    • M1911A1 pistols upgraded by Government Arsenal

Training

The Light Reaction Regiment recruits from experienced Scout Rangers and Special Forces Regiment operators [source]. Prospective candidates are trained in Tier 1-type operations like hostage rescue, neutralizing high-value targets and urban warfare [source].

The LRR traditionally conducts bilateral exercises with American special forces units [source]. At least one LRR operator was reported to have been involved in cross-training in Australia with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment [source].

The unit has conducted training exercises with British, Indonesian and Malaysian special forces units [source].

Future

The threat from Insurgents and other terrorists in the Philippines has not gone away. While the siege at Marawi enabled the Philippine military to take out most of ISIL’s appointed leaders, there are other groups that still threaten Philippine national security. This also goes for pro-communist inspired terrorists like the NPA.

The LRR will continue to train with other special forces units in the Philippines and overseas in order to improve their capabilities.

Author

Mark Christian Soo

Mark is a undergraduate in Political Science from Simon Fraser University. His research interests focus on Japanese, East and Southeast Asian defense/foreign affairs policy.

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