Deployed faraway from its original area of responsibility in the Luzon Region, the 207th Tactical Helicopter Squadron’s “Stinger Flight in Mindanao” has been in the forefront of air operations in the said region since the start of 2019. This Huey element has been instrumental in the advancement and accomplishment of the government and AFP programs in the predominantly Muslim-habited region. During the heightened tensions brought about by the Jolo Cathedral bombing last 27 January 2019, the brave pilots and crew of Stinger Flight - Mindanao had found itself, once again, leading the tactical heli-lift operations in Zamboanga and the Sulu Archipelago.
On the wake of the cowardly bombings on innocent civilians and responding soldiers, purportedly plotted and carried out by top Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leaders, the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo R Duterte, mounted an all-out war against the terrorists hiding in the hinterlands of the Sulu Islands. In support to the offensives that were launched by the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu and 11th Infantry Division, the “Stingers” deployed its air assets and personnel to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista, Busbus, Jolo, Sulu, which was the staging point of all operations against the terrorist group.
In the initial AFP successes and continuing offensives, the pilots and crew provided support to the ground troops to meet their operational and logistical needs. The flight has conducted various missions in the different areas of operation against ASG terrorists in Sulu. Aside from the regular resupply in Mt. Tumatangis, re-provisioning and insertion/extrication of troops were also conducted to Scout Rangers in Patikul who were pursuing the terrorist leaders, RadullanSahiron and HadjanSawadjaan. On another engagement area in the far-flung Simisa Island, Tongkil, Sulu, food, water, medicines, K9 dogs, and troop reinforcements were delivered to the Philippine Marine Ready Force, NAVSOG, and Marine Battalion Landing Teams 1 and 3, who were cordoning the more or less 10 remaining ASG members trapped inside the island since 25 February 2019. The aircraft have also been utilized as the platform to conduct aerial sniping over the island during the start of hostilities.
The said Huey element also conducted leaflet dropping on the island on 25 and 27 February, and on 04 and 09 March 2019, to encourage the peaceful surrender of the trapped terrorists. Casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) missions were also conducted to help the Marine troops who were already starting to get sick at the remote station. Moreover, the Stinger Flight has been the platform to ferry JTF Sulu Commander, BGEN DIVINO REY C PABAYO AFP, and his staff to different areas of Sulu to monitor all ongoing operations against the terrorist groups and perform Civic-Military Operations (CMO) at the same time.
Though deployed far from its area of operations in Luzon, the Flight has already flown 106 flying hours in 127 sorties since 27 January 2019. It has also lifted 184 military and 14 civilian passengers and has hauled 20,571 pounds of cargo. Stinger Flight in Mindanao has proven that in times of peace or in times of war, they are always there and ready to extend their support.