3 ARMY SOLDIERS NAMED THE OUTSTANDING PHILIPPINE SOLDIERS OF 2012
FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – Three Army soldiers are named ‘The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS)’, a joint program by the Rotary Club of Makati Metro (RCMM) and Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI).
Colonel Milfredo M Melegrito, Director of Land Welfare Center, Training and Doctrine Command; Technical Sergeant Rolando L Diomangay, Chief Clerk Adjutant of the 53rd Engineering Brigade; and Master Sergeant Juana R. Hernal, Branch Non-Commissioned Officer of the Program and Budget Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Education and Training, G8 are the three Army soldiers named TOPS this year.
Annually since 1994, the RCMM and MBFI name the TOPS of the year in recognition of the invaluable contributions of the men and women soldiers during the entirety of their service in the military.
It is a manifestation of the shared conviction of RCMM and MBFI to credit distinctive excellence among the military. The award is an expression of the civilian sector’s appreciation for our soldiers’ act of valor in defending the nation’s peace and freedom.
Originally raised in Leyte, Hernal’s family moved to Lanao del Sur in search for greener pasture. In her childhood, she witnessed animosities causing armed conflicts in their area.
Her father was killed by a Muslim rebel leaving them poorer with no land to till and no source of income to earn a living.
Despite dark days, young Hernal has made her way through elementary and high school hailed as class valedictorian. Earning a scholarship, she pursued BS Commerce in college and joined the military in 1989, just right after graduation.
“I grew up in the mountains; it was only during my last year in college that I was able to visit the city. I did not realize back then that this will be the turning point in my life,” said Hernal.
It was during this visit that Hernal met a female soldier, a member of the Women Auxiliary Corps (WAC), who inspired her to join the military service.
“I am aware that there are female soldiers, but I have yet to see one. I was inspired. The uniform attracted me to be one of them; for me, it speaks of dignity,” she said.
During her early years in the service, Hernal’s potentials are glass-clear that she was given positions of higher responsibility. Early as Private First Class, she already handled the position Finance Sergeant in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Education and Training.
Her job involves preparation of cash advances (CAs) for pay, allowances and collateral entitlements and the liquidations of the same. Likewise, it is also her duty to process CAs for the travels of personnel on foreign schooling which she managed efficiently and timely.
Even before the computer age (and one can imagine how difficult it is to manage financial transactions in the absence of technology), Hernal was able to devise systemic processes that have been adopted to facilitate speedy transactions.
She has received various awards and commendations for her initiatives while being excellent on top of every task. Among these are the Military Commendation Medal, Chief of Staff PA Award, and a Command Plaque.
Hernal took her Financial Management and Comptroller Specialist Course at the Keesler Airforce Base in Mississippi, USA. There, she emerged a class topnotcher with 99% general weighted average earning the Distinguished Graduate Award and Academic Excellence Award.
This Army woman’s life extends far beyond the four corners of her office. During her assignment to the 5th Army Training Group (5ATG) in TRADOC, she selflessly channeled her knowledge gained from schooling as an instructor.
She also helped intensify the Handog ng Dugo Ko, Dugtong sa Buhay ng Kapwa ko Program in the area.
Hernal shared that she found the sense of fulfillment in what she does; sharing her knowledge and skills to fellow soldiers, most of them men; and helping make the lives of the people a bit easier through various humanitarian efforts.
“My stint at the 5ATG opened up my whole being, it made me see the world and my life in a different perspective,” she added.
She also realized then that one don’t have to have money in order to help the less fortunate.
“Use your faculties; your mouth to convince people, your arms to give warmth, and your legs to deliver,” she said.
Likewise, she supported the “Green Philippines” Program of the government by effectively coordinating with school administrators and barangay officials of Echague, Isabela for massive tree planting activity.
This effort led to 6, 000 trees planted to different schools, universities and barangays in Echague.
Even as a child, Hernal has valued education so much that today she sponsors 12 indigent students so they can experience the gains of good education. She also helped in the enlistment of platoon-sized personnel who are mostly the sons of indigent farmer-neighbors, CAFGUs and friends.
Church planting (spreading the good news of the Lord) is her growing passion at present. Every Sunday, her garage in Taguig and their barn extension in Isabela serve as worship venue.
With her commitment and continued pursuit for excellence in service, Hernal has proven a woman’s worth amidst the swarm of masculinity in uniformed service.
“My greatest accomplishment was helping 28 high school graduates, who are sons of farmers, enlist in the Philippine Army. Seeing them make a life for themselves, help their families, and achieve their dreams is enough for me,” concluded Hernal.
Dreams built on concretes
Technical Sergeant Rolando L Diomangay leads a fruitful life as a father and soldier.
Named as the Best Enlisted Personnel of the Year of the 53rd Engineer Brigade in 2010, Diomangay served as a role model to his fellow soldiers being on the lead of numerous Engineering projects in the countryside.
However, prior to building roads, schools, and infrastructure, he roamed the mountains of Samar as a member of the 8th Scout Ranger Company. As a Scout Ranger, he saw action against the New People’s Army both in Eastern and Western Samar.
“I was a witness to the atrocities perpetrated by the NPAs in Samar. In 1992, our group was treacherously attacked by the rebels using four improvised landmines. After which, we were hit by heavy volumes of fire. One was killed as result of the encounter, 14 were wounded, me included,” said Diomangay.
“I considered that experience as my defining moment in the Army. I knew back then that it was not the last fight that I would have to fight. I am aware that battles need to be fought, fights need to be won, and peace needs to be achieved,” he added.
From being a warrior-soldier, he saw the big shift in his career when he joined the 53rd Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Cebu City. Instead of fighting wars, he brings peace and development in the communities.
Being a foreman/member of the Engineering Brigade, he is instrumental in the timely completion of the Army’s infrastructure projects like access road, potable water system, school building, electricity and appropriate health facility.
Diomangay posed significant contributions in the construction of 22 projects in seven barangays in Samar as well as the completion of various Kalayaan Barangay Program (KBP) projects. This include four farm-to-market roads, five school buildings, four health centers, 11 water systems and four electrification facilities.
The KBP and other similar community services by the Army are concrete proofs that non-combat approach to solving insurgency problems in the countryside can be just as effective as taking up arms to win the peace.
Soldiers like Diomangay who are the key players in such missions bring hope of recovery to the residents of different conflict-torn areas in the country.
Though tied up in the arduous duties of a soldier, Diomangay also involves himself in other civilian activities including fun runs hosted by various private and public organizations in Visayas.
The likes of him is the Army’s living proof that the real battle is not only in the wars of arms but a greater battle lies in social and economical challenges that chain the people in the vicious cycle of poverty.
A graduate of PMA “SINAGTALA” Class of 1986, Colonel Milfredo M Melegrito has been in the forefront of strategic moves toward several repulses against insurgent groups in Northern Luzon.
Presently serving as the Executive Officer at the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Melegrito stood out for his unwavering dedication and brilliance in his past and present duties.
He is the first Commander of a battalion-sized Philippine Contingent composed of 342 personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force that served in the seven-month tour of duty in Golan Heights, Syria.
His combat achievements were recognized with countless military medals, awards and commendations, one being the Cavalier Award for Army Operation in 1995. He was also bestowed with the UN Service Medal.
Sometime in August 1994, he led his troop in an encounter at the main camp of Northern Luzon Commission in Ilagan, Isabela. There, they have recovered 12 assorted high-powered firearms.
With his bravery and effective leadership, his troop triumphed over a series of similar encounters in Marag Valley Complex which used to be the seat of Northern Luzon Operational Command and the Northern Luzon Regional Committee.
Both were seized and war equipment and materials were recovered.
Following those are victorious neutralizations of rebel camps and siege of subversive documents and illegal arms in Cagayan Valley, Apayao, Isabela and part of Cordillera.
Under his leadership, the 57th Infantry Battalion, 6th Infantry Division was hailed the Best Battalion in Civil Military Operations.
During his time, the battalion was able to develop strong relationship with various government agencies and NGOs instrumental to the successful implementation of peace and development programs in the area.
With his exemplary works, Melegrito earned the Sagisag ng Ulirang Kawal Award and the Gawad sa Kaunlaran.
He has also served and lived among the indigenous people, particularly Manobo tribe in North Cotabato who later on adopted him as Datu Emanan.
‘The ideal Filipino soldier’
The RCMM and the MBFI defined the candidates for ideal Filipino soldier in two terms: professional and personal.
As defined, a professional outstanding soldier is loyal and dedicated to the constitution and the supremacy of the civilian sector. He/She is also courageous, innovative and respectful of human rights.
Furthermore, the candidates must be in continuous pursuit of knowledge by attending trainings and further studies, most importantly highly skilled in areas related to their jobs. An unsullied record, clear of administrative and criminal record is also of utmost importance.
On a personal note, a candidate must also be beyond reproach, known as a model citizen in the community and has taken part, if not led community projects.
All three Army TOPS of the year embody these qualities and have in fact served as inspirations to their co-workers and the people around them.
However more than the award, these soldiers are the representative of many other soldiers whose sacrifices and contributions to the country do not await recognition.
They are the implementers of the government’s efforts in winning the hearts of the people towards participatory development.
Most of all, they are heroes of their families who wait in vain for the lucky return of a soldier tied up in a risky mission for the country.