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Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz History

Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz (Annex), Echague, Isabela, is one of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP’s) training centers for Non-commissioned Officer Basic and Advance Courses to upgrade the capabilities as soldiers, the institution originated from the 5th Infantry Division of the AFP. Echague Isabela

The history of the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army traces its humble beginnings when the 5th Infantry Brigade (Separate) was organized in 16 Oct 1972 as a major unit of the Philippine Army pursuant to General Orders Number 153, General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines with its station located in Camp Servillano S. Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac. BGen. Miguel M. Villamor was appointed as the Commanding General and the unit's territorial jurisdiction covered Zambales, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, and portion of Quezon - north of Umiray River. On 29 Mar 1976, Col. Benjamin G. Santos took charge of the Brigade.

When the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) formed its military wing, the New People's Army (NPA) in 1968, many innocent people were fooled while some were forced into joining their organization.

After the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, thousands of students came into their ranks. However, several leaders from the CPP were jailed in the middle of the 1970s, including Jose Maria Sison. The remaining leaders of the NPA continued guerilla warfare and began to openly commit human rights violations, extortion, kidnappings and urban insurrection. This led to the downfall of the movement.

The CPP however, did not stop from recruiting members and continued to influence unwary citizens while they take advantage of the AFP's preoccupation with the Moro insurgents in the Mindanao islands.

In 1983 they were estimated to have 6,000 regulars but by 1986 this had grown to 22,500 with 20% of villages under their control.

On 11 May 1981, the 5th Infantry Brigade (Separate) was elevated and became known as the 5th Infantry Division pursuant to General Orders Number 365, GHQ, AFP to address the growing threat of the local communist movement.

The 5th Infantry Division became distinguished as it spearheaded several campaigns against the local communist movement starting from the renowned Marag Valley in Cagayan, which was their sanctuary where the Headquarters of the Far North Luzon Regional Party Committee of the Northern Luzon Commission was discovered. It was also the training base of communist terrorists coming from other NPA units. Marag Valley is a vast forest land extending from the foot of Mt. Siamsanderie in Luna, Apayao to the Malababie Valley in Pamplona, Cagayan. Most of the land area is thickly forested which gives an impression of “virginity” and settlements are found along the mighty Marag River. From 1990-1993, massive operations were launched to restore peace and order situation in the area and continued operations were pursued in the areas of Paco-Zinundungan complex in the same province to Mabiga-Poguin complex in Isabela.

The campaign called for the proper orchestration and synchronization of efforts of the Army with various sector organizations and the local government.

In effect, the masses started to withdraw their support from the deceitful and treacherous local communist movement while several members gave up and/or surrendered to the government renouncing the bloody communist ideology. Support in urban areas fell and by 1991, the insurgents had 18,000 members and falling. 
The Army with the full support of various sector organizations and the local government units pressed on with the momentum to put an end with the insurgency problem.

In desperation, the communist insurgents became suspicious of its members and began a massive internal purge of the movement that killed thousands of partisans and members on accusations of being deep penetration agents and informers of the AFP and the Philippine intelligence community. They also started to target US servicemen with their assassination teams called "Sparrow Units" but these activities only lost them yet more support.

These solid gains serve today as the foundation of a very manageable security environment and an irreversible socio-economic up-trend in favor of the populace in Northern Luzon.

On 07 Nov 1994, the home of the 5th Infantry Division was transferred to Camp Upi in Gamu, Isabela and is now called Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz. The Headquarters directs and employs three infantry brigades with its operationally controlled infantry battalions strategically positioned in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Kalinga, Apayao, Cagayan, Isabela, Ifugao, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.

In an effort to contribute greatly in the prevailing peace and order situation in the country, the Division sent combat units to Mindanao, particularly in Basilan and Jolo-Sulu area to bring an end to the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group. After the 77th Infantry Battalion made a remarkable stint in the area from 1999-2001, it was replaced with the full-complement of the 53rd Division Reconnaissance Company last November 2006 to June 2007 and has significantly contributed in the hunt to destroy the notorious terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group.

The stable security environment in the areas of Northern Luzon has been laboriously achieved through the years by the diligence and selfless sacrifice of each officer and men of the 5th Infantry Division, now under the dynamic leadership of Maj. Gen. Nestor Z. Ochoa.

The 5th Army Training (Star) Group was activated pursuant to General Orders Number 533, Headquarters Philippine Army dated 12 December 1989 effective 1 January 1990 as an organic unit of 5th Infantry Division Philippine Army its personnel and equipment coming from the 5th Infantry Division Table of Organization and Equiptment (TOE) provided for by GHQ, AFP. Ten years after, it was reassigned and absorbed by the Training and Doctrine Command, Philippine Army on 1 April 1999 pursuant to General Orders Number 402, Headquarters Philippine Army dated 22 March 1999.

5th Army Training (Star) Group was formally organized in Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela with four (4) officers and eleven (11) enlisted personnel. Later, this group was transferred to Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz (Annex), Soyung, Echague, Isabela on 15 June 1990 to conform with the administrative and training requirements in accomplishing its assigned mission given by Higher Headquarters. The 5th Army Training (Star) Group conducts Infantry Non-commissioned Officer Basic and Advance Courses to upgrade the capabilities of soldiers of 5th Infantry Division and other units of the Philippine Army. On 10 August 2002, the unit was tasked to conduct Officer Candidate training – composed of fifteen (15) P2LTs from the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA).

Today, the 5th Army Training (Star) Group is continuously conducting Infantry Non-commissioned Officer Basic and Advance Courses to upgrade the capabilities of soldiers of 5th Infantry Division and other units of the Philippine Army.

In the near future, 5th Army Training (Star) Group will be fully capable in conducting career courses for Non-commissioned Officers not only infantry but also combat service and combat service support as well as other specialization courses as the higher headquarters may direct to pursue for excellence in molding future NCO leaders in the region (Reg 1, 2 and 3). That serves as the background of the army, in line with the army vision “to have a professional, capable and responsive army by year 2010”.

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