Soldier-peacebuilder is new Westmincom chief

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) — A bemedalled soldier who is active in  peace-building activities in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao is the new commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., 54, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, took over the post of Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz during installation rites in Zambaonga City Tuesday morning, January 17.

Dela Cruz, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1985 was installed Westmincom chief on November 21, 2015 and will now serve as Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. receives guests in Camp Navarro, Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City Tuesday morning, January 17, 2017, shortly before his assumption as new commander. Galvez was 6th Infantry Division before his promotion as Westmincom commander. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Westmincom has command over the 1st and 6th Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Army and the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.  Its base is in Zamboanga City which also hosts the Philippine Air Force’s 3rd Air Division in Mindanao’s lone air base, the Edwin Andrews Air Base.

Westmincom’s operates in areas where major threat groups operate: the  Abu Sayyaf  terror group in Basilan and Sulu, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao,  the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur; and the New Peoples Army in the Zamboanga region.

The government is currently talking peace with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

The Westmincom area is also where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) operate, although both fronts have signed peace agreements with the government and are presently implementing the agreements.

Galvez, a member of PMA Class 1985, spent most of his military career in Mindanao as company, battalion, brigade and division commander.

He also graduated from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and Staff College Class 47 as Class President and Valedictorian, and was awarded as one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldier (TOPS) in 2007.

The new Westmincom Chief had served as Commander of 104th Infantry Brigade under the 1st ID in Basilan; Deputy Commander for Peace Process of the Western Mindanao Command and concurrent chair of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) in the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations from August 2015; was installed as the 33rd commander of the 6th Infantry Division on September 12, 2016 and Westmincom chief effective January 17, 2017.

Galvez was the CCCH chair who worked with his MILF counterpart, the late Rashid Ladiasan, in ensuring a ceasefire to prevent an escalation of conflict following the Mamasapano tragedy in Maguindanao on January 25, 2015, which left 66 persons dead — 44 from the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, 17 from the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, and five civilians.

While serving in Basilan, Galvez’ First Scout Ranger Battalion which operated against the Abu Sayaff in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, was adjudged the Best Scout Ranger Battalion for two consecutive years in 2000 and 2001 and the Philippine Army’s Best Battalion for Combat Operations in 2002.

Galvez has been awarded two Distinguished Service Stars, two Outstanding Achievement Medals, six Gold Cross Medals, eight  Bronze Cross Medals, numerous military merit and commendation medals and a Wounded Personnel Medal.

He is also a recipient of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s  “Salamat Po” Humanitarian Award and an is Outstanding Citizen of Taguig City awardee.

Galvez is the firstborn among 12 children of Carlito Galvez Sr and Lourdes Guansing from Bustos, Bulacan.  He is married Marissa Pascua, an international flight purser of Philippine Airlines. The couple has a daughter, Mary Frances Therese.

His fields of specialty include Leadership Development, Counter-terrorism, Humanitarian Assistance, Strategic Thinking/Decision-making, Systems Dynamics Modeling, and Negotiation and Mediation (“Rido” Settlement).

Galvez completed his Masters in Project Management at the University of New South Wales, Australia in 2004,  and was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government Leadership Executive Education at Harvard University, Massachusetts.

Galvez was also a Fellow at the Asian Institute of Management Bridging Leadership program, took a course on Leadership and Values at the University of Asia and the Pacific, Negotiation and Mediation at the National Security at the National Defense College of the Philippines,  and Leadership and Laws by the Australian Defense Course Program.

He also took an Infantry Officer Advance Course in Fort Benning, Georgia; attended a Military Operation Research Symposium in Singapore, Comprehensive Crisis Management Course in Hawaii and Rules of Engagement at the Institute of International Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy.

Galvez also attended the United States Eisenhower Fellowships Multination Program in 2006. (MindaNews)