In the previous wars I’ve covered since 2000, military personnel were purely engaged in combat. Evacuees were apprehensive whenever they would see soldiers roaming even at the periphery of the evacuation centers. But recently, things have changed. The Civil Military Operations Regiment was born.

Balo-I, Lanao del Norte – While their brothers in arms were engaged in a fierce firefight against the terrorists holed up in Marawi City, another group of Philippine Army soldiers took to a different type of warfare: winning the hearts and minds of the civilians. Instead of assault rifles, this unit was armed with ladles, knives, cooking utensils, microphones and information materials.

On a sunny Tuesday morning of Sept. 19, two KM450 military trucks ferried about 20 soldiers to an evacuation center situated beside a barangay hall.

As the soldiers disembarked from the vehicles, smiles were on the faces of the internally displaced people (IDPs) who had fled Marawi City, their home. Even the assault rifles they carried did not seem to bother the villagers, who helped the troopers unload huge cooking pots, a liquefied petroleum gas tank, baskets of vegetables and few bags of rice.

For about three months now, this is what the Civil Military Operations Regiment of the Philippine Army has been doing –providing health-care programs, moral recovery for adults and psychosocial interventions for children and meals from the mobile kitchen.

At least 250 soldiers belonging to the CMO Regiment have been deployed to initiate non-combat activities following the conflict in Marawi City. READ FULL STORY

Here are some random pictures taken in one of their non-combat activities at the evacuation center in Lanao provinces, where thousands of evacuees sought shelter due to the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.