MANILA, Philippines -- Angeles City, officially known as the City of Angeles, is a highly-urbanized city in the Central Luzon area of the Philippines. Located in the province of Pampanga, it is home to roughly 462,000 people, one of those being one of the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade’s very own advisors, Staff Sgt. Michael Bamba.
Staff Sgt. Bamba was born in Angeles City in 1981 and lived there until he was about 16 years old.
“People in Angeles City have a lot of time for each other and for family,” Bamba said. “As kids we played outside a lot, we would go to local parks and take trips to nearby resorts. My family was also very active in the Catholic community so we went to church often.”
In 1998, after the unfortunate death of his father, Bamba’s mother, Nora, decided that it was time to pack up their bags and move to the United States to be with her sisters in Annapolis, Maryland.
Upon arriving to Annapolis, it took Bamba some time to get use to his new way of life.
“It was a big adjustment for me at first. I was leaving my family and friends behind and essentially starting all over,” Bamba said. ”Everything in the U.S. was so spread out and life was not as easy as in Angeles, so it was a very big culture shock to me.”
Bamba wasn’t a fan of the U.S. at first.
“My first year there, I did not like it,” Bamba said.
His disdain did not last long as he quickly began making new friends.
“Everyone was very interested in where I came from and my culture and they were all very welcoming and accepting of who I was,” he said.
In 2009, while working for a marketing firm in Maryland, Bamba felt the calling to enlist in the United States Army.
“I had worked at that marketing firm for about three and a half years but the Army was always in the back of mind,” Bamba said. “Then one day while I was sitting at my desk, I realized that if I didn’t at least give it a try, I would always regret it.”
So Bamba enlisted into the Army as a 19D Calvary Scout.
Shortly after, Bamba was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, where he deployed to Afghanistan from 2010-2011. He then went on to serve in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, and the 2nd Calvary Regiment in Germany.
After Germany, Bamba moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he served as an instructor for the Army Reconnaissance Course.
While serving as an ARC instructor, Bamba felt he wanted something more out of his career.
“I was not being challenged enough in my current position and I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to make a strategic level impact. I knew I wanted to be a part of the SFAB,” he said.
After getting accepted into the organization, Bamba was assigned to 5th SFAB’s Maneuver Advisor Team 5333 and soon learned that they would be employing to the Philippines with Force Package 22-1.
“When I learned we would be coming to the Philippines, I was really excited. It is a great opportunity to come back and work with the Army of the country I was born in. I felt a strong sense of responsibility to do a good job.”
Bamba’s family was also excited to learn that he would be returning to the Philippines with the team.
Bamba’s mother, Nora, returned to the Philippines after retiring in 2017 and had not seen her son in over 4 years. Fortunately, Bamba was able to visit his family while Team 5333 was in Angeles City.
“I am very happy he was able to find time and come visit the family,” Nora said. “We are very proud of the career he has made in the U.S. Army and happy to see him enjoying what he does.”
The feeling was mutual with Staff Sgt. Bamba.
“It was great getting to see my family again,” Bamba said. “I am very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to spend quality time with them that I otherwise would not have had.”
Getting to return to the Philippines to work with the Philippine Army was fulfilling for Bamba.
“I am honored to return to my home country and work with their Army. They are very excited and willing to work with us, as are we with them. I have learned a lot from them. I look forward to growing this relationship with the Philippine and U.S. Army through 5th SFAB, and am excited to return in the future,” Bamba said.
MAT 5333 is the third team to visit the Philippines as the organization strengthens the relationship with their Philippine counter parts in order to maintain a free and open Indo Pacific.