Thursday, February 15, 2007

FEMALE ON THE FLOOR: Western Hemisphere (Cont'd)

The invasion of Panama was the first major U.S. armed intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean since Operation URGENT FURY, the 1983 invasion of Grenada. Since May 1988 the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had considered military intervention as a means of thwarting Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's increasing involvement in drug trafficking. After the May 1989 elections, which Noriega illegally nullified, the United States planned Operation NIMROD DANCER as a means of inserting reinforcements into Panama during a crisis. SOUTHCOM was not satisfied with NIMROD DANCER because it took one to two additional weeks to get supplies to the incoming troops. By that time, reasoned SOUTHCOM commander General Maxwell Thurman, the Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) would be ready. Lt. Gen. Carl W. Stiner, commander of XVIII Airborne Corps, noted that NIMROD DANCER would "not produce the desired results. We were not satisfied with the existing plan because it just didn't fit the situation."

U.S. forces had a distinct advantage because more than half of the troops used in Operation JUST CAUSE were based in Panama. Of 25,750 men and women from all services who participated in Operation JUST CAUSE, 13,000 were part of the usual garrison. Yet only 3,027 personnel were on the ground in Panama. Army units already in Panama were the 193d Infantry Brigade and Company C, 3d Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. The rest of the force deployed from four bases inside CONUS. These included the XVIII Airborne Corps Command Group and the 1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina; one infantry brigade and one infantry battalion of the 7th Infantry Division from Fort Ord, California; one battalion from the 5th Infantry Division out of Fort Polk, Louisiana; and the 75th Ranger Regiment from Fort Lewis, Washington, and Forts Stewart and Benning, Georgia. At no time during the deployment did Fort Bragg, home of the XVIII Airborne Corps, lose its Division Ready Brigade (DRB), the rapid reaction force used to respond to crises on a moment's notice. Opposing the Americans was the PDF, made up of 3,500 army troops, 11,000 police and national guardsmen, plus another 1,000 men in the air force and navy.

Operation JUST CAUSE was launched shortly after midnight on 20 December 1989. During the first phase of the attack, 3,360 airborne troops, plus the 193d Infantry Brigade, closed in on Noriega 's stronghold in the center of Panama City. Within sixty hours after President Bush's decision to commit troops, 12,000 reinforcements from CONUS had arrived in Panama. On 3 January 1990 General Noriega, who had take n refuge in the Vatican consulate, surrendered to U.S. troops. After a mopping-up period, President Bush declared Operation JUST CAUSE finished on 31 January, and most of FORSCOM's troops began going home. Casualty figures were 23 American dead (18 Army casualties) and 330 wounded (262 Army casualties). An estimated 314 Panamanian soldiers died and 129 were wounded. Two U.S. Army Rangers were reported killed by friendly fire, and another 15 soldiers were wounded.

Following Operation JUST CAUSE, FORSCOM units supported SOUTHCOM's Operation PROMOTE LIBERTY, a nation-building exercise designed to bolster the newly elected leadership in Panama. The missions of these units included protecting U.S. lives, property, and interests; defending the Panama Canal; and promoting Panamanian confidence in its popularly elected government. The FORSCOM contingent included a light infantry battalion from the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), an aviation team of fourteen UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 7th Infantry Division (Light), an aviation battalion headquarters, and four military police companies. By mid-1990 the deployed strength was 1,185 personnel, though that number was reduced steadily throughout the remainder of the year.

In addition to operations in Panama, FORSCOM units participated in a number of civic actions and drug interdiction operations. In the spring of 1990, personnel from the Second Army aided the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in disaster relief following severe flooding in Alabama. In June aviation units from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, helped relieve citizens left homeless by tornados in southern Indiana. In northern California and eastern Oregon, Army personnel from Fort Ord, California , and Fort Lewis, Washington, supported firefighting efforts. Early in FY 90 FORSCOM supported 35 counternarcotic operations; in FY91 the figure jumped to 164. Two FORSCOM operations in support of LANTCOM, Operation BAHAMAS and TURKS CAICOS and Operation BLUEWATER, ran through 1991 and continued into the next fiscal year.

FORSCOM units had no sooner completed Operation JUST CAUSE and various civic action projects than they were alerted to bolster Operation DESERT SHIELD, the U.S. response to Iraqi aggression in Kuwait. Beginning 6 August 1990, FORSCOM formed a battle staff with 24-hour support to monitor deployment to the Persian Gulf. The battle staff remained in place throughout FY 90. According to FORSCOM commander General Edwin H. Burba, Jr., FORSCOM provided oversight for most of the Army's mobilization and deployment effort. General Burba further said that "CONUS Armies were clearly the workhorses of the operation." In excess of 140,000 active component soldiers from more than 5 divisions, along with their affiliated combat support and combat service support units, were sent from CONUS to the Persian Gulf. FORSCOM also called up more than 145,000 National Guardsmen and Army reservists who served either in CONUS, the Persian Gulf, or Europe.

On 1 October 1990, Army Chief of Staff General Carl E. Vuono directed the FORSCOM commander to establish the U.S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) as a major subordinate command. On 31 January 1991, FORSCOM provided a USARC Concept Plan (CONPLAN) that HQDA approved on 14 March. The CONPLAN called for transition of operational functions from FORSCOM and Fourth U.S. Army to USARC from April through September 1991 that would culminate in assumption of command and control of the Fourth Army Reserve units by USARC on 1 October 1991. In addition, First and Second Armies would gradually transfer Reserve functions to USARC during the period of October 1991 through June 1992. Fifth and Sixth Armies would follow by 1 October 1992.

copied from Source Department of the Army Historical Summary: FYs 1990 & 1991

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