Oral History Interview
JCIT 018


CW3 Roger D. Smith
Standardization Instructor Pilot
1st Battalion, 228th Aviation



Interview Conducted 8 January 1990 at Building 820, Fort Kobbe, Panama

Interviewer: MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr.


20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990

Oral History Interview JCIT 018


MAJ WRIGHT: This is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted 8 January 1990, in Building 820 at Fort Kobbe. If I could get you to give me your name, rank and serial number, Chief?

CW3 SMITH: Okay, my name's Roger D. Smith, CW3. My Social Security number is ***-**-****. I'm assigned to Headquarters, 1st [Battalion] of the 228th Aviation. My duty position is the Battalion SIP, Battalion Standardization Instructor Pilot.

MAJ WRIGHT: Okay, during Operation JUST CAUSE, you had a very specific mission. Could you give me ... for D-Day, that is. Could you give me a sort of run-through when you identified what your target was? When you were made known what your target was and how you started prepping for that?

CW3 SMITH: Okay, we had an overview of the operation, it was classified when we worked that through, probably as early as thirty days prior to the assault. We had multiple targets or multiple LZs1 to hit simultaneously. And we had rehearsed those in a dress rehearsal format as early as a week prior to--a week to ten days prior to the actual assault. We worked with dissimilar aircraft: the UH-1s as well as the CH-47s and with some C&C2 coverage by OH-58s.3 It was the first time that I personally worked with an assault that we went into the same LZ with a CH-47 and UH-1s in the same LZ.

MAJ WRIGHT: The [CH]-47 being a C model?4

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: And the UH-1s were what, H models?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. The [El] Renacir Prison was the one that was my particular objective. That required--it was only large enough for two UH-1s--and one and a half really. But the other assaults in that general area5 were conducted with Chinooks and [OH]-58s. But the one that I was specifically involved in was the Renacir Prison.

MAJ WRIGHT: Okay, when did you first get told that was the target? Thirty days out?

CW3 SMITH: We had ... I would say, yes, in a classified briefing, we knew what the targets were as early as thirty days out.

MAJ WRIGHT: And you had been given target folders by the S-2?

CW3 SMITH: We had some details and some sketches and some aerial photos and things.

MAJ WRIGHT: And then, of course, by virtue of being stationed here in Panama, flying up and down the [Panama] Canal, you had had a chance to eyeball the prison?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir, frequently.

MAJ WRIGHT: When did you deploy, actually deploy to get into your start position for the assault?

CW3 SMITH: We deployed from Howard [Air Base] to [Fort] Sherman ...

MAJ WRIGHT: The day before?

CW3 SMITH: The day before. The 18th [of December 1989] I guess it was. No, the 17th.

MAJ WRIGHT: That's a couple days before.

CW3 SMITH: Well, actually, the 19th was like 0100 in the morning, so it was ... the 19th is what, Tuesday, we left Sunday.

MAJ WRIGHT: Okay, so you were well up there in plenty of time.

CW3 SMITH: We were up there at least twenty-four hours ahead of schedule.

MAJ WRIGHT: And at that point you started rehearsing with the infantry element that was ... ?

CW3 SMITH: At that point, yes, sir, we briefed--we had numerous briefings on the operation. We knew that the operation was being considered seriously and the only thing we lacked at that point was having the H-Hour set. Once the H-Hour was set, we were semi-locked down and incommunicado with anybody back here at base.

MAJ WRIGHT: Okay, for that specific assault, you had the two UH-1s. What were the crews on those two aircraft?

CW3 SMITH: Do you want the names of the crews?

MAJ WRIGHT: Yeah, if you've got them.

CW3 SMITH: CW3 Michael Lotes was in the one UH-1 and his co-pilot was WO1 Dwane Tredwin. I was the PIC6 of the second aircraft and my co-pilot was Dwight Greenland, another WO1.

MAJ WRIGHT: So the two W1s were pretty green?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir, they were extremely green, to use your term.

MAJ WRIGHT: And you and the other CW3, how many years have you been flying?

CW3 SMITH: We've been flying probably at least ten to twelve years each.

MAJ WRIGHT: Either one of you been under fire before?

CW3 SMITH: No, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: So this was a brand new experience?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Door gunners. You had your crew chiefs as ... ?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir, one of my door gunners was SSG Charlie Wagner, an E-6, and on my right side. On my left side I had a WO1 Chris Derondo.

MAJ WRIGHT: A WO1 door gunner?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Is this the infamous, "please, boss, can I go"?

CW3 SMITH: He wasn't scheduled to fly that evening and he was a former crew chief, so it wasn't ... .

MAJ WRIGHT: Oh, okay.

CW3 SMITH: He was the most experienced guy I could find that had experience crewing and firing the [M]-607 from the door.

MAJ WRIGHT: So it gave you ... in essence it gave you a redundancy factor big time on that aircraft?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. It sounds like he was just along for the ride but he was the most qualified door gunner, and probably the most overpaid--highest paid ...

MAJ WRIGHT: ... door gunner ...

CW3 SMITH: ... door gunner in the whole operation.

MAJ WRIGHT: The other aircraft had the same arrangement?

CW3 SMITH: No, sir, they had two enlisted but I don't have the names of those.

MAJ WRIGHT: It doesn't matter, it's just a function that there were two experienced guys, both from the 1st of the 228th?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: So you had intact crews in the sense that they were all from your unit?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: You weren't dealing with augmentees?

CW3 SMITH: No, sir. The augmentees for our airplane did not arrive on station for at least a day and a half, two days after the initial assault.

MAJ WRIGHT: You prepped up at Fort Sherman, took the seats out at that point?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: So that gave you the capability to carry how many infantrymen in your aircraft?

CW3 SMITH: We had eleven combat troops per helicopter, per UH-1.

MAJ WRIGHT: And do you know who they were from?

CW3 SMITH: Let me think, they were 82d Airborne [Division] guys.

MAJ WRIGHT: 3d [Battalion] of the 504th [Infantry]?

CW3 SMITH: Yeah, I think so.

MAJ WRIGHT: Do you remember which company?

CW3 SMITH: No, sir.8

MAJ WRIGHT: And they were just ... you made the physical link with them at Sherman?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: And you had not seen them before that point?

CW3 SMITH: No, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Did they rehearse getting on and off? What did you do, static?9

CW3 SMITH: We did static. The first day we did static. We briefed them safety-wise and got on and got off to get the right timing down there. And we told them pretty much what we were going to be doing going in and rehearsed the loading and off-loading.

MAJ WRIGHT: Did they have a pretty set idea of how they wanted to configure where each individual soldier stood on the aircraft, thinking of the objective?

CW3 SMITH: I'm sure they did. I don't have any knowledge of that but I'm sure they had the different people in different aircraft with different radios and what weapons that they wanted to go out in that sequence.

MAJ WRIGHT: What was the concept as you and, I guess, MAJ Muse10 and the other pilot, lead pilot, worked out on how you wanted to approach the prison? Had you discussed this in that thirty-day planning window of your flight approaches and stuff?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir, we had different routes going in. We had changed the route slightly for the initial assault to give us more coverage. We were originally going down the Canal, which is kind of open--it would have given our position out. And then we elected to divert the course over toward Madden Lake and follow the terrain and then higher ground down to give us minimum exposure until we were right there coming into the prison compound.

MAJ WRIGHT: So you came down to the east side of the Canal?

CW3 SMITH: That's correct, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: What, that one ridge line over?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Or did you go further in?

CW3 SMITH: Probably at least one ridge line over. We came out from the Chagres River probably a mile from Gamboa, at least to Gamboa from the Chagres.

MAJ WRIGHT: And your final approach was done at what height--coming down the Chagres?

CW3 SMITH: Final approach was terrain flight all the way. There were some high tension wires that go across the bridge, there was a very low ceiling. That night we were on top of the clouds, the clouds then seemed to form on the low ground--or the fog seemed to form with the ceiling up. And Gamboa actually was, for most of the trip it looked like to me that we could not get in there. But the weather did break about a mile east of Gamboa on the Chagres. It broke enough for us to come down from being on top of the clouds to get underneath the clouds. The problem at that point was that now we can't go back up through the clouds and if the clouds are too low at the bridge, we still have wires to get over. And to get over the wires and under the clouds, while flying without any lights under NVGs.11 That made it a little bit more difficult.

MAJ WRIGHT: What type of goggles, the -6s?

CW3 SMITH: AN/PVS-6s, that's right.

MAJ WRIGHT: Better, more practical than the -5s?

CW3 SMITH: Much better. I've got probably more NVG time than anybody in the battalion and I just wouldn't fly nights without NVGs; -6s. I'm a "born-again" believer in -6s. [LAUGHTER]

MAJ WRIGHT: The formation you flew in: trail, abreast?

CW3 SMITH: Well, we were very, very heavy, so I wasn't too concerned about any kind of a pretty formation coming in. We briefed to come in staggered right, because that's the way the LZ was set up, the obstacles and things that were in the prison yard. So my concern at that point was just to be in a good tight staggered right when we rode out on the final [approach] coming into there.

MAJ WRIGHT: As you approach the prison, how far out were you when you got visual on it?

CW3 SMITH: Well, on final. It was a 180-degree, just about a 180-degree turn.

MAJ WRIGHT: Turn to your port?

CW3 SMITH: To my left, yes, sir. And coming around at about 180 degrees and over a very high tension wires that run across the railroad tracks and there's about a twelve-foot fence on the other side of that that pointed straight down inside the prison compound.

MAJ WRIGHT: So you did an approach in and then flared to get down on the ground?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. We had to come in very, very tight. And it was a near vertical descent in at least max[imum] force, or a bit more, so it took some maneuvering just to get in there.

MAJ WRIGHT: Where was the gun ... you had one gunship, one AH-1S12 flying cover?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. One gunship was prepositioned along the Canal. He was off to the south of us. As we came around the hill his objective was to take out a guardhouse that was there.

MAJ WRIGHT: [With] 20mm [cannon fire]?

CW3 SMITH: Yeah, the guns, the 7.61[mm gatling gun].

MAJ WRIGHT: And not fire the rockets?

CW3 SMITH: No,I don't think he was going to fire the rockets. There was some discussion earlier in the briefings about that, but he was planning to fire only guns into there.

MAJ WRIGHT: And therefore minimize collateral [damage]?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: What instructions did your door gunners have in terms of guns free, guns tight?

CW3 SMITH: My door gunners were given a kill zone from the railroad tracks to the prison side to the northeast. My right door gunner was given the latitude when we go down on final and he saw his objective, he was to open fire and have free fire in there.

MAJ WRIGHT: He didn't have to take fire? He could, if he saw somebody with a weapon, he could take them?

CW3 SMITH: That's correct.

MAJ WRIGHT: Did he do that, in fact or ... ?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: So he just started picking off targets as soon as they became available?

CW3 SMITH: He suppressed the ... we came around there, guns hot on final, to suppress any fire that was there, any potential fire that was going to be there.

MAJ WRIGHT: And the Cobra had already opened up as you made your bank?

CW3 SMITH: That was a simultaneous ... I think our guns probably opened up a little before the Cobra.

MAJ WRIGHT: So he was taking his cue off you then?

CW3 SMITH: Initially he was supposed to fire up his target but I think he was a little late, so I think our [M]-60s were employed a little bit earlier. But it was so quick--together--that as soon as we rolled out on final, everything started going.

MAJ WRIGHT: What were the instructions to the infantry on-board? Were they allowed to fire?

CW3 SMITH: Once we were on the ground ...

MAJ WRIGHT: But not while they're in the air?

CW3 SMITH: It would have been difficult for them to fire and be effective while in the air. Our gunners were the suppressive fire there. They're not going to be effective from the air.

MAJ WRIGHT: Because on some of the other assaults, for example, into Tinajitas, talking to some of the pilots, they said they got back and there were 5.56[mm] cartridges rolling all around inside the compartment. And they think on a couple of the aircraft they even fired [M]-203s out of them.13

CW3 SMITH: I think that would have been foolhardy at that point until they got down. It only took a few seconds to get down and once we were on the ground they went out shooting and we took off. But the suppressive fire was all--going in there--was all from our [M]-60s.

Our left gun, he didn't fire, he didn't have an objective going into the compound because it wasn't necessarily an assault, it was more a rescue-type thing. And that's the people that we were trying to protect. And that compound was off to the one side. So .... but he was instructed at the building there he wasn't to shoot at, but at anything on the left side that looked like it was threatening toward the building. There was some concern that perhaps maybe the PDF,14 one or two of them, were instructed or given contingency orders that if they were under attack that they would go in and cause harm to the prisoners. Throw a couple grenades in there or something. So if anybody ran down the hallway there toward the prisoners, then my left gun could open up, which he did. He did shoot somebody there.

MAJ WRIGHT: As you rolled in and flared down, did you have check-off to call from an OPSKED15 or something to notify the C&C ship?

CW3 SMITH: We had checkpoints all along the route. Our checkpoint wasn't in the compound, our checkpoint was when we hit Gamboa we called the checkpoint there. And at that point we were too busy to be on the radio and calling another checkpoint. We briefed that once we took off and got airborne, we'd call in.

MAJ WRIGHT: That was the signal to the C&C ship that the mission had gone down?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. Once we ... yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Do you remember what that word was?

CW3 SMITH: I don't recall that now. [LAUGHTER] I got ...

MAJ WRIGHT: I'm just searching here for chapter titles for the book, that's all.

CW3 SMITH: They were silly. They were flowers: lily or violet or something like that. It wasn't very ...

MAJ WRIGHT: Imaginative?

CW3 SMITH: Imaginative. But they did the job.

MAJ WRIGHT: What about your call signs? Do you remember what they were?

CW3 SMITH: We went in, we were ... we went in with our own Joker call sign same as ... .


CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. We had minimum traffic on the radio, it was very little chitter-chatter on there.

MAJ WRIGHT: So Joker was all of Alpha -- was Bravo Company --

CW3 SMITH: Joker is a UH-1 nontactical call sign for UH-1s in 1st of the 228th.

MAJ WRIGHT: Okay and then the CH-47s, I guess, had their own?

CW3 SMITH: They're called Bears. They used to be called Sugarbears, but they needed a five-letter nontactical for just unofficial, so they're Bears.

MAJ WRIGHT: And then the Kiowa?

CW3 SMITH: The Kiowa is Kiowa.

MAJ WRIGHT: And then the Blackhawk?

CW3 SMITH: Blackhawks are Talons.

MAJ WRIGHT: Okay, that explains the patches that Alpha Company is roaring around with.

CW3 SMITH: Yeah, UH-1s and ...

MAJ WRIGHT: Got it. Yeah, I've seen that before. As you went in and touched down, did the infantry start de-planing before you had skids down?

CW3 SMITH: That would be difficult for me to say. It took an awful lot of my concentration ....

MAJ WRIGHT: Just to hold the aircraft?

CW3 SMITH: Just to keep from running into the other aircraft and to get the aircraft down because of power, and, like I said, it was an extremely tight LZ.

MAJ WRIGHT: About how wide would you say the LZ wound up being?

CW3 SMITH: You could probably, I've got a poor concept of measurement once I'm flying. I'd say about ...

MAJ WRIGHT: A rotor-width?

CW3 SMITH: Yeah, it was probably a little bit more, it was probably within two rotor widths wide. But there's a soccer net, a twelve-foot fence here, a fence ... a building in the front and very flimsy corrugated roofed one, and a lot of other structures around it that restricted the full use of that field.

MAJ WRIGHT: And you had to worry then, I guess, with the roof and whatnot, about stuff blowing off and coming up?

CW3 SMITH: That was a concern but that wasn't a major concern at that point. The roof coming off would have certainly been giving us problems but just, I think, the power coming in there with that many troops on board, blacked out, with that steep of an approach demanded an awful lot of power from the engine to retard that synch rate and get in there with people firing at you. And you land together, so you put both ships down into the prison compound at exactly the same time so they can deplane and take off again. And once we were down, touched down very closely--almost simultaneously--the troops were out and it didn't require much more than just getting the skids on the ground, those guys were ready to leave.

MAJ WRIGHT: So about total elapsed time, you got any guess of how long you were actually on the ground?

CW3 SMITH: It seemed like an hour and a half but I think it was about twenty seconds, I guess, once we came down.

MAJ WRIGHT: And then you just lifted straight up or ... ?

CW3 SMITH: Yeah, we took off together and flew straight out. We had high ground off to our left and it dropped off into low ground. There was only one take-off point out. It was much easier to get out than it was going in because we were empty.

MAJ WRIGHT: And you just broke out and then got around behind the high ground to get out of harm?

CW3 SMITH: Yes. Swung left. When we broke out, then my gunner, we had briefed, he was to take out a guard shack that was ...

MAJ WRIGHT: On the back side of the compound?

CW3 SMITH: On the back side, on the left side. And he went hot with his gun. Earlier it was briefed that the [OH]-58 was going to carry a sniper and -58's sniper was to use that, or that was his target. And if he didn't get the guy that was in the guard shack prior to our departure, then it was our task to knock out the guard shack or suppress it as best we could.

MAJ WRIGHT: Coming in, did you receive fire on your final?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Could you tell what kind of fire it was? Small arms?

CW3 SMITH: Small arms, automatic weapons.

MAJ WRIGHT: Anything big or just [M]-60, -15s, -16s?

CW3 SMITH: Yeah, I could see tracers, and I could see rounds going between the aircraft.

MAJ WRIGHT: Did it appear that they had any real sense of where you were or were they just blindly firing?

CW3 SMITH: It was difficult. It's very noisy if you get inside that prison compound with two aircraft coming down. An aircraft, when you hear that whop-whop sound of the UH-1, which is unique to that aircraft, it's usually when he retards the collective and the blade is spinning up a little bit. That's when you really hear the banging of the blades. And coming in with two aircraft coming down, heavy-loaded, it's going to be very noisy. Plus the noise is centered and acoustically it's right in the compound surrounded by about three buildings. So it would have been a terrific noise down there, notwithstanding the M-60s and when the Cobras started the firing. It's scary on their end too.

MAJ WRIGHT: Could you tell--with the night vision it's hard, but could you tell, were they green tracers or red tracers?

CW3 SMITH: I couldn't tell, sir. I just saw a lot of ...

MAJ WRIGHT: A lot of light.

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Did you get any feel for how many of them were out and running around? Do you feel you had achieved tactical surprise?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir, I thought it was a very good, very well-executed mission. I think we caused ... I think we did surprise them, I'm sure we did. The end results were justified that they were not necessarily all lined up as if they were waiting for us to come down and knowing exactly where we were going to be. They may have suspected it, but they had no ... when we got in there, we hit so quick and so fast, that it was a non-breaker situation.

MAJ WRIGHT: Lift-off and then where do you go after you lifted off?

CW3 SMITH: Our mission at that point was to lift off, suppress the guard house on the left, depart. And we were going to go to the northeast approximately, they figured ... they estimated about 20 to 25 minutes it would take to secure the LZ. At which point both those aircraft were to return to the prison compound and land and evacuate the wounded. So the initial assault was to ...

MAJ WRIGHT: And planned to take them, when you evacuated, which direction? Take them down to Gorgas [Army Hospital] or up to [Fort] Davis?

CW3 SMITH: We were instructed to go direct to Howard. So we were an assault team when we first went in and after we got rid of the troops and took off, then we became a medevac unit, two extra medevac aircraft. And so we loitered for about 20 minutes up ...

MAJ WRIGHT: Up over the river or over the Canal?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: Then they called you in and said it's secured?

CW3 SMITH: Not exactly. At that point we ... I think they underestimated the resistance there and it wasn't secured for at least an hour. We're getting down to about 500 pounds of fuel, 400 pounds of fuel. It would have been silly to consider doing medevac: we would have had to gas up someplace before we got back to Howard. So at that point we broke and went to refuel and ...

MAJ WRIGHT: Refuel at Empire [Range]?16

CW3 SMITH: Empire, yes sir. Range 16. And then the weather closed in on the prison and it still wasn't secured. One aircraft went up the Canal and [CW3] Loates went up the Canal. Finally broke out on top and then he landed. And I sat at Range 16. That's when they called him in and said it was a cold LZ. And I got airborne and got above the clouds, flew up to the prison compound and I could see a break in the clouds and they said the LZ at that point was secure. I descended down through the hole in the clouds and went into the prison compound. At that time, the one aircraft was shut down and they wanted me to shut down. I shut down and then there was sniper fire going on around the prison, it was not yet secure. We were asked to go in this building and that's where I spent the next four hours. The aircraft was in the compound while there were many--five or six--different firefights that you could hear outside the prison ... outside the walls of the prison, sort of like their break area, where they were going on patrols. So that's where we spent the remainder until daylight.

MAJ WRIGHT: And then what? Went back up to Sherman or came back down here?

CW3 SMITH: Okay, then we started evacuating the wounded out of the prison compound at daybreak. We evacuated our wounded out of there and then we started ... and also Gamboa area, the wounded in all the areas of Gamboa. And got those folks back to Howard and we spent, oh, at least until at least 1:00 or 2:00 into the next day continuing to fly medevac with PDF Medevac, which were Medevac'd over to Tocumen where the medics were.

MAJ WRIGHT: Any sort of overriding observations you can think of as you reflect back on the mission?

CW3 SMITH: Well, I would think that it would be, with all the chaos and/or the untested people that we had, and the lack of experience in the different aircraft, I thought the mission probably was one of the most successful that the Army Aviation has pulled off in anything that I've ever been in on. It was very, very calm and very cool and very effectively executed. So I would just give kudos to everybody in the planning end of that and the people in the operation shop here, they did a superb job.

MAJ WRIGHT: Anything in your training before coming here to Panama that in retrospect you feel really helped prepare you for this mission?

CW3 SMITH: I think the goggle experience is probably my biggest asset; that's flying lights-out and with goggles. And I had about 700 hours in night-vision goggle time, which is a pretty sizeable amount of goggle time. It made me feel a lot more comfortable flying with the goggles in deteriorating weather conditions and in formations.

MAJ WRIGHT: You and Mr. Loates have flown together for some time so you had good confidence ... I mean, that's a tough LZ to bring to birds into, the way you described it.

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir.

MAJ WRIGHT: The confidence you had in each other a big factor?

CW3 SMITH: Yes, sir. I think there's in our particular aircraft, or airframe, down in the platoon, I think there's only three pilots who could probably get aircraft in there successfully. I'm not being immodest about it but it's just that the experience isn't there. The guy that I was flying, that was flying in the right seat, he had about twelve hours of goggle time. The guy that was flying the right seat in the first aircraft may have had twenty hours of goggle time. And you have to have it. Goggles are something that you just have to develop a feel for them over a long period of time to get very comfortable with them.

MAJ WRIGHT: No problems maintenance-wise with the aircraft?

CW3 SMITH: Maintenance was fine, we had no problems. Maintenance was postured for this particular mission and I don't think we had one aircraft go down for maintenance prior to or during the mission.

MAJ WRIGHT: Which, again, is a remarkable accomplishment.

CW3 SMITH: Absolutely. Everything worked out really well on this. This was a very, very good military operation, excellent military operation.

MAJ WRIGHT: Do you remember as you were going in, were the infantry quiet?

CW3 SMITH: Yeah.

MAJ WRIGHT: I mean, I've talked to other flight crews who said ...


MAJ WRIGHT: This is side two. Because they were so pumped up, they were working themselves up, they were hooting and hollering and yelling. Could you hear any of that or was this mission the kind of mission where they were trying to keep quiet until the last possible second?

CW3 SMITH: Maybe it was just me with my own thoughts. I can't recall [LAUGHTER] whether they were that noisy going down. There was so many things that could have gone wrong with the weather and going into the LZ with the power, I was somewhat preoccupied in concentrating on those and I think I kind of blacked out anything that wasn't that relevant to--I think I did hear some hooting and hollering coming in right before the guns started shooting. But then that ...

MAJ WRIGHT: Couldn't guarantee it.

CW3 SMITH: Couldn't guarantee it and wouldn't swear to it in court.

MAJ WRIGHT: What about the reaction after you completed the day's missions and you sat down for your debrief, the eight of you from the flight crews, what was the reaction everybody had at that point?

CW3 SMITH: I think my impression of the reaction at that point was that it was a very objective thing, it wasn't anything like scoring a winning touchdown in a football game or anything like that. It was difficult to get all the crews together because the missions continued into the next day and then into the next day. You just bounced right into other missions that we had picked up. So it wasn't for some time before groups that were involved in that particular insertion were able to link up together and reflect on that. I don't recall anything in celebrating at the time other than some compliments and some good flying in executing the mission.

MAJ WRIGHT: Sort of a sense of professional pride in ...

CW3 SMITH: A quiet sense.

MAJ WRIGHT: Yeah, a very interesting comment because that's been sort of, if I had to look at a hallmark of this operation, there hasn't been a lot of posturing; there's been a whole lot of very businesslike professionalism to it.

CW3 SMITH: Yeah and I think that's very good.

MAJ WRIGHT: Anything else you can think of, Chief?

CW3 SMITH: No, there's nothing else.

MAJ WRIGHT: Well, I appreciate you taking the time to share this with us, thanks again.

CW3 SMITH: Okay, sure.



1. Landing Zones.

2. Command and Control.

3. UH-1 Iroquois ("Huey"); CH-47 Chinook; OH-58 Kiowa helicopters.

4. The aviation assets deployed in Panama at the time of Operation JUST CAUSE still had the older CH-47C Chinooks, not the CH-47Ds that were standard in most of the rest of the Army in 1989. This situation did cause some retraining problems.

5. Gamboa and Cerro Tigre.

6. Pilot in Charge.

7. 7.62mm Machinegun.

8. Company C, 3d Battalion, 504th Infantry, assaulted El Renacer by helicopter and LCM-8 landing craft.

9. Under peacetime conditions units are not permitted (for safety reasons) to conduct live rehearsals of combat loading of utility helicopters in which the seats and safety harnesses are removed to increase passenger capacity.

10. MAJ Galen "Butch" Muse was the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation, S-3. See JCIT-016.

11. Night Vision Goggles, also called Night Vision Devices (NVDs or "NODs").

12. Cobra attack helicopter.

13. M-16 rifles fire 5.56mm rounds. The M-203 is a 40mm grenade launcher mounted under an M-16.

14. Panamanian Defense Forces.

15. Operations schedule. OPLAN 90-2, which was the plan for JUST CAUSE, contained an operations schedule as an annex that upon implementation of the plan became an execution check list.

16. Empire Range along the Canal was the site of a temporary Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) at the start of JUST CAUSE. See JCIT-015, JCIT-016, and JCIT-020.