DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview
3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery
LTC Larry D. Gottardi, Commander
MAJ Andrew E. Wynarsky, S-3
Interview conducted 8 February 1990 at the Headquarters of the 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery, Fort Bragg,North Carolina
Interviewers: Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., Historian, XVIII Airborne Corps, and MAJ Dennis Levin, Commander, 130th Military History Detachment
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 021
DR. WRIGHT: This is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted 8 February 1990 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in the Headquarters of the 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery. The interviewing officials are Dr. [Robert K.] Wright, the [XVIII Airborne] Corps Historian, and MAJ Dennis Levin, the commander of the 130th Public Affairs Detachment.
MAJ LEVIN: Military History Detachment.
DR. WRIGHT: Correction: Military History Detachment. And, sir, if I could get you two gentlemen to identify yourselves. Give me your name, rank and serial number?
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. I am LTC Larry D. Gottardi, ***-**-****. I am the battalion commander of the 3d Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
MAJ WYNARSKY: MAJ Andrew E. Wynarsky, ***-**-****, Battalion S-3, Headquarters, 3d Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., gentlemen. If I could get you to basically talk about when you first inherited the plan and any adjustments you had to make in your ... as you reviewed the plan that you inherited.
LTC GOTTARDI: This is LTC Gottardi. I think everybody was aware that the conditions in Panama were changing rapidly. Probably from about the period 1988 we knew that things were changing down there and that there was a developing undercurrent of anti-Americanism, or [if] not anti-Americanism, a policy of harassment of American troops and family members and whatnot in Panama. In fact, the first introduction I had to anything going on of that was in Operation GOLDEN PHEASANT where this battalion deployed to Honduras. At the same time, as I recall, there was a lot of activity going on in Panama. In fact, there were a lot of people at the time that thought we were going to Panama and not Honduras. So, that was the first time, I think, that I became aware that Panama was a possible future area of interest for the division and for the corps.
Everybody was aware, I think, that relationships with the Noriega government were degrading over time, and particularly this last summer when things started to heat up. The first really solid indicator, I think, that really perked everybody's ears up was when we had the reinforcement down there [Operation NIMROD DANCER], with the mech[anized] battalion from the 5th I[nfantry] D[ivision], and I think a battalion from the 7th ID, and then they had, I think, a Marine LAV [light armored vehicle] company that went. That got a pretty good media exposure, and that is, I think, what really perked everybody's ears up.
I first became aware of a plan for an American operation in Panama that was a solid plan probably about the middle of November. And at that time the 3d Brigade was the mission brigade. About the middle of November, both COL [Jack P.] Nix, the 1st Brigade Commander, and COL [Howard J.] Von Kaenel, the Division Artillery Commander, had let me know that things were getting relatively serious in Panama. We were approaching a point where we might be looking at some sort of armed intervention or reaction. And that there was, in fact, a plan in existence and that it would be wise to start focusing in on that area. But there was no--no reason or cause for panic; you know, we weren't going to go the day after tomorrow. But we just had some increased interest in that.
So, I guess it was--some of these dates are a little hazy. I guess it was the--yeah, still the middle of November, I started to go up to the division G-2 more frequently and the division fire support element [FSE] more frequently, and back in the G-3 plans shop just to see what was going on, just thinking it was prudent to get to know whatever it was I could. Also, at this time, we had been 'read-on' to the plan, so to speak, so we knew what the plan was.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. It was ... MAJ Wynarsky will mention this later on. There was a very unusual and very favorable coincidence here. The actual knowledge of the existing plan was limited to a few key individuals. I think within 1st Brigade, who eventually executed the plan, it was the brigade commander, the brigade S-3, the battalion commanders and myself. I think that was the limit of it. We were the only ones that knew that there was a plan in existence.
Fortuitously, my S-3, MAJ Wynarsky, had a previous assignment in the Joint Special Operations Team where he had worked various contingency plans for various parts of the world, and the plan that we ended up executing was actually an outgrowth of some planning that had been done at the joint level some time before. So, unbeknownst to me, he had a working knowledge of the plan in several earlier iterations. Which, later on, once he was read in ... I mean it was a real blessing. Because what happened here is I could sketch out the general portion of the plan and he knew the actual nitty gritty of what was going to happen, the big picture so to speak. That proved to be a blessing later on, because there were a lot of questions that otherwise would have taken a great deal of time to get the answers to, and which he had almost immediate recall of--or at least he had immediate recall of an earlier iteration. And the overall plan really, I think, the basic guideline was about the same.
We became aware of the plan, a lot of brief-ups going on, there had been several trips down here by division staff officers. The G-3 had gone down there I believe. The 1st Brigade commander had gone down there. The division fire support element chief had gone down there. So, as time progressed we were able to pick up more and more information on the plan. I was ... pretty much had it fixed in my own mind of what was going to happen.
3d Brigade had wrote the plan and while they were still in the mission cycle at the end of November, they did a rehearsal of the plan.
DR. WRIGHT: Where did that rehearsal take place, sir?
LTC GOTTARDI: That rehearsal took place here on Fort Bragg.
DR. WRIGHT: At Sicily [Drop Zone]?
LTC GOTTARDI: At Sicily. It began with an air drop/airfield takedown on Sicily drop zone. And then what they did is they had essentially overlaid the layout down there in Panama with Fort Bragg terrain. And they located objectives that were the same distance from Sicily Drop Zone as they were ultimately proved to be from Tocumen-Torrijos. And they located ... they offset them a little bit. It was my impression they offset them a little bit so that, for instance, if you were going into Fort Cimarron, they gave you an objective that was "X" kilometers from Sicily Drop Zone, and they would lay out on the ground there, or they would replicate an objective that very closely resembled the objective on there at Cimarron and so that they would be able to go in exactly with the LZs [landing zones] that they would go in with on some--you know, location-wise. They would replicate the number of forces there as best intel[ligence] told us was there. They would give them the assets that they would reasonably expect to have there and whatnot.
The arrangement the 1st Brigade commander made was that he, his battalion commanders, his S-3, and myself, would act as observer/controllers [O/Cs] for that EDRE [Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise], so that we had an opportunity to view the rehearsal since we assumed mission the first week in--the first full week in December, I believe, we assumed mission. And that was just to give us some basic familiarity with the plan and with the plan as executed.
And I think it was also his intent that we would be there so that if there were glitches, we would be there to see the glitch, rather than have the glitch explained to us by somebody else. So, I believe it was the last week in November they did the rehearsal and we were there throughout. Again, the O/C portion of it was restricted to the commanders. So, my [S]-3 was not there or whatever.
The mission was executed by 3d Brigade. I think they used 1st [Battalion] of the 505[th Infantry] and 3d [Battalion] of the 505[th Infantry]; and 2d [Battalion] of the 505[th Infantry] being the PSYOP [psychological operations asset]. And they used 2d [Battalion] of the 325[th Infantry], a battalion from 2d Brigade to be the third battalion in the task force. And the battalion assault CP [command post] from 1st [Battalion] of the 319th [Field] Artillery and one of their batteries. I do not recall which battery it was. It was commanded by CPT Bennett, I believe.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Bravo, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: I guess it was Bravo Battery. And what they did is they replicated the plan that they had created to include, you know, the deployment package the artillery would have. And I'm sort of focused in on that, because, you know, that's the portion I observed most closely. I believe they also had the battalion S-3s out there from the infantry battalions acting as observers/controllers.
So, I was able to do--they did not have sufficient heavy drop to do a drop of the battery and assembly. So, what they did is they located them out there and they put them between Sicily and Holland [Drop Zones] at an area where they could link up with the road convoy from, I think, 2d/325 as they moved out there to establish a support position. So, I was able to go through that. Saw ... you know, watched the whole operation, you know, spent a sleepless night. It was quite cold.
Spent a sleepless night out there, but I was able to see everything that was going on. I positioned myself in the drop zone knowing that the artillery battery was not there or the assault CP was not there. But primarily what I wanted to see there was what were the infantry battalions doing? How close were they coming to making their time lines? Because, you know, the assembly of the battery and derigging all the heavy dropped equipment, and getting them ready to link up with a ground convoy to move to a firing position to support the assault on Cimarron.
I wanted to have a feel for how long is it, you know, how much time do we have to do that? How long is it going to take the infantry battalions to assemble, you know, moving into a PZ [pickup zone] posture and then kick out in these various operations? And understanding that I could always link up with the battery. I just wanted to get a feel for what was happening on the drop zone, you know, what problems did they run into, and if we were going to be in the middle of all that, assembling and derigging equipment, what problems would that lead to for us?
So, after they had done their drop and I think the first battalion was in the posture to air assault out, what I did is I then moved and linked up with the battery and they were located I think up by the entrance to Salerno [Drop Zone]. They seemed to be a little disjointed.
The ... do you want me to discuss the basic plan at all?
DR. WRIGHT: Yes, please, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. What it consisted of is that the 1st Ranger Battalion [1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment] was going to do an assault--a parachute assault on the Tocumen portion of the Tocumen-Torrijos airport, the Tocumen portion being the military side of the airport.
DR WRIGHT: The north side.
LTC GOTTARDI: The north. Yeah, the north side. And what you had there was the [Panamanian Defense Force, or P.D.F.] 2d Infantry Company. The thing that is funny about that is later on we were down in Panama. I remember there was a--one of their unit logo things up there and I think it was the head of a puma, a mountain lion. And the motto was "Les Invincibles", you know, the invincible ones. That really turned out to be quite humorous.
But 2d Infantry Company was up there, armed, as I recall, I think they had some mortars or they were anticipated to have some mortars, small arms. I believe--were they an airborne company?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes, sir, they were. They were in the airborne company.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. So, it was expected that they would have a relatively higher state of training and motivation and whatnot. Also, there was the--I guess what we would call the tactical headquarters of the Panamanian Air Force with a number of aircraft.
We knew from the imagery that there were a number of guard posts that had been established on entrances to the airfield and around the perimeter of Tocumen. And that from time to time they moved in some ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: ZPU-4s [Soviet-manufactured quadruple 14.5mm machine guns].
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Some automatic weapons, anti-aircraft type, ZPU-4s. At one time I think they said a .50-cal[iber] had moved in. I don't know whether they mean an American
M-2 .50-cal. or a .50-cal. equipment.
1st Rangers were going to seize the Tocumen portion and neutralize 2d Infantry Company and the F.A.P. headquarters. And that was the Fuerza Aerea de Panama.
MAJ WYNARSKY: de Panama.
LTC GOTTARDI: De Panama. So when I say F.A.P., I mean the Panamanian Air Force. They were going to eliminate them. There were going to be some F.A.P. helicopters there, UH-1s. They anticipated some fixed wing aircraft, mostly twin engine. I think a couple of AN-26s and some European commercial models that had been adapted.
DR WRIGHT: Casa 212s?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Exactly. Then after the Rangers assaulted at P hour, at P plus 45, the parachute assault of the DRB [82d Airborne Division's Division Ready Brigade]. And that would be the entire DRB, the division assault CP, the brigade, 1st Brigade, and assault CP; the 1st [Battalion] of the 504th [Infantry], the 2d [Battalion] of the 504[th Infantry], and 4th [Battalion] of the 325[th Infantry], [a replacement element from] the 2d Brigade, since 3rd [Battalion] of the 504[th Infantry] was already in Panama at the jungle warfare center. Plus our A battery and my assault CP.
Our deployment package was a four gun battery. We had four guns [M-102 105mm howitzers], four HMMWV [M-998-series High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle] prime movers. And because that's all that we were going to get in initially, we tailored that in such a way so that within those four HMMWV prime movers, we had a command and control capability. We had an ammo [ammunition] haul capability. And then we would also have to put on there everything that we would need in the way of ammunition. Another sort of gratuitous coincidence here, I guess was ... in 1989, we began to look at the ASOP [Airborne Standing Operating Procedure], the division readiness SOP, and there is a chapter that deals on a diversion component. I'll come back to that, let me talk about the plan.
We would come in about 45 minutes after the Rangers. The DRB would take down the Torrijos portion of the airfield; secure it quickly; and as quickly as it was possible to do, move into a PZ posture to assault out the three objectives. One objective would be Panama Viejo, which was the ruins of the old fortress of Panama City down on the Pacific side, sort of on a little promontory out into the bay. More or less I guess, it was to the east of Amador?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes, sir.
SIMULTANEOUS DISCUSSION: Yes; east.
LTC GOTTARDI: And located there was the U.E.S.A.T. [Unidad Especial de Anti-Terror] which was the Panamanian Defense Forces' counter-terrorist unit. Supposedly very well-equipped, highly trained, motivated, very loyal to Noriega and whatnot. And portions of the P.D.F. Cavalry Squadron, which is a real live honest-to-God horse cavalry squadron, you know, uniforms, bright buttons, epaulets with fringe, all that sort of thing.
The second objective was at Cerro Tinajitas, which was a P.D.F. infantry camp that was located to the north of the city north of the San Miguelito area. And I believe at there was what the 7th Infantry Company or 1st Infantry Company?
DR WRIGHT: 1st; 1st. 7th was down at Rio Hato.
LTC GOTTARDI: 1st Infantry Company up there at Tinajitas. They were anticipating having a lot of small arms, automatic weapons, mortars--a significant number of mortars.
DR. WRIGHT: To digress a moment on this. How well briefed were you on what kind of mortars they were?
LTC GOTTARDI: Very well briefed. We ...
DR. WRIGHT: French [manufactured] 120s?
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, we knew they were French 120s. We didn't have the manufacturer's name, but we suspected they were the French Brandt 120s that had--they can have--achieve a range of a little bit over 15,000 meters. A very capable weapon.
So, you know, I think we really had down the nitty gritty. We knew how they were going to be equipped and in what quantities. The way they had been mixing and matching and moving things around, I don't think anybody was really sure what would be in any one place at any one time, because you just--you could not get that information that quickly and then get it back that quickly without them having been moved again twenty minutes after somebody spotted them.
MAJ WYNARSKY: A good recap of total ... expected total number of mortars in Panama with a constantly changing disposition of where they were.
LTC GOTTARDI: And, I mean, I was really surprised and very impressed by the way that we were tracking those things. And I had, you know, no reason to doubt that if they said at such and such time and such and such a date there were so many here, that they were there, and we were anticipating where we'd move them to, wherever it was. So, we were getting updates when these things were moving around.
MAJ LEVIN: Did they consider this to be an unusual thing to do that they were moving equipment around so much?
LTC GOTTARDI: I think everybody viewed it as a very prudent tactic and reaction on the part of Noriega. The one thing that--my personal perception of the guy throughout the whole buildup and subsequent operations down in Panama is; although he made--I don't think we would call him an intellectual giant. He might not have been brilliant academically, but he had a great deal or at least appeared to have a great deal of native cunning and cleverness.
Plus he had had a lot of military training, the majority of it in the United States. And it looked like a natural reaction, a prudent reaction. When things were starting to heat up, I mean let's just keep moving things around.
DR. WRIGHT: To pursue that question a little bit. Because he was, and so much of the P.D.F. were, US-trained, did you sort of template based on our concepts and our training as you tried to anticipate what he was going to be doing?
LTC GOTTARDI: To some degree.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think as the operation was developed, you know, this was already well along into the operation. At that point we find out that they were using power trucks and his electrical company trucks to move mortars around because of the extensions [stabilizing legs] available on them. That certainly is not a standard US tactic. I knew from my previous experience that personnel out of the P.D.F. had been to Cuba and other Soviet satellites for training. So, I think we knew that we would see a mixture of American tactics, Soviet/satellite country tactics, and basically adaptations that the Panamanians evolved themselves.
I knew that around Howard Air Force Base, raids with 60mm mortars had been trained by some of the Special Forces groups. So one of the biggest threats in the country was a tactic which was trained ... that the P.D.F. had received from our own 7th [Special Forces] Group.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I don't know how much you could template. You know, were they likely to employ mortars? Yeah. Sure. Were they likely to employ them in accordance with American doctrine? Yeah, initially, probably. Were they likely to use a great number of our techniques, roving mortar and that kind of thing? Sure. We were fully expecting that. But I don't think ... you know, we didn't go down there expecting that we were going to be able to template something. I think my anticipation was we would see them start to react in a particular way and then we would see permutations of that as conditions changed.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think we knew that mortars would be used for harassing fire. In fact, I think going way back in 88 I was down there in a war gaming session. I know at that time MG Cisneros was the J-3 at SOUTHCOM [United States Southern Command]. And at that time we had discussed the threat of mortars and it was a result of that discussion that two [AN/TPQ]-36s [counter-mortar radars] were brought into Panama and because they were brought to the country there was two 36's coverage, at least in the Canal Zone and in the majority of the city.
So, I think as far as template ...
LTC GOTTARDI: And Howard Air Force Base.
DR WRIGHT: Yeah. What I had heard down there was that the counter-mortar radar coverage was focused on Howard, because that was the critical point.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes. It was.
DR WRIGHT: To the point that we didn't have good coverage of [Fort] Clayton when they took the harassing fire on D-day at Clayton.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Well, that's true, but I think that was a risk assessment, and this is--I'm talking a little bit out of school here, because I think those decisions were made after I left. But the center of gravity for the American forces was Howard Air Force Base. And it was so much a center of gravity, I think, that the focus turned out the need for another aerial port being Torrijos-Tocumen.
But harassing fire can be sustained at Clayton you know. It could not be sustained at Howard Air Force Base. So, to answer your big question, I think that was anticipated, but there are a lot of variances.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. But there is--I don't see a way that you could develop, you know, a traditional decision support template.
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
LTC GOTTARDI: It would not match because we are going to be setting the tempo and how do you predict their behavior? It's ... .
DR WRIGHT: Sort of an OBE [overtaken by events] thing and we weren't going to give them a chance to use it anyway?
LTC GOTTARDI: I don't think ... I certainly didn't think that they would be, you know, very rigidly doctrinal in what they would do. I thought it was going to be a, you know, 'head for the hills.'
But getting back to it, l/504 would then conduct the second air assault into Tinajitas. And then the final air assault would be 4th of the 325[th Infantry] into Fort Cimarron where the bulk of Battalion 2000 was expected to be. And additionally, I think, when we looked at it, my impression was the greatest threat to the operation would be Battalion 2000.
It was an interesting unit formed for, you know, defense of the Canal whenever the [Panama Canal] Treaty would be completed in the year 1999. Hence the name Battalion 2000. So, they were hybrid. They had a company, I think, that was airborne and they had an air assault company, they had a company with Cadillac-Gage [V-150 and V-300] armored cars. All of which represented a pretty substantial capability, to include some of the V-300s were mounting 90mm guns. So, that's a pretty high velocity 'cop' to go against, and that's a pretty sizable gun [?], effective weapon. You know, well-armed. Probably overly well-armed with--to some degree--maybe a hodge podge of weapons. There would be, you know, some M-16s, some T-65s (which is a Taiwanese copy of the M-16), plus we anticipated some of the AK family and whatnot. Plus, we knew there would probably be a mixture of American communications equipment and European communications equipment. Maybe perhaps Soviet communications equipment. So, I think we were sort of looking at them as being a small force, relatively speaking, but one that should have been pretty capable. And capable materiel-wise.
But 4/325 would then air assault into Fort Cimarron and then neutralize what was left of Battalion 2000 that ... or what was located there.
Now, in each case, you know, the thing had been briefed and everybody understood, they understood that the measured application of force. And that was predicated on, I think, the assumption that the P.D.F. may not be as loyal or devoted to the Noriega regime as, as it ... you know, as it would ... you know, like the Waffen SS or something like that. A lot of these guys were trained by the American Army. They may not exactly view the United States as an enemy, as a mortal enemy, may not completely agree with some of the stuff the Noriega regime was doing, and may, in fact, be complying with what is going on reluctantly, to the absolute minimum that they could be forced to comply, simply to, you know, keep food on the table for their families and to protect themselves, and keep their families and themselves safe.
With that as a planning assumption, I think the approach that, you know, we give them an opportunity to roll over and go belly up. And if they don't do it initially, then we apply force, like, in measured steps; you know, each time becoming heavier, potentially more lethal, giving them the opportunity at each successive step to say, "well, we have gone far enough for me, thank you very much, I would like to turn my weapon in." And as things turned out, I think that worked very well. I think that was a very astute assessment and I think it worked really well.
But that consideration resulted in bringing the battalions in in the air assaults outside of small arms range. And give them an opportunity for their presence to be known, their, you know, their overwhelming presence to be known; and for them to go into a position where they could start, you know, with the Spanish speakers, say, "hey, we're here, it might be a good time to get out guys." And then they could start with maybe [M]-203s and small arms, and then bring in mortars, and then, you know, we had AC-130s [Spectre gunships] on station and eventually use--you know, progressively more damaging systems until, if all else failed, take them out.
So, the 4/325 air assault was going to go in. And because of the distance from the Tocumen-Torrijos, we would not have been able to range them from our firing positions on the drop zone. We were looking at only taking my assault CP and four guns. And we looked at the way the operations were going to go. The one that started out looking as potentially the most dangerous was Cimarron because of the armored cars and everything. We could just reach Cimarron from the extreme northeastern corner of Tocumen with rocket-assisted ammunition [RAP]. We could just ... no, we could not reach Tinajitas.
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
LTC GOTTARDI: And we could definitely not reach Panama Viejo. So, what we were looking at is if we were going to be in the range of the objectives, we were going to have to move from the airfield and take a firing position farther out. If we were to move to support Panama Viejo and Tinajitas, what you would have to do is you would have to move into the urban area.
And we didn't know that we would be able to get our equipment derigged and be ready to move quickly enough to get up occupying those positions. Plus there was no initial ground convoy movement planned for either one of those battalions. They would go in air assault and there would be no ground movement until some later time.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Additionally, I would add, that the areas which were potential firing positions to support those two objectives--I knew from previously being in Panama--that the maps which we had were not current enough and that there had been more urbanization in those areas. So, a concern there, also, was our ability to even find a suitable firing area in the range of those objectives.
From the defensive side of the house, also, I knew that as we went out to the eastern suburbs of the city, there are a lot of high rise buildings which would provide great observation and flanking fire in the battle area. But that being even the secondary consideration. The first consideration was unless you set up in a schoolyard or something like that we probably wouldn't find an open spot large enough to put even a four-gun battery.
MAJ LEVIN: Did you have access to aerial photographs that were current?
MAJ WYNARSKY: We had access to aerial photographs of the airfield itself in the Division G-2, and there were photographs of the target areas, that is of Panama Viejo, Tinajitas and Fort Cimarron. But I do not recall seeing any photographs available of potential firing positions.
LTC GOTTARDI: We messed up a couple of things. When we checked back with people they said "oh, that was all built up now."
MAJ WYNARSKY: Built up. Right. There is no longer a space there.
DR. WRIGHT: So, as you are flying in that area ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: ... if you go west from the airfield, you run into stuff right away.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Plus that is very broken terrain in there, too. So I would assume that that would become a factor too. That you've got ravines and all kinds of other stuff in the way?
LTC GOTTARDI: Right. So, what we looked at was if the area of most concern was Cimarron, then we needed to move the battery out to where we could range that without too much difficulty. We located a couple positions along the road ...
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Continuing with Side 2.
LTC GOTTARDI: We were looking at moving off there and getting a couple firing positions where we could get the range, the conventional ammunition range, to Cimarron and RAP range beyond. If you look at the map as you come up on the Pacora River, just to the west of the Pacora River, there were two areas that looked good.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Those very large open fields.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. One of them looked like some type of airstrip and orchard, and to the north of that was another open area. And we said--and according to the original plan that was developed by 3d Brigade--those are a couple of areas they had looked at. Plus LTC Spawn [?], who is the division FSE chief had been down there, oh, I guess about the middle of November and had flown around quite a bit just viewing the terrain. And eventually I think we also had a videotape of the whole area down there. And that looked like our best bet.
So, the plan was that 4th of the 325, in addition to conducting the air assault, would also put out a ground convoy and send in their Delta [Company] vehicles with .50-cals. and whatnot, and establish blocking positions and support positions, if you will, to both the east and to the west of the Pacora River bridge. Initially to the west of the Pacora River bridge and then as things developed they would move to the east. And that was just to cut off a way to reinforce the airhead or a way to attack the airhead. In each case, too, part of the plan was the special operating forces would go in and keep these various targets under observation beginning some time prior to the drop so that we would have the accurate eyes-on intel as far as what was going on or not going on as the case may be.
So, we had a plan where the battery was going to link up with the ground convoy, move up there, occupy the position, and be able to support the air assault into Fort Cimarron.
Throughout--although it wasn't directly stated--I think, throughout, from the beginning, even probably until about four days into the operation, I was absolutely convinced that it would not be a one-brigade operation. I was convinced that there would be a DRB-2 coming in, and I was fully anticipating that I would get a second, perhaps even third battery. In fact, whenever we assumed mission, we also PORd [preparation for overseas replacement] our DRF-2 battery for that reason. Nobody else was read on the plan yet but me. And I was fairly certain that I would see them down there.
So, we went ahead and ran their mission assumption just like we would if it were DRF-1. And whenever we loaded out to move out we immediately moved B Battery, I guess, into the LAC [equipment holding area] loaded up ready for air assault and I really--I mean really swear to God--convinced that we would see a DRB-2, which resulted in the way we structured our assault CP.
We played around with the assault CP an awful lot over time. And I guess it was last spring, last spring I started to get the feeling, I said, "yeah, I think I am going to deploy before I get out of here and we need to take a look at what we are doing." So, one of the things we looked at, we looked at the chapter in the ASOP that said exactly what everything would load, how it should be loaded, what it would weigh. We loaded everything up, weighed it out, and found out there were errors, that none of the published weights matched what the vehicles actually weighed.
So, we redid the whole thing. Came up with new load plans that actually met the weight specification, submitted them to DIVARTY and they are now the DIVARTY standard.
MAJ WYNARSKY: The division standard.
LTC GOTTARDI: The division standard. So, we had this--we had accurate load plans that matched exactly. If we said that we put this on the vehicle and it weighed and such and such, we knew that was so because we had loaded that on the vehicle, and we had taken them over to [the] heavy drop [rigging site] and had weighed them, so we knew exactly.
The other thing we started working on, I guess it was last spring as well, in fact, we did it for a 1/504 EXEVAL [external evaluation] in April; it just occurred to me we were too heavy. And by too heavy, I mean my assault CP and my TOC [tactical operations center] was too big. So, I said we've got to chop it down. We had everything in deuce-and-a-halfs [2 1/2-ton trucks]. So, I said I want to get out of deuce and a halfs and get into HMMWVs. So, we did it.
And then during the 1/504 EXEVAL that we did, was we went with our new mobile, reduced-size TOC. It worked pretty well. And I think you were then at FSC at the time.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That's right.
LTC GOTTARDI: I think you came out to see us a couple of times.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Sir, I was there the whole time. I was an evaluator.
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, that's right. And I think ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: I was a pain in the butt the whole time.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. And I think I anticipated ... at that time I knew you were coming down as the S-3. And I think at that time, I do not recall, and correct me if I am wrong, I think I told you, I said "you need to take a look at this."
MAJ WYNARSKY: That's right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Because we are going to get lighter and lighter and lighter, and we have to find out smart ways to do it. So, that was another ongoing initiative. So, we came up ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Self-sustaining platforms, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Self-sustaining platform. We also used the same thing on SOLID SHIELD [a field training exercise]. Now, the other thing we looked at, we said, "hey, we have to come up with self-sustaining platforms." What I mean by that is when we jump in, when we drop in a howitzer, everything that howitzer needs to conduct complete combat operations for a prolonged period has got to be on the howitzer.
So, what we did is we started rigging all the section equipment on the howitzer on that platform. And I don't--I don't believe anybody--I think we were the only ones who were doing it for a long time. We put everything that howitzer owned on the platform, so that if the howitzer went and this prime mover didn't, we could say, "hey, that doesn't matter. You can give me anything to move it and this thing can do everything that you expect it to do."
And we did the same thing for you with the HMMWV. "What is it we need on the HMMWVs?" And we also came up with a three-platform assault CP (if we could get them), which is: we took in three vehicles, three heavy drop platforms. My command HMMWV, you know; the S-3's command HMMWV; and we modified a cargo HMMWV to take a five-radio mount.
So, what we did, is we reduced probably by two-thirds the size of our CP. And we finally came in until it was a swallowable pill size or an edible pill size. So, instead of going into the infantry brigade and saying I need eleven platforms, I could say I need three. I can take in everything I need to do in three.
DR. WRIGHT: So, that made COL Nix feel pretty good?
LTC GOTTARDI: This was all done pre-COL Nix. In fact, he was only in command of the brigade, I guess, not even sixty days whenever we deployed. All this had been done when COL [George A.] Crocker was brigade commander. And all of it, I believe, pretty strongly endorsed by COL Crocker. In fact, I would say he was an avid supporter of everything we were doing in trying to downsize and getting down to a more rapidly deployable-sized army.
The other thing we looked at is, "O.K., if we can't do that, and if we are cut down to only one platform, what will we take?" And what we have got to do is we have got to look at my HMMWV and we have got to find a way to modify it. And putting everything we can, which we did ... moved all the radios up in the front, put a map board on the base, on the floor of the vehicle in the front. We looked at how can we power this thing up. We got these Coleman fluorescent lanterns. In fact, I have still got one there in the wall locker. We were sewing the canvas we could put over it and light seal it at night. We had call sign and situation boards made up--all vehicle sized, so everything could be packed into that HMMWV and that's what we ended up taking. You know, worse-casing it--if we only go with one vehicle.
So, there was a lot of stuff that was just sort of happening for no reason other than ... and it wasn't me alone. You know, I wish I could come up here and say when the year began I said "by the end of the year we will be in Panama." I didn't. I just said, you know, "I have got a feeling something is going to happen." And the XO was, you know, "so do I." And then Andy came in and I think he felt about the same way. You know, there's something ... there was just a feeling here. So, what happened is we paid a great deal of attention to making ourselves more deployable with as few platforms as possible. So, that is sort of an aside.
But what we ended up with was we ended up with a nine man assault CP, which is probably the best we have come up with so far. And what we looked at is we looked at the assault CP consisting of the ... I mean, I think we really did an analysis and it turned out that the S-3 was the guy who did the analysis. I am the guy who said do an analysis. He did the analysis and we said, you know, "what is it that we are going to need to do in an airhead situation." We are going to need track personnel, we are going to need to be able to handle ammunition, we are going to be able to run supply functions. We have got to be able to handle ourselves operationally. We have got to be able to have some kind of back up if anything happens with any of our fire support guys. We have got to be able to take in sufficient radios and talk to everybody we have to talk with. We have to be able to maintain those radios. We have to be able to drive the vehicles. And we have to be able to function 24 hours a day. Those are what we had to do. Now I will now turn it over to him to tell you at how he arrived at it.
MAJ WYNARSKY: So, what we determined is the assault CP would be consisted of the battalion commander, myself as the [S]3, the assistant [S]3 (who had an extensive fire support experience). We wanted people we could have used as a backup battalion FSO [fire support officer], had one of our battalion FSO's been wounded. We took our S-1, which seems at maybe the outset not important, but personnel accountability and tracking personnel in a combat situation is absolutely essential. One of our lessons learned is [that] that is a critical person that you have to take with you.
Additionally, he had just come out of being fire support officer for the 2d Battalion, 504[th Infantry], so he was intimately familiar with brigade operations and was the second person we could have used as a back fill if we had a casualty amongst the fire support officers. Also, he was one who could operate in the TOC as an operations officer. The operations NCO was part of the assault CP, as was one of the sergeants first class who was training officer ... training NCO in the battalion. But his function really was to receive a follow-on battery and also to manage ammunition redistribution within the airhead. Knowing that we would have to collect up CDS, interface with FAST-I (forward area support team one) for additional ammunition resupply, and also get that forward to the firing battery wherever it was. His other function would have been any type of interface for howitzer maintenance or other logistics requirements which may have occurred in the airhead. His recent background was he was the B Battery Chief of Firing Battery so he had intimate knowledge in both maintenance and ammunition resupply.
Communications-wise, we took the battalion communications chief, a staff sergeant who was also, besides being a commo chief, was also a radio repairman, so he could both function in repairing radios and also as an RTO [radio telephone operator] if necessary. We ... a private first class from the communications section who was also a radio repairman who also was the driver. We substituted the colonel's normal driver, who is a good soldier and everything, to maximize that slot by having a RTO, a radio repairman and a driver.
Let me see who I am forgetting here. And last, we had also just for--as we normally would--a sergeant major of the battalion. That was the size of the assault CP package.
DR. WRIGHT: As you developed this, were you guided by the fact that you could look at an individual and know from his background that he could do multiple things?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Or was this a ... done without regard to personality?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No, it was done in regard to personality. The intent was that every person could do more than one function. Almost to the idea that the special forces uses that you have a primary and secondary role and that everybody would be able to do several things. We knew that we would not have the option of taking just as many people as we wanted. In fact, I think what we did in our analysis, we fully anticipated [a] four-mission cycle, wherever we were going, and even later as we found out what the plan was, that there would be additional elements to the battalion coming in. And we had as much, a portion of that assault CP, prepared to receive follow-on elements as the initial operations which were required.
Another factor, I think, was that although when we were briefed in the PHA [personnel holding area] that this was going to be a seventy-two hour to five-day operation, I think everybody kind of said "sure."
LTC GOTTARDI: Nobody believed that.
MAJ WYNARSKY: So, I think we also looked at sustainment of the force.
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, you know, I ... the ... and that was a good analysis. And what I am going to have to do is, I am going to give the credit for that one to the [S]-3, because it was a very good analysis. And what we did is we ended up with the best-structured assault CP that we've ever had.
And as subsequent events proved it, turned it out, it was ... had a second or even a third battery arrived, we could have handled, we would have been able to handle the arrival/departure airfield function of it. We had a guy exclusive to the battery who would have been able to do all the air assault planning. The other thing with my sergeant major, this is, again a fortuitous thing, he has had a great deal of experience in the 101st and he spent almost his entire career on the [M]-102. You know, so he is intimately familiar with, you know, the maintenance of the howitzer, the air assault of the howitzer. And the other lesson that came out of Panama is there is a lot that a sergeant major can get done that I can't. If you are talking about coordinating with higher staffs or laterally, in many cases he can get a lot more done a lot faster than I can.
And then the other change we made that really didn't go in with our assault CP, but we also started to take a surveyor with us, where he would jump in a T-16 theodolite and we would be able to establish survey control on the drop zone with absolute accuracy then for subsequent operations. He took a T-16 theodolite plus a BCS [battery computer system] computer with a survey chip. So, he would be able to do all the survey stuff we needed to do. And we took him in, but we jumped him in with the battery.
MAJ WYNARSKY: And that did prove absolutely critical, because the published survey control points, which provide directional and position control, were either ... we could not locate them or we could not get to them.
LTC GOTTARDI: Paved over.
MAJ WYNARSKY: And it was only upon redeployment, twenty-one days later, that one of the survey control points was found accidentally, because it was nowhere where it was supposed to be.
I would also mention that the assault CP, on the equipment size as the colonel has really expounded on, is we put the majority of the equipment on his command HMMWV. But part of the planning consideration was that his HMMWV either got bumped or was a heavy drop casualty (had streamered in, or had landed in the wrong place). Which fortunately we planned on also, because it was not the ... it did get destroyed during the heavy drop.
So, just about every soldier who jumped in the assault CP carried a radio. We had redundant [AN/]PRC-77 radios; sufficient batteries to last seventy-two hours. And we also jumped in one OE-254 (modified) [antenna], so that we had the ability to do long range communications also. I think that was absolutely essential--that we had the ability out of rucksacks to run the entire assault CP also. So, we shouldn't overshadow the importance of taking all your ... not depending on your heavy drop. Make sure that you can do your combat operations out of rucksacks.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, to what extent did that particular consideration of anticipating problems of heavy drop ... was that directly attributable to experience here at Bragg?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Just accumulated ... that we do streamer stuff in on a regular basis?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Exactly.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. The whole thing, you see ... and the artillery probably takes a different approach to it in other branches, is if you look at everything we do, we always have redundancy, backup, second checks, third checks, a way to cross-check. So, from the time, you know, you enter the Army as an artilleryman you have that drummed into you: prepare for the unexpected; redundancy, redundancy, redundancy.
In this particular case we did and right now I would say that that is ... that really should become a standard assault CP for an artillery battalion, because it permitted us ... . And even ... I don't know if it is really correct to say this is personality-dependent, because if you look at the other folks that we had ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: They are equally capable of doing it.
LTC GOTTARDI: They are all equally capable of doing it. But it was just a good mix. And it was all just, you know, sort of happenstance that everybody said, you know, "this is ... let's take ... let's look at this again. Let's look at this again. Let's look at this again."
And then the other thing is (again this is an aside) ... is once I became aware of the plan ... this battalion used to be a part of the 173d Airborne Brigade. And in Operation JUNCTION CITY in 67 or ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Eight.
LTC GOTTARDI: ... or '68.
MAJ WYNARSKY: '67.
LTC GOTTARDI: '67. When they had their ... yeah, when they had their combat drop ... well, we have got the reference book.
DR. WRIGHT: Cedar Falls-Junction City?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. When they had their combat drop over there, from this battalion, the drop was by the assault CP and by A battery. And once I became aware of the plan and we went on the mission, our DRF-I battery was A Battery. And I just sort of said, "we're going to go." For no other reason than that this is amazing historical coincidence. "We are going to go."
And as I became aware of the plan, the other thing we did is we did probably the best mission assumption we had ever had as far as getting the equipment ready, doing the family support group briefings, getting everything on line. You know, we had started that some time ago. I think the division reg[ulation] says everybody has got to go to family support group mission assumption briefing once while they are here. We require it every time. Everybody comes in every time, no exceptions, no excuses. And that paid off, because fresh in everybody's mind was their powers of attorney, this and that, you know, 'if my husband goes some place, this is the way the phone trees operate' and everything. And that worked great.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Just to follow up on that a little bit, because that was one of the ... I know I personally became a firm believer in family support groups from having watched this. Did you experience (within your battalion, from the deployed people) that the wives and the other family members felt a lot more comfortable, or did they beat up the rear party here for information?
LTC GOTTARDI: My XO, who was the rear detachment commander, did not get one call from an irate wife. But see, we also had Honduras. So, I had been married about just three months before Honduras, I think, so my wife, you know, her introduction to the Army was Honduras. And when we finished down there she said, look, "we are going to take a good look at this because if this happens again I don't want to be caught unprepared." So what, on the family support group, side she and the XO were sort of running that part of it. I mean, she had, you know, the phone trees, the work numbers of all the women.
And she had put out a letter, I guess it was last May or sometime when we did mission assumption then, and this went to all the wives and said "if our husbands go someplace, this is the way it will go. And really, you know, they'll go through mission assumption and they'll be ready and the powers of attorney and everything like that, then they will be notified. And then you will get a call that says either 'your husband will not be home, your husband will not be home tonight he is in an exercise on Fort Bragg and it is anticipated that they will be gone for 72 hours' or something like that." And walked through the whole thing. "When that happens we will activate the family support phone tree. And then within the first three days, or something larger than that, each battery wives' group will have a battery coffee and then we will activate the phone tree each night at 1700." I mean really comprehensive. And the thing is that is exactly the way it went. I mean it just went that way.
MAJ LEVIN: So, the wives kept in touch with each other?
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, yeah.
MAJ LEVIN: And that deflected an awful lot away from away from here.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. And what happened is she would check in with the XO, plus the ... you know, from the division commander's wife on down that, you know, the chain of concern flow there. My wife had a lot of information which she was able to pass out. And every night when they would activate the phone tree they would pass that along.
So, to me it is just absolutely incredible that he didn't get one call. But, I mean, I swore him, I put him under oath, and I said "you didn't ...?" He said, "I did not get one call." He said, "Now, I had some requests for information from some of the wives that came through your wife, but ... ." Well, I remember ... .
DR. WRIGHT: So, again, this makes his job ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, Lord, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... of supporting you down range infinitely easier because he is not getting beaten up about the other stuff?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Exactly. And, you know, I am a believer in the family support group. I mean I am telling you: the thing works. Not only does it work, but I feel that we have got an obligation to do that, because, you know, it is not going to be like World War II or 1942, "I am leaving, honey, I will see you sometime" and you next see him in 1946 and you have gotten three letters. That is pre-CNN [Cable News Network]. That is pre-international telephone service. That is pre-a lot of stuff. And you just ... you can't let the families wander around in the fog saying, you know ... and telling them, you know, "well, I'm sorry, we don't have time for you. We are too busy. Go home." It doesn't work. You can't do that. You know, you just cannot afford to do that. It is not right.
DR. WRIGHT: Were you able to get any information back up from down range to here to disseminate? The question is prompted by ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Mostly ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... prompted by ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Mostly, you know, everybody is O.K. No problems.
DR. WRIGHT: The 7th I[nfantry] D[ivision] in the way they developed their family support packages, they did TACSAT [tactical satellite] broadcasts back. They would pull the family support groups in to a large auditorium and then hook up and they would talk to them live from down range.
LTC GOTTARDI: To the best of my knowledge we didn't do anything like that. You know, we had a good flow of information down here. In fact, we had ... one of my battery commanders had a daughter born on Christmas Eve and we got the word, I think, on Christmas Day.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: She was born, you know, "0-dark-30" and we got it and passed it out to him over the radio. And we had a couple other births down there. So, the flow of information was good. That part of it I think was a great success.
MAJ WYNARSKY: The division did formulate at division headquarters a ... the operational summary for public release which was used to develop the family support or operational summary which was given to the wives and passed out daily by [the] battalion commander's wife.
LTC GOTTARDI: So, you know, what happened is the wives knew roughly where their husbands were, you know, what was going on and, you know, I don't know, I don't think it was all that unreasonable. I think it went very well.
MAJ LEVIN: Sir, what details did they need?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Quite a bit.
LTC GOTTARDI: Some of the summaries were like, O.K., you know, 4th of the 325[th Infantry] has got elements still up at Fort Cimarron. They are securing the area, and one company has returned to the airfield.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I know my wife knew that A Battery was west of the Pacora River Bridge and they were supporting 4th of the 325 on the attack on Fort Cimarron. Actually I was surprised how much she knew. I mean it wasn't nitty gritty stuff, but she had a good operational idea of what was going on.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. Enough so they felt comfortable?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: Enough so they felt comfortable that ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... they were being told the full story?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. And it was all after the fact kind of stuff. So, there was no OPSEC [operational security] considerations involved.
MAJ LEVIN: O.K.
LTC GOTTARDI: It was all, you know, after the fact. I mean it wasn't one of these things where you call the wives and say, "well, right now two hours from now your husband is going to air assault into"--no, no, not at all.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have any situations where troops got access, especially being based in the Tocumen vicinity where they could get access to telephone lines, and make phone calls home?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. The phones were operational in the international lobby. In the international lobby for a while. I, you know, I can't say for a fact that so and so called, but I suspect a couple of guys called. But I don't think it was anything more than "hi, I am down here, I'm O.K., I'll talk to you when I can."
MAJ WYNARSKY: And that was later on in the operation.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think that probably started happening a little bit ... maybe D plus four or D plus five. The battery itself was, you know, was located kind of midway on Torrijos Airport, actually south along the airstrip from the international--from the civilian facility. Because they were in a fire base type configuration they really didn't have much access to go up to the terminal itself. And then later on they moved to support the 1/75 Rangers [1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment], which I am sure we will talk about later. They were even further away.
DR. WRIGHT: They were up ... when I saw them they were up across the runway from Tocumen.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. So they all ... so much of a hassle to walk that it was usually discouraging to get anybody to do that.
LTC GOTTARDI: You know, the one thing that was surprising was I remember coming back and reading some stories in the Fayetteville paper. And there was one thing where some guy was in the security cordon around the capitol ... Papal Nunciariate, and his wife was a international flight attendant for some airline, and they were going to put them up overnight in the Holiday Inn and she went down there and she got out to the cordon and "hi, honey."
LTC GOTTARDI: And they had pictures in the paper where they were there, you know, they were there smiling and everything like that. That struck me as a little surreal. And I also read another thing where some guy's wife was Panamanian and I think he was ... in fact, I don't even know what unit he was with.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That was the 193d [Infantry Brigade].
LTC GOTTARDI: 193d. And he was already in Panama I guess that night or the night before the operation went down and he called her and said, "Don't go anywhere tonight." I thought that was a little dumb. But, I mean I have a great deal of confidence in our soldiers. I don't know of any soldiers who can get on the plane and say, "hi, here we are, we are going to be here for the next three days and we are at grid such and such." I don't ... I can't imagine any one of my soldiers doing that. That is not to say that there might not be one that does it, but ...
MAJ LEVIN: Sir, I used to be in the 313th [Military Intelligence Battalion] here. Yes, they do.
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, it may be. But, you know, the pucker factor down there initially was a little bit higher.
MAJ LEVIN: Yeah.
LTC GOTTARDI: And you could tell that from the get-go. I mean everybody was sort of "no, we are not going to go, no, we are not going to go." Until you go through the IIA [ammunition distribution point] and you have got the little bag and the guy is saying, "O.K., you have got two Claymores, four hand grenades," and the guys go "whoa."
MAJ WYNARSKY: Oh, no.
LTC GOTTARDI: The same thing on the airplane, you know.
DR. WRIGHT: Getting back a little bit to your planning. You configure with the four guns. Was that what you were told to bring or ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: That was in the plan.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. So, how did you pick which four guns out of A Battery you were going to take?
LTC GOTTARDI: That's ... I left the commander to do that. That's his job.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. How many rounds of ammunition were you told to bring with you in your ready ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: It is not that we were told to bring any. There is only a certain number of rounds that you can put on a ... you know ...
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. How many is that?
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, on--the way we rig our howitzer platforms, you can put twenty-three rounds--[correction,] twenty-three boxes of ammunition--on the howitzer platform. So, that is forty-six rounds. And you look so that you have got forty-six rounds per howitzer platform. And that's what: 160, 184 rounds there.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I have got the breakout.
LTC GOTTARDI: He has the breakout. We took in over 200 rounds on the platforms and in the back of the vehicles. And then we had, you know, the CDS [containerized delivery system] bundles. They carried additional ammunition. And, you know, we had copies of the Rules of Engagement and I had sat in a number of briefings where we were given some employment considerations. So, we tailored the ammunition package as the point ... when I inherited the plan from the 1st Battalion, I mean those guys had put a lot of thought into it. This is how much ammunition we want to take. We want to take this type because of that. And we looked at it and that was a battle that we didn't have to fight and then we just went from there. We made some modifications, you know, to what they had and ...
DR. WRIGHT: Did you bring down a heavier--because of the Rules of Engagement--did you bring down a heavier load of, say, illum[ination], than you normally would?
LTC GOTTARDI: About the same or a little more. See, the thing we were looking at is, you know, if we fire in an area where there is a lot of urban growth, you know, knowing that part of the world a lot of it is going to be highly flammable. Then, you know, are we going to need to light things at night--well, we have got NVGs [night vision goggles] and we have got the edge on that, but perhaps. But we can also use illum to mark targets. And our feeling was, particularly for WP [white phosphorus], that illum may be a better way to mark a target. You can do ground burst illum to mark the target for close air support. And if my taking an illum round not only can I use that to mark a target, but I can also use it for illumination. If I take in a WP round, you know, I can use the WP round to mark a target, but I can't use the WP round to, you know, to illuminate.
DR. WRIGHT: And then you also risk the collateral damage with the WP?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Exactly. And we looked at ICM [improved conventional munitions] and we didn't want to take ICMs because of the possibility of ... it's a dud-producing ammunition and not all your bomblets are going to go off, and you don't want to fire ICM in someplace and have these things hung up in trees and the troops going through there, and some time later on some kid is out there playing; "oh, look at this." Boom, there goes his hand or worse.
DR. WRIGHT: What about RAP?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you take a heavier array of RAP because of the ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Because of the range considerations. Yes, we did.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Seventy-six rounds.
LTC GOTTARDI: Everything we took was prefused, plus we took some unfused ... raw fuses and additional fuses. We didn't take HEP-T [specialized high explosive] which is primarily an antiarmor round. There again because we can get nearly the same effect on armored cars with HE [high explosive] and we can also use the HE in the indirect role.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, did you anticipate direct fire missions?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes, we did. In fact, I anticipated, depending on how the defense or the activities on the airfield broke down, that we might end up having to do an assault gun mission, where you are using 105 direct fire on some portions of the airport. For that reason we took a laser range finder so we could get a good initial range and fire like that. And that was the other thing we were saying we can use, you know, fused HE. It is just a lot more versatile than the HEP-T. But we anticipated there would be direct fire.
MAJ WYNARSKY: There is 228 rounds that we carried on this mission.
DR. WRIGHT: Broken down about ... .
LTC GOTTARDI: On the platforms and the vehicles.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That's without the CDS.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah.
[END OF TAPE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: This is continuation, Side 3.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Another smart thing we did is when we started to work with the ammo mix, we went out to the ASP [ammunition supply point] and checked with the 782d, with the DAO guys out there and we said, "hey, I want to go down and I want touch, taste, feel, and see the platform, ballast ammo, and the CDS." Much to our surprise, found out that what is there on the ground is not what they think they have.
DR. WRIGHT: So, by doing that you preempted a potentially damaging problem?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. But we still had it where we had stuff showing up at heavy drop and the driver would say we've got this on the vehicle and the lieutenant that was running the outload then for the ammo would go around to the back of the vehicle and say, no, you don't. You have got this, this, this and that.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It allowed us to ensure that we had ... we normally have personnel within the battalion assist in upfloading the first battery that goes out. But the battery commanders and the executive officers knew that there were potential ammo problems, which had them kind of focused on that area. And I think they were even looking for problems in the area of ammunition outload more had we not done that. We knew that there were disconnects between what we wanted and what was actually there and a lot of attention was focused on that to ensure that we got what we expected.
LTC GOTTARDI: So, that was worthwhile because we went out there and we looked at everything. And then we came up with our CDS package and our ballast ammo package. And I was pretty confident that what we had was what we needed.
DR. WRIGHT: And the CDS was what? Essentially a second unit of fire?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No. The CDS, containerized delivery system, was five A-22 containers each containing a number of boxes, sixteen boxes of ammunition, and some associated fuses. Sixteen boxes equates to thirty-two rounds per CDS bundle. So, that was five additional boxes. The first three boxes were high explosive (HE). The fourth box was totally rockets assisted projectiles (RAP). And the fifth A-22 container was illumination. And that ammunition was not even accounted in the initial distribution.
DR. WRIGHT: So, in essence, you felt under reasonable, normal expectations you were going in on the drop between the two different delivery systems with enough ammo to take you through what, how many days, three days?
LTC GOTTARDI: We figured it would see us through the first three days. You know, it may have been close depending on what the tempo was, but ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: There was other factors there. First of all, it would have been very much dependent on what happened. I think the outcome was expected that either, one, there would be a high intensity of fighting and that we would be shooting a lot. Or because of other fire support systems which were available in Panama that you would not be firing a lot, we would have more than adequate amounts of ammunition. I think we also knew that there was an ASP not that far up from Fort Clayton and that 105[mm] ammunition was stocked there and we could probably sling it up to the battery if we needed additional 105[mm] rounds.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Plus, you know, we knew what was on the ground in country. But that's a good point there that the S-3 made. Is, you know, if you are fighting in a built up area and if you are going to use artillery, you are going to piss a whole bunch of people off, because as accurate as we may be, you know, we are still an area weapon. Whereas, the one advantage they had with some of the CAS [close air support] and some of the AC-130 [Spectre] is ... you know, he has got a visual of the target, an absolutely accurate location day and night. And he can put the round probably initially closer than we can. And the other thing he can do is, you know, he can use a 40mm, so he can go down in caliber and begin engaging with a lower caliber weapon with less collateral damage.
And as long as he is there that's good. However, I suspect that when you are flying in slow left-handed circles at 6,000 feet, the first time somebody fires a surface to air missile at you, you might want to leave.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Another factor which we had looked at is we knew from a previous work with the fire support element, that the weather ... . We came in--this operation took place--really within another month or two and we would be getting into a season where at night there is a reasonable chance of overcast skies. And also as we get into the rainy season at about this time frame, about March, had that operation taken place. We had excellent weather the first four days. It could not have been better as far as visibility. But, you know, again one of the things that could have happened either way had we had clouds and AC-130s, although they have an IR [infrared] capability, which we can't cease to cause altogether and that would have caused us to have a higher expenditure of ammunition than we actually had.
DR. WRIGHT: So, you pretty much got your package assembled, confirmed?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. The way we deployed, I had never been more comfortable, nor could I have been more comfortable, that we had the right assault CP with the right people with the right equipment. We had my vehicle configured the right way with the right equipment. And we had the battery structured the right way with the right people with the
right equipment. So, whenever we pushed out of here all the work we had done beforehand, I mean I had no worries at all.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We came back. When we conducted our AAR [after action review] with the battalion there was very minor modifications from what we had done. The one factor that we should mention here is that based on the air space which we were allotted, we probably would have, had we had more airframes, a lot more platforms, we would have taken more maintenance with us. But that's just a minor consideration.
LTC GOTTARDI: But, you know, we expected that they would ... I did not think there would be a subsequent air drop. But I expected that once the airfield was secured, I thought we were going to see more. And I was expecting a full up B Battery and probably a full up C Battery.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., sir. Going from the planning phase now to the execution. Were you alerted prior to the start of the EDRE [emergency deployment readiness exercise] on the 18th or ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. Found out that ... well, found out that morning. But let me tell you, on that weekend before, we had a battalion children's Christmas party on that Sunday. And as we came in--it started at what, 2 o'clock?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: As we came in the report over CNN came in, and you were read in by that time, I think--weren't you?
MAJ WYNARSKY: [INAUDIBLE]
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah, but I mean we heard about that guy being killed down there and I thought "this is not good." And I think everybody sort of looked around. We had been on mission then about ten days. I think everybody sort of looked at everybody. And nobody wanted to say what was on their mind. So, we went ahead and finished the Christmas party. That was on the 17th.
And then we came in that Monday, we had a reenlistment ... we had a ... one of my ... I was having a battalion reenlistment meeting in the mess hall and we had just broke up, it was about 9:30, I guess we broke up, and I got a call from battalion XO and he says "N-Hour". I thought "O.K., one of two things had happened here. Either we were rehearsing BLACK KNIGHT again in which case this is a stupid time to do it because we have got half days, or"--and we never saw one half day. Or this is the real thing. And I went up to the N-plus-Two and basically what they said [was] "this is it, this is the real thing, but we are going to do it under the cover of EDRE." So, we came back and we just talked EDRE, EDRE, EDRE. We relooked at our ammunition stuff and I think by that time once we started talking ammunition, little bells went off.
DR. WRIGHT: So, officially nobody has been told beyond yourself and the S-3?
LTC GOTTARDI: That's correct.
DR. WRIGHT: You are the only two that know it is for real or did the S-3 even know it was for real?
LTC GOTTARDI: I don't know. I was ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: The one thing that the division did is when the red x-ray message went out and said IIA [initial issue of ammunition] will be moved, live ammunition ballast will be moved to the operating site, I didn't really say much, but I looked at that. "Well," I said, "well, this is not a standard EDRE."
DR. WRIGHT: To what extent, also, did the timing, the first day of half day schedules, Christmas period ... to what extent did that start people smelling a rat?
LTC GOTTARDI: Did the people ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
LTC GOTTARDI: No, not at all.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That's typical here. That didn't mean nothing. Even during half days.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. But I think everybody just said half day schedule, I don't believe it.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We were told that there would be an EDRE during our mission cycle and there would be BLACK KNIGHT II. So, we were expecting ... actually, I was, my thought was better now than during Christmas itself. So, what the hell, it is going to be ...
LTC GOTTARDI: So, the deployment went well. I mean the other thing that we had done is a while ago is we went through the division ASOP, I mean the N-Hour sequence, and we extracted a matrix from that that listed key events on what each staff section's activities was then, when it was supposed to occur vice when it actually occurred. So, we just ... we flipped that thing out. In fact, I think I have got a copy of it here. We flipped that thing out and we just worked right off of that.
DR. WRIGHT: So, the fact that you had developed that almost as a battle book element, and you could sit there and just tick mark the whole thing right off ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. The whole thing. So, the deployment and the outload went really, really well. We had done this so often that all the commanders and staff guys had those matrixes. And it just went really well.
DR. WRIGHT: That's about ten pages worth of actual line items and who is responsible for what. It just almost made it a piece of cake then?
LTC GOTTARDI: There were no glitches.
DR. WRIGHT: So, from your point of view this was an atypical EDRE then in that it was going smoothly?
LTC GOTTARDI: We have really got the point in the sequence with ours. And we had never had an EDRE that ... where we have had, you know ... unless the trucks had broken down someplace and something didn't arrive, we have never had an "oh my, God, what do we do next." And we know what we do next. Everybody uses a checklist. So, it is all very smooth. We moved to the PHA ...
DR. WRIGHT: About what time would you estimate you arrived at PHA?
LTC GOTTARDI: It was probably early afternoon.
DR. WRIGHT: On the 19th?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. It was on the 18th.
DR. WRIGHT: On the 18th.
LTC GOTTARDI: On the 18th. Do you recall what time we got to the PHA? We got there on the 18th, didn't we?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: It was that Monday. About 2?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right about. Right around there, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. We got in there about the same time the brigade CP did. And then we established ourselves down there in the big bubble building. Had our planning cell down there and started to haul down, you know, our equipment, materials and whatnot. The battery had already gone in there. And we had everything down there in toto: the battery, all the people. We had key members of our planning staff down there who were not going to deploy with us. And I think once we got down there is where it was, "this isn't an EDRE."
DR. WRIGHT: But at that point OPSEC is secure anyway since everybody is locked in.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Plus if, you know, we had people moving in and out, but it was like my battalion XO. I mean it wasn't, you know ...
DR. WRIGHT: PFC Snuffy.
LTC GOTTARDI: ... PFCs, you know. Not PFC Snuffy.
MAJ WYNARSKY: The people working the CEOI [communications electronics operating instructions] were the only people who were moving. The signal officer had to go get more replacement KY-57s for secure equipment and so on.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Yeah.
MAJ LEVIN: That brings up another point. Throughout the planning, when you wanted to communicate with higher headquarters about anything ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: They were there. They were right next to us.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was usually face to face.
MAJ LEVIN: Everything was face to face?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: Nothing went over land line?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. It didn't have to. I mean from where I am sitting right now, 1/504 was where the bookcase is, 2/504 was where the filing cabinet is, and 4/325 is over in the old corps marshalling area, but he is over there frequently. Division is just on the other side of the divider. Brigade is just a two minute walk down here. It is all there.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: What time did you start loading out on the aircraft, then? You have ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, we have ...
DR. WRIGHT: Heavy drop was loaded first?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. O.K. The heavy drop was loaded first and remember they ... I don't know what the exact time it was. We moved A Battery out, they got rigged up, no problem at all, and we rigged out ourselves. The DIVARTY policy is if it is a one-battalion deployment, you have the option of rigging out yourself or asking for somebody else. If it is a two battalion deployment then the DRF-III artillery battalion will rig you out. This was a one ... you know, a three battalion deployment, but it is a one battery deployment. And I said, no, I'm going to push myself out. I think we rigged ourselves out and we pushed ourselves out. I was just more comfortable doing that. My guys, they know our plan. And there is no doubt ... you know, there was no doubt in my mind if I told them you are going to stay here until you die, they are going to stay there until they die. You know, not a distrust of anybody else.
DR. WRIGHT: Just it is always better to go with your own people.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Another factor was we felt that personnel in our battalion are more familiar with the modified load plan. The new load plans were approved by division only weeks-- like a week before we assumed this current mission.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. And we had been working with it for about six months. Well, the final load plan about six months.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. So you load out all four howitzers and all your vehicles go on a single aircraft, or were they spread out?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. Loaded on multiple aircraft; spread them out. You know, they pushed them in and they flew them to ...
DR. WRIGHT: Charleston?
LTC GOTTARDI: ... Charleston. Planning went well down there. One thing we were able to do: we got all the FSOs together in conjunction with the brigade FSO and the S-3. We sat down and we said, "O.K., this is the way the operation will unfold. These are the assets you have." And that's my, you know ... I am the fire support coordinator for 1st Brigade, with the brigade fire support officer being my primary assistant. So, I think relatively speaking, my S-3 and myself probably get more involved in the fire support aspect than previous tours when I was here and, frankly, I do not know how the other battalions do it. But one thing we did is we sat down and we said, O.K., here is the way it is going to unfold. We are going to have these assets available. We are going to hit the ground, you go first, you are going to have these and these. O.K. At this time those assets were supposed to be controlled by so and so, but they will cut to you by the brigade FSO who has got them from the division FSE [fire support element] chief who was also there. He will cut them down on this frequency. And we had the matrixes there. He will cut him down on this frequency. When he comes down, you will contact so and so on this frequency and then you will work it.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We did a TEWT [tactical exercise without troops], basically.
LTC GOTTARDI: Exactly. And we ran it over. We ran that about three times.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That, and then afterwards we followed up with a commex [communications exercise].
LTC GOTTARDI: What we did is we had everybody get their radios up on the same variable, on the same frequency, made sure everybody had the same frequency and we just talked through it. The whole thing. And I could ... you know, I don't know what the FSOs felt, but I was comfortable that these guys knew what they would have, when, who they would talk to to get it and how they would control them, and on what frequency.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. Our concern was that--which happens even in a training environment--that we would be split even further, because of the ranges (that is, the distances between the different stations). People had to understand their fight independently. So, if they were cut off communications-wise, they would know the procedures, how to do it in the absence of any additional orders besides the standing orders.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. And we also talked backup ... if you cannot get so and so on this frequency, what other frequencies is he on. Come on, come on, what are they? Well, he is on this one, this one and this one. O.K., which are you going to go to next? O.K. I am going to go on this one. O.K. If you can't talk to him on that one, where is your battalion FAC [forward air controller]? Right here. O.K. Then he will talk to him on UHF on this. So, you know, we worked through it.
DR. WRIGHT: So, the redundancy ... you were comfortable everybody instinctively could pick up and you had redundancies all over the place then?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Either ours or using someone else's system, particularly the TACP's [tactical air control party's] radio communications assistance, because the ALO [air liaison officer] works really with the fire support officer. He's one of our main supporting assets.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: What time did you load your personnel on?
LTC GOTTARDI: We did the sustained airborne training the afternoon of the 19th.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Everything was part of the ... we did ... we are ... the battery was part of the brigade troops, as was the assault CP. So, everything was done exactly the same time line from here, everywhere to the time you exited the aircraft [was] with the brigade time line.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I think ... I'm trying to think of what time we loaded. I think -- did we go to the Green Ramp around 2000?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: Earlier than that?
MAJ WYNARSKY: We were earlier than that. The final manifest call was, if I recall, around 1400 hours.
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. Because it was still light.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We stood in the rain for a while. Then we started moving at about 15--maybe it was later, about 1630 or so. We marched over to Green Ramp. That took a while.
LTC GOTTARDI: And by that time ... yeah, it was still light going over there. I remember.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. It was getting dusk. And then ...
DR. WRIGHT: But raining, that sleet/rain?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Oh, absolutely.
LTC GOTTARDI: The thing I remember is usually whenever you ... we have done that before where you do the walk from the PHA over to Green Ramp. Usually you have got a lot of shucking and jiving, and talking back and forth. There was nothing.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was quiet.
LTC GOTTARDI: I mean it was absolutely quiet. All you heard was boots.
DR. WRIGHT: Officially nobody has yet told the troops?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Oh, no.
DR. WRIGHT: So, that ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, no. Now they know.
MAJ WYNARSKY: They have known ...
DR. WRIGHT: When did they get briefed?
LTC GOTTARDI: When they got locked in the PHA.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. That this is a definite go.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Because they were running rehearsals and back briefs and everybody knew. It was just real quiet.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We left our TOC going over to the brigade TOC and you could hear in building after building the cheers go up.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I remember that. You could hear "yeaaaaaa."
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. That was another company that had been told.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Early afternoon on the 18th is when the troops were told.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. But I mean there was ... I mean ... I don't know how to describe it. I don't want to call it elation, but it was just sort of like the expected anticipation which was yea.
DR. WRIGHT: Moral very high?
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, yeah. Extremely high.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: And then as you actually shuffle out to the aircraft at Green Ramp, then you start getting into the 'everybody making his peace.'
LTC GOTTARDI: I think so. But the one thing I noticed is when we were standing there at manifest call, I noticed a lot ... first of all, the chaplains had a lot of business. I think they probably gave out twice as many rosaries as there are Catholics.
LTC GOTTARDI: And I remember ... I remember somebody, it was in our assault CP, wearing a rosary as a necklace, which among Hispanic Catholics and Italian Catholics is very common to wear a rosary as a necklace, but somebody in our assault CP who is not Catholic was wearing a rosary as a necklace.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think it was [INAUDIBLE].
LTC GOTTARDI: Him or SGT Woods or somebody. And I thought, "damn." [LAUGHTER] But why not. And I noticed at manifest call a lot of guys were wearing the rosaries as necklaces. But, you know, I'm a Catholic, so I had my little, you know, plastic rosary and I had it with me. They had a good business in rosaries.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Saint Michael's medals.
LTC GOTTARDI: Saint Michael's medals. Yeah. I have got mine here. I jumped it in. Right here.
DR. WRIGHT: Saint Barbara medals too?
LTC GOTTARDI: No.
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
LTC GOTTARDI: Too large. [LAUGHTER]
LTC GOTTARDI: And good business in New Testaments. Just clutter. But we moved over there and by ... I think everybody was pretty smart. Everybody was saying, you know, no snnivel gear, because you're going to be cold now, but it is better to be cold now than to fry when you get down to Panama. But I think just about everybody went over there wearing a sleep shirt or a field jacket liner or something under their BDUs. And on most people you could see had their rain jackets in an outer pocket on their rucksack, which is what I did. And what I did is I just put on my rain jacket. I had on a sleep shirt and my rain jacket.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Sir, I didn't take any of that stuff. All I took was my rain jacket. I got rid of it. I was miserable.
DR. WRIGHT: And everybody wearing the light weights rather than the ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... temperate weight.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Pretty much. I think there may have been a few stragglers here or there. Of our people I think everybody had light weights because anybody who had heavy weights, we put that stuff in A bags and it got shipped back to the unit. All excess equipment was shipped.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. And jungle boots or jump boots?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Jungle boots.
DR. WRIGHT: What about the load that you had each man ... just the rucksack?
LTC GOTTARDI: What everybody carried was, yeah, just the rucksack, individual weapon and then the IIA.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have provisions for A bags coming down?
LTC GOTTARDI: There was some talk about it. We had them, you know, located. We had them. But once we outloaded, no.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I don't think anybody really expected to see them.
LTC GOTTARDI: No. I don't think ... because what we took is I took two changes of underwear, two pair of socks, one set of BDUs, and I think you took about the same.
DR. WRIGHT: What about--did the troops have pogey bait and toilet paper?
LTC GOTTARDI: I don't know if there was any.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I don't think there was a ...
DR. WRIGHT: You didn't take any?
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think the EDRE was enough of a surprise that there was little ... plus it was early morning, 9:30, so these little places up and down the street aren't open yet or whatever, and people were moved out of here before they had a chance to really do that stuff.
LTC GOTTARDI: Plus, you know, do I take a candy bar or another magazine of 9mm? The candy bar goes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: There was a lot of stuff which was left behind that normally would go for EDRE.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. But it was trimmed down. I think everybody took down combat essentials.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. What about basic load for individual weapons?
LTC GOTTARDI: That was all issued. I got from my IIA card, I got thirty rounds of 9mm. I got a couple of smoke grenades. We had guys who were getting, you know, [M-18A1] Claymores and whatnot.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was pretty much what you are supposed to get.
DR. WRIGHT: No overloading as happened at Grenada with guys, you know, it was a help yourself and the guys ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, no. No.
MAJ WYNARSKY: You got 210.
LTC GOTTARDI: You know, you had your IIA cards, and you had your IIA card when you went through there and as you presented that card you had your bag there and that's what they gave you.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I would say every one of our troopers who had issued an M-16A2 rifle carried 180 ball and thirty tracer.
LTC GOTTARDI: In fact, I remember sitting in the building, because I remember everybody loading up the magazines and they were going one tracer for five. So, everything was ... I mean, that all ... actually the ammunition issue went very smoothly.
When we moved over there, you know, it was still raining and cold. I remember looking up and you could see the icicles hanging on the tails of the [C]-141s. They were starting to de-ice them. So we just lined up in chalk order behind the airplane, just waiting to load in the aircraft. And it was cold, because it was raining and the ice was freezing on your rain jacket. I had a pair of poly-gortex gloves that I ended up taking down there with me (and it was warm down there). But I remember the water freezing and I remember being covered with ice.
I was on chalk one and somebody made the decision that we would rig aboard the aircraft. That was a wise decision. That was very wise to do that. It got the troops out of the weather and it protected the parachutes and we got on the aircraft. I remember when we got on the aircraft I was ... somebody had heated up the aircraft. They had the APU [auxiliary power unit] running and they had the heater going. And I thought "bless you." And I jumped right to work. Went in there, loaded up, rigged--loose rigged with a rucksack either in the aisle back there by the ramp or under your seat. We sat there for I don't know how long and then we took off.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We took off around 2010 or so.
DR. WRIGHT: And you were in chalk two?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Two.
DR. WRIGHT: Where were the rest of the ... was the assault CP spread out, or were they between ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: Spread out. I had a couple down from me was CPT Jaycocks who was my S-1/back-up FSO guy. I remember sitting across from me was the signal battalion commander and I had my battalion commander to my left.
MAJ WYNARSKY: But our personnel was spread in chalks one, two, three and eight.
DR. WRIGHT: Again, division policy, spread everybody out so you have some ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Combat cross-loading, yeah. The S-3 and I would not be on the same aircraft. The primary and back up guy are never on the same aircraft.
DR. WRIGHT: And then the battery spread out again too.
LTC GOTTARDI: Spread.
DR. WRIGHT: Throughout all twenty chalks?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No. Chalks one through twelve.
LTC GOTTARDI: One through twelve. And they were loaded so that they were cross loaded so where we anticipated the heavy drop is where they would exit.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That's right. The battery commander for every chalk, and actually several of the chalks went by and talked to the jump masters and ensured they understood where our personnel needed to be because they were not when we started. But the jump masters were fairly good in putting them pretty close to where they were supposed to be along the directional flights. That worked out pretty good.
DR. WRIGHT: So, you looked up, you are on the same aircraft with MG [James H.] Johnson, [Jr.]?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Lift off then and you ... both of you then were in the first serial of seven aircraft to get cleared to go?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Flight down, what, five hours?
LTC GOTTARDI: About that. I slept and was awake. I slept and was awake.
DR. WRIGHT: Aircraft ... did you get anything to eat on the aircraft?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
LTC GOTTARDI: No.
DR. WRIGHT: Any water or did you have to go at your own canteens?
MAJ WYNARSKY: I don't ...
LTC GOTTARDI: They were handing down water.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Cup fulls of water.
LTC GOTTARDI: And I had a thing of cocoa. I just ripped off the side and I was just, you know, eating it dry.
DR. WRIGHT: MG Johnson is in contact on the aircraft with MG [William A.] Roosma in the ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... ABCCC [airborne command and control center]..
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Whoever he was talking to. He has, you know, he's got a (I think he's got) a hatch mount.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: You know, he is probably talking to everybody.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think they said chalks one, two and three were supposed to have hatch mounts. I don't know if that actually happened or not. So, there was a SAT[ellite] team on chalk two also.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. We had one Air Force guy I remember when we were jumping.
DR. WRIGHT: So, was the general putting out any information down to the rest of you?
LTC GOTTARDI: What we were getting was: this is what is happening and that's what is happening.
DR. WRIGHT: So, you come in on your final now to the airport. About what time was that? It was due to be H-plus-45; it would be about 1:45 in the morning.
LTC GOTTARDI: We jumped at 0211.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Because I remember --
DR. WRIGHT: So, that is not bad then?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Because I remember going and looking at the watch and I just ... however close to being accurate that was.
DR. WRIGHT: So, what do you see as you exit the aircraft?
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. I am jumping inboard personnel, number two man. The outboard stick goes. I later on found out the entire outboard stick did not go. Part of the outboard stick went and I am just looking at the guy in front of me. A couple other memories.
One is whenever the door on the aircraft went up, you usually have got the guys snapping their static lines. Nnothing. Absolute silence. [LAUGHTER] The outboard people go. And then the guy ahead of me who is a SGT Sandusky from the 1st of the 504--I got to know him pretty well on the trip--moved. Right behind him CPT Jaycocks who is behind me moved as well. And he said as he went up and handed the static line, he looked over here and he saw that there were still people outboard. So, I don't what happened. I suspect somebody got caught on a seat or something. And then moved up and everybody just said, O.K., that's it, let's go.
Exited the aircraft. We jumped at 500 feet. I had about three twists. I came out looking north on Torrijos.
The first thing I saw is I saw ... it looked like a building burning. I mean there were sparks and it looked like flames. And I saw some tracers.
DR. WRIGHT: What color tracers? Red?
LTC GOTTARDI: From the air it was red. They were different when I got ... as I got closer to the ground during that brief thing. And I remember looking at it and thinking--I thought "that's 2d Infantry Company, and they probably hit it with a [AC]-130. And I started to bicycle and I had more time than I thought I would. I started to bicycle and as I came around I saw the terminal, still lit, and I remember thinking, boy, it looks just like the photos. And I came around again, I looked down and I saw a concrete block building that was like to my left and like these antennas like you see over here at the MARS [military affiliated radio system] thing. I don't know what: VHF or ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: HF.
LTC GOTTARDI: HF antennas. And I thought, well, I hope I don't land on those. And I remember I looked for the heavy drop and I said, no heavy drop. We had red bean bags. I said no heavy drop. I came around again and I looked up towards the fire station, where I knew the fire station was, and I saw white or green tracers just a little bit to the north of the fire station. And then I looked to my right as I was starting to come in and up around--it would have been away from--it would have been to the eastern part of the airfield, I saw what looked like white tracers over there in what I later discovered was the elephant grass.
And I came right in over those radio things and I came in behind a little hummock, the only way I can describe it. And I landed in the elephant grass. I had a set of [AN]/PVS-7s and I had jumped with the PVS-7s inside my shirt. And I landed--a good landing--and I was in the midst of a huge clump of elephant grass. But sort of like on the edge of it because on one side of me it sort of like opened up and there was like a field. And there was like a clump of elephant grass out there and then beyond that I could see what looked like, almost like scrub oak, but I know it wasn't scrub oak. This was at night. Good illumination.
MAJ LEVIN: Where did that come from?
LTC GOTTARDI: Moon. I would probably put it at thirty, forty percent. I don't recall a cloud in the sky.
DR. WRIGHT: So ...
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Continuing with Side 4. You know approximately where you were?
LTC GOTTARDI: Approximately where I was. I expected that we were going to land on the runway.
DR. WRIGHT: And you were how far off?
LTC GOTTARDI: 800 meters; 1,000 meters.
MAJ WYNARSKY: 1,000 meters to the ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. If I had a map I could show you exactly. Well ...
DR. WRIGHT: A 1,000 meters to the east side of ... ?
[NOTE: At this point reference was made to the basic operational map used by units in Operation JUST CAUSE, the two-sided 1:50,000 Special Map of Panama City and Vicinity.]
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. This doesn't go very far.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Here you go, sir.
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. Here is the runway. The weather station was about here. Now, wait a second, because you took the road here.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was at the intersection here, I think.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I think the weather station was right ... yeah. The weather station was right here.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yeah.
LTC GOTTARDI: I landed over in here.
MAJ LEVIN: So you were pretty far north?
LTC GOTTARDI: I must have ... I guess I was. I always felt it was more east than north.
DR. WRIGHT: Well, you are ... you are east, you're a little bit ... you are at the north end of the Torrijos strip.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Exactly. And I was expecting that I was going to land down in here someplace.
DR. WRIGHT: Well, as I understand it, the center line of the runway was to be the center line of the jump?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I expected I was going to land someplace in here.
MAJ LEVIN: Where was the fire fight taking place from where you could tell?
LTC GOTTARDI: I could see flames out there.
DR. WRIGHT: Up there at the 2d Company complex ... up there.
LTC GOTTARDI: And it was more ... it appeared to be like right up here.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. That ... in the F.A.P. [Fuerza Aerea Panamena; the Panamanian Air Force] buildings.
LTC GOTTARDI: No, wait ... or whatever.
DR. WRIGHT: Because then the F.A.P. buildings were shot up pretty good.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: And the one building in the 2d Company area was gutted.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yeah.
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, all right.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Actually there is more buildings than I think that ...
DR. WRIGHT: Than shown on that map?
MAJ WYNARSKY: ... than shown here. And really the 2d ... the F.A.P. compound is way back here and there is like ... the cantina was pretty well shot up, and the barracks building ... and next to the arms room ...
LTC GOTTARDI: But I think it was around in here. And then I saw some firing down around here.
MAJ LEVIN: O.K. That is up near the head of the runway.
MAJ WYNARSKY: By the fire station.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah.
MAJ LEVIN: By the fire station.
LTC GOTTARDI: Around in here. And I saw some firing, I guess it was over in here.
MAJ LEVIN: O.K. That's to the east of the runway.
DR. WRIGHT: Over towards the lake at the northeast end.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. And what was going on there I have no idea.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. So, you were off from where you anticipated to be, but ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: By about a 1,000 meters.
DR. WRIGHT: But you did know pretty much where you were so you could orient to ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I knew ... well, O.K. I know the terminal is that way. And I knew where the brigade assembly area was, so I thought O.K., it is just a question of, you know, moving across there ...
DR. WRIGHT: Physically getting there?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Exactly. I landed and started to derig my stuff and as I derigged it, I heard some firing off to my left. So, I was sort of looking in the northeast. I heard some firing off my left. I heard like a single shot, an M-16, and then there was a pause and I am still derigging everything and then I heard two shots. And I had already put my pistol into action and everything. What I did is I had it in my holster, but I had the holster flap open.
I remember thinking "geez," so I took my NVGs and I looked around and I heard some movement out there. And I saw an individual who I suspect was a Panamanian. He was not wearing a helmet. I couldn't see if he was wearing LBE [load bearing equipment] or anything or with that BDU [battle dress uniform] pattern, and he came through at a high rate of speed. I mean I could see him stop and just sort of stop and he looked around, and went off. So I said "O.K."
So I put my pistol back in my holster and I just started to fiddle around with my H-harness. And I got the H-harness off and I was starting to feel for my parachute harness to try and find the lowering line. And I heard a couple more shots and heard some more movement, and I got my pistol back out. And while I was waiting there I put the glasses up and I took them back down and I thought well, I can see pretty good without them, so I put them back up and I had my pistol. I had to move my rucksack over, so I was sort of behind my rucksack. I was still in the elephant grass and I was just almost sitting in a squat position almost. I heard some more movement and I saw two guys coming, no Kevlars [helmets], no LBE. I couldn't see like if they were wearing BDUs. One had a weapon, either an M-16, or a T-65, or something.
They stopped. I heard another shot. One guy fired once I think back up there; or twice. I remember he fired and I thought, "oh, shit, I hope they don't come this way." And they turned around and they started to come this way, so I pumped about five rounds on them and got out of there. And I grabbed my rucksack and I did sort of a ... you remember Groucho Marx would do that duck walk. [LAUGHTER] I figured if I stay low I'll be O.K. So, I just went around there. And I came around one side and I could see the concrete block building I later found out was the fire station. And I sort of stayed in the elephant grass to keep so that if there was anybody up there, they could not see me. I stayed through the elephant grass.
I came around that hummock and got around the other side and I saw two figures wearing Kevlars. It was the brigade S-4, CPT Hodges, and we did the number combination, identified each other. He came up and I said how many guys have you got. He said I think I have got about eight guys. You know, we got a couple [M-249] SAWs [squad automatic weapons] and an M-60 and whatnot. And as we were talking somebody in the fire station began--not fire station yet, the weather station--began firing, because we heard a pop and we looked around like that. And I saw both red and green tracers coming out of that. I saw a red tracer sort of going ... if this is the runway, the red tracers, where the fire station or the weather station, the red tracers would have been going this way. So ...
DR. WRIGHT: Angling off to the right of the runway?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. And it was just a string about six to ten rounds, "brrrp." And then there was a second string that were green that came sort of ... . When I turned around, I remember we were standing there, actually we were squatting there, and we heard that pop and we looked up and we saw "brrrp." And then there was another string that went "brrrp." And it came like over our head and we went down.
And, you know, the plan was he was going to take a couple of guys and go around and we were going to be the overwatch force. And he took a Spanish speaker with him to tell the guy, hey, you know, give up. He did that. They shouted up and they fired into the side of the building. No response. Then they made another attempt. They fired into the side of the building. And then CPT Hodges and one of his guys went up to the back of the building. I think they broke out a window and hosed down inside of the building and there was nobody there.
And then he came back down and we linked up and started moving towards the assembly area. And we hit this road. And we were picking up more; it was like Normandy, we were picking up more and more people all the time. And finally we had like, I think, thirty some guys. We had AT-4s and [M-72A2] LAWs [light antitank weapons] and everything. We just moved and we ... when the road moved around we hit the swampy area. And I hit the one place there, the one little dike I guess between ... I remember twisting both my ankles and it hurt and I thought, "oh, shit, that's all I need is just that. I don't need this." And once I started walking, that went away. And then we got to the brigade assembly area and when we got there you were already there in operation.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Sure. I was about the third person there. I thought I get there a little bit ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Where did you drop, because ... ?
MAJ WYNARSKY: I dropped chalk two. I was right [door, jumper] twenty-seven. So, it was like one or two people behind me. That was MSG Border and I think SGT Cramer, the commo chief. We talked before exiting the aircraft; said if we could we would try to link up to form at least a little bit of a firing team to see if we could move to the brigade assault CP location.
When I came out of the aircraft I had, you know the moon was bright and I could see basically ... I knew I was off the drop zone. I also looked initially for heavy drop and saw none. I did see parachutes, a few in the air from the first chalk. I was probably well east of the runway and abreast of the southernmost portion of the terminal--the international terminal where the carousel was. I looked up and saw a fire fight at the F.A.P. buildings. I could see ... the fire illuminated the control tower of the old Tocumen airport, but there was a reasonable amount of flames--I mean fairly high flames--and a lot of back lighting there.
I could see--hear--a reasonable amount of fire there. I heard fires in the international terminal.
I heard, you know, fires going--what sounded like a firefight inside the building itself. And I figured that was the Rangers clearing those areas. So that ... I think that is about the right time that they were there. The ... you could hear the PSYOPS [psychological operations] ...
DR. WRIGHT: Did you get a chance to check your watch or anything to get a benchmark for when you exited the aircraft?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
DR. WRIGHT: It couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes, max ...
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, it was probably the same--probably about the same time.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Because chalk two followed right offset to the left of chalk one. So you could see firing around the terminal. Like I could see both green and red tracers going both ways. I heard explosions inside the terminal. Of course, I didn't think the drop took all that long. I didn't have any problems with twist or anything. I mean I was oriented the whole time and I started looking around where I was going to land and realized that I was probably going to hit some trees, and so I took a pretty good healthy slip there and was able to land kind of in a ...
DR. WRIGHT: Slip back towards the airfield?
MAJ WYNARSKY: The trees were to my left, so I had to slip actually into the north.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. O.K.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Which probably would have, I didn't think about it at the time, but would have put me a little bit closer towards where we were supposed to go, because there were supposed to be three LZs or PZs in line and the brigade assault CP ...
DR. WRIGHT: And you were to be with the 4th, which was the furthest, the 4th of the 325th?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No, no. We were supposed to collocate with the brigade assault CP location which was basically midfield.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Between the active [runway] and the taxiway. So, I had a pretty good idea of where that was. I knew I was off the drop zone. I knew that I had a ways to go and I just tried to avoid some trees which were ... didn't have too much vegetation on them, but were fairly tall, and I landed really in a kind of almost a little bit of a valley with, you know, elephant grass on either side. I had no problem really derigging my gear. I listened up for people around me. It seemed that the only thing that was attacking me initially was swarms of mosquitos. [LAUGHTER]
I linked up with SGT Cramer maybe as soon as I picked up my rucksack. And we started-- the two of us--started moving towards the west, knowing that we had to cross a ways. At that point we linked up with a group of about two or three personnel. You know, prior to that we took a little overhead fire which was green tracer. [But] the elephant grass was so tall we could not really orient to shoot and we--I--figured that there was probably a number of Americans and division troops in that area so returning any kind of fire would probably shoot them rather than killing the enemy. Right after that we linked up with the SGM from the 1st Battalion, [504th Infantry].
LTC GOTTARDI: Hogarth. SGM Hogarth.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Hogarth. Right, SGM Hogarth. He thought I was the S-3 from 1/504. I said no. And he had about three people and he started taking off and so we followed with him. We picked up a couple more people, so we had about seven.
At that point we hit the chain link fence and so we set up local security around the fence and basically, you know, we didn't breach it as an obstacle, we took rucksacks and built a step ladder to get over the fence. One person climbed over at a time and as people were providing security beside the chain link fence and then we threw the rucksacks over the chain link fence and the last guy was pulled over.
After that we had to wind quite a bit through very tall elephant grass.
We could still hear firing going on and it seemed like some more fire went overhead, you know, the same thing, green from that way, red going back. No one in our group fired. There seemed to be an accidental discharge to our right somewhere, probably another trooper, and after about maybe fifteen minutes of moving through that, stopping, you know, checking local security, we came out ... in fifteen or twenty minutes we came out on the airfield itself. And I moved as a part of that group and then I thought we were going too far south on the airfield for where we wanted to go. I knew that 1/504 was going to PZ south, which was where SGT Cramer and I broke off and moved across the runway. And by that time I guess I looked at my watch and it was approaching like ten minutes to 3, like 0250 and I said, "oh, shit," you know, "I'm going to be the last guy to the assembly area." So, we got to what ... we saw a blue chem[ical] light.
DR. WRIGHT: Was that the signal for the ... were you using chem lights to mark the assembly areas?
MAJ WYNARSKY: There was supposed to be a light, a Stiner aid, I think a white strobe Stiner aid was supposed to mark the division--the brigade assault CP. There were about two or three people there and I says, you know: came up, challenge and pass[word], and all that. And there was only two or three people, and sure enough that was the place. So, they asked me if I had a strobe light and I did. I took the cover off and we used the white strobe to approximate the Stiner aid for the assembly area. Once we put that up on a whip antenna a lot more people came in from the brigade assault CP. We established commo at that point. While moving I could talk. I can communicate with any of our personnel. And as we got closer on the airfield I was able to talk to, I believe, LTC Spohn, the division FSC, and also ... and right after I set up in the area I was able to communicate with the executive officer of A Battery, a fire direction officer from A Battery, CPT Goldman from the 2/504 FSO, and division FSC which was stationed near us. I had pretty good commo.
DR. WRIGHT: So, how long then after you had been there before the colonel arrived?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Twenty minutes.
DR. WRIGHT: Had you had to ... you hadn't had to breach the fence?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. I was inside the fence.
DR. WRIGHT: So, you missed that great experience in life of dealing with the twelve-foot fence?
LTC GOTTARDI: Dealing with the fence, I would have taken the fence.
MAJ LEVIN: What prompted your people to go over the fence instead of through it, because everybody had wire cutters on their bayonets?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Well, not everybody. Our personnel don't.
LTC GOTTARDI: Also, this was a chain link fence. This fence was not amenable to that kind of bolt-[cutter].
MAJ WYNARSKY: Only our FIST personnel have the M-9 bayonet. We have ... that is the rest of the battalion has standard bayonets. Although we linked up with SGM Hogarth prior to hitting the fence. And we were really towards the end of the seven man formation and so on, and he was in front and he decided to go that way and I wasn't going to challenge him on it after he had given the plan, I thought let's go for it. [LAUGHTER] I mean my thoughts crossing the fence were: I am backlit both by moonlight and also the terminal (at that time the lights were on in the terminal), and as we were moving we heard the PSYOPS teams fairly loud when we were moving through the elephant grass. It seemed like the fastest way to get across.
DR. WRIGHT: How long then after you assemble at the brigade area before you started getting a feel for where your howitzers are?
LTC GOTTARDI: Thirty minutes, I think.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We start talking to ... when I talked to the XO even before the colonel arrived, I talked to the XO and FDO [fire direction officer] and both of them said we have yet to find a single platform for the battery.
DR. WRIGHT: And what was the eventual ... could you go into that about tracking down where the platforms actually were found?
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, first of all, we didn't know if they had not gone.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Or if they had been dropped off the DZ. And we told A Battery is just to, you know, assemble and keep looking.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: And we had one summary here. I am trying to ...
MAJ LEVIN: How were you supposed to be able to find them?
MAJ WYNARSKY: They were marked with 15-inch red chem lights and red beanbag lights on the howitzers. Initially the way we rig, we always rig for night and day markings.
So, the red--the VS-17 panels are on the two and the beanbag light goes on top of that. So, there is like three different ways of identifying, red being the color by the division's standardization marking plan--that's supposed to mark artillery. Our HMMWVs were marked with 15-inch chem lights, both red and green 15-inch chem lights. So, we knew the color pattern expect. The problem was the grass was so high. And unless we happened to run, physically run into the platform, we would not know it was there.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I noted here at 08 Alpha reports one gun recovered, laid and ready to fire. Another located and recovery proceeding. Still looking for two [M]-102 and CDS. By 915 Alpha reports two guns laid and ready to fire. At the same time the battery had located and rigged for extraction one additional howitzer and located a cargo HMMWV in the swamp. By 1020 the battery was prepared to move with 4/325 ground convoy to Fort Cimarron with two howitzers.
DR. WRIGHT: So, at that point you had two prime movers recovered?
LTC GOTTARDI: We had three.
DR. WRIGHT: You recovered ...
LTC GOTTARDI: We had three vehicles. Two prime movers.
MAJ WYNARSKY: And two howitzers.
LTC GOTTARDI: And two howitzers. I am sorry three HMMWVs.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. Two guns.
LTC GOTTARDI: Two howitzers. See, at about 712 as noted in here we moved the brigade assault CP from our assembly area up to the fire station, which was where we had planned to establish the assault CP. One thing I hadn't mentioned is the--you know, the AH-6s [special operations helicopters] working the drop zone the whole time we were there. Even when I was in the grass derigging I heard that "hmmmmmm."
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: You could see them going north and south, going all over the place. And then when we were in the brigade assault CP, I remember being able to look up to (I guess it was the F.A.P. barracks) and I could see the 40mm rounds from the AC- coming down and hitting something. You could see that splash of those 40mm warheads. Around 712 we moved. Actually it was before 712, because we were established by 712. We went into like a platoon wedge formation at the brigade CP and we just moved across the runways to the fire station and established our CP in the fire station.
MAJ WYNARSKY: When I landed also I heard the AC-130 overhead. In my previous jobs I had a lot of exposure to AC-130s and I had worked a lot with Task Force 160, so when I saw the "little birds" overhead, I was pretty relieved, you know, that they were overhead.
DR. WRIGHT: What was the status of the drop then of your four howitzers? Where ... I mean they were supposed to have been laid down, what, fifty meters to the ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: They were supposed to be kicked off on the leading edge of the drop zone. We were expecting to find them at the southern [or] southwestern end of Torrijos.
DR. WRIGHT: And they were actually ...
LTC GOTTARDI: To the east, in the swamp.
DR. WRIGHT: ... in the swamp itself?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: On the far side of the tree line then?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: There were some HMMWVs that were closer to the runway, but I think that was the brigade FSO's vehicle; and the colonel's vehicle was not that far deep into it, but ...
LTC GOTTARDI: It felt like breaking an axle.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. What shape did your howitzers come down in? Were they all in good shape?
LTC GOTTARDI: Good.
DR. WRIGHT: And your four prime movers all came down in good shape?
LTC GOTTARDI: No, they didn't. One landed upside down.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That was our FDC HMMWV, which has the battery computer system on it and three radio systems. It had ... what happened to that one, after I went to recover it [I found out that] the platform hit a tree and because it caused it to flip and, therefore, it was traveling upside down only for a short period of time. In fact, later on (I think on the 29th) when we finally were able to recover it by using a Task Force 160 CH-47 [Chinook] we lifted it upside down, moved it to Tocumen, we let it stand upside down for a day to let the fluids drain back and put oil in it, and it drove back on the C-5. But it was not available the first day.
The Alpha 2--which is the battery operation center/back up FDC--I think the right rear quarter panel was so much damaged that we think the platform landed on end partially.
The other ones had some minor fiberglass damage and so on, but they were operational. The brigade FSO's vehicle was operational and the heaviest damaged HMMWV was the colonel's vehicle.
LTC GOTTARDI: Broken axle and some either broken motor mounts or ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: The motor mount was broken.
LTC GOTTARDI: Whatever.
DR. WRIGHT: So, in other words, you came out of it not in all that bad shape equipment-wise given how bad it could have been?
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, yeah.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Well, true. Had we been able to recover those things where they are at.
DR. WRIGHT: Oh, O.K.
MAJ WYNARSKY: As we talk about it later on, our ability to go and recover equipment where it could not be moved was the detrimental factor. We could find it. In fact, I think by noon the first day we had a lot of the platforms rigged with air mobile slings and marked with VS-17 panels so that the pilots could locate them, but it was not until days later that helicopters were made available to extract the loads.
DR. WRIGHT: Did anybody explain to you why that was?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Well, we knew.
LTC GOTTARDI: We knew.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We were well aware of what it was.
DR. WRIGHT: Just too short of airframes?
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, yeah.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. We were collocated with the brigade assault CP and we were talking to the brigade "raven," so we knew. Plus we had contact with the division FSC at all times, so we were very aware of how JTF SOUTH was apportioning or rather allocating airframes, and we knew that we had just ... .
At that point really (which was early on the 20th, early afternoon of the 20th) we really went through a lot of attempts to recover them on our own using the winch on the one HMMWV to try to recover them, you know. Which did not work. We did not have enough power on a HMMWV winch to get it out of the mud. We sent details back in to locate and mark the platforms better. We hauled ammunition off the platforms by hand.
And also that caused some ... we started having real serious problems at that point with heat injuries. Because it was hot enough just not being acclimated to Panama, but moving boxes of ammunition (which a box weighs 102 pounds) plus carrying your weapon and still the additional stress of being up a couple days. We had to start really pushing IVs down and pacing the operation so that people would not just be dropping over. We had to evacuate I think that afternoon two heat casualties to the casualty collection point.
We knew that, you know, to do our primary mission we would have to gather up ammunition and establish a firing capability. At that point two guns, the battery commander, fire direction officer, and two HMMWVs had gone forward with the ground convoy to support the 4th of the 325. They had moved out to a point one kilometer west of the Pacora River Bridge to establish a firing capability there.
DR. WRIGHT: At that location that you had spotted previously?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Correct. Exactly. It was designated Objective HOLLANDS.
LTC GOTTARDI: That's the battery commander.
MAJ WYNARSKY: The battery commander's name.
LTC GOTTARDI: What the commander of the 4th of the 325 did is, he put that as an intermediate objective for his ground convoy, so they went in there and just provided security while A Battery went in. Put them on detail.
MAJ WYNARSKY: So, what we were trying to do with the airfield was gather up the additional two howitzers and set up a two-firing capability at the airfield.
MAJ LEVIN: How did you move the howitzers?
MAJ WYNARSKY: From the airfield to the Pacora River Bridge?
MAJ LEVIN: No. From where they fell to ... ?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No, we didn't. I mean that is the point. That was unsuccessful. We were not able to recover those guns by ground. There was no ...
MAJ LEVIN: And they couldn't be fired from where they were?
LTC GOTTARDI: No.
DR. WRIGHT: So, eventually then you get, what, CH-47s or UH-60s [Blackhawks]?
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, later on we got CH-47s. I think they dragged another one out.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes, sir. They did it manually. And we had vehicles which were stuck. In fact, one of the vehicles had to be recovered by the CH-47 because it was stuck.
LTC GOTTARDI: I knew this was in the flavor of building pyramids--human chains carrying ammunition.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was not until ... the entire recovery process was completed on the afternoon of the 29th of December when Alpha-1, which was the last vehicle which we had, was recovered out of that area. The situation was difficult there because there were G-11 and other parachutes in that area. I think two days before a UH-1 [Iroquois or "Huey"] actually went down there because the parachutes got twisted up in the rotor assembly and it actually had to do an emergency landing there.
DR. WRIGHT: There was a CH-47 ... there was one CH-47 that sucked up, and then I think a UH-1 as well.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: There were two different aircraft.
LTC GOTTARDI: I think I was there, because I remember when we were on top of the Torrijos terminal ... remember that we saw that one parachute?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. Flare up.
LTC GOTTARDI: Where a T-10 had just flared up.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Out of there with an empty harness and just went up.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Fully inflated too; it probably went up to a couple hundred feet.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. But we were able to rake. There was a [CH]-47 crew that went in there and they said they could not extract it. So, we went in: myself, Assistant [S]-3, the surveyor, and I think SGT Williams, the training NCO. And we actually wrapped the parachutes around trees so they wouldn't flare up; rerigged the load--also the XO was there--and we walked to the control tower. And I had been working there a couple of days before with 1/75 (or the 75th) Rangers. And we just sat ... I sat in the control tower until a Chinook came by, and got on the hand mike there and asked them to extract it. And they happened to be a Task Force 160 Chinook, so they were good. They got in there and extracted that last load.
DR. WRIGHT: First two guns then that you have up and ready are the two that go up to the vicinity of the Pacora Bridge.
LTC GOTTARDI: That's right.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Had you received any fire missions?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Prior to that?
DR. WRIGHT: Prior to that.
LTC GOTTARDI: Prior to that everything was the AC-130s working with [AH-64] Apaches.
MAJ WYNARSKY: At that point also the 2/504 was the first in order, they extracted with Panama Viejo; 1/504 had moved out to Tinajitas; 4th of the 325 was in the process of doing so; and from the airhead itself we could not range either Panama Viejo or Tinajitas. Therefore, the only missions we would have fired at that point would have been in support of the 1/75 Rangers or any other forces which were--I think A/3/505 also had the airfield security mission.
MAJ LEVIN: They never asked for it?
MAJ WYNARSKY: There weren't really any attacks on the airfield.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you want to talk me now through, sir, the ongoing operations and how your howitzers get moved around?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. They occupied a position there by the ... . En route with the ground convoy from 4/325 they have an encounter with a white Datsun with some armed civilians from the DIGBATS [dignity battalions]. And there is an exchange of gunfire up there between the convoy and the vehicle. The three Panamanians are killed, one of them I guess in the act of throwing a hand grenade.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Which falls back into the car, blows up and they are all dead. At the same time 1LT Cornejo, who was the A Battery FDO got shot; he took some shrapnel. He got shot through his map case, and he has the map case in there to this day were you can see and follow the route of the bullet, through all of his firing tables, through his handbooks and through this and that and then through ... he was wounded. Then he was ground medevac'd to Fort Cimarron and then eventually a ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. MH-53 [special operations helicopter] comes in ...
LTC GOTTARDI: ... an MH-53 comes in and pulls him out. Took him back to Howard [Air Force Base] and then he was Medevac'd to the States. Earlier we had had a lieutenant wounded and Medevac'd in the air assault into Tinajitas. 1LT White took a bullet through the leg. He was Medevac'd.
DR. WRIGHT: Who was ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: He was a company fire support officer. A Battery occupies their firing position. 4/325 does their air assault in. A Battery moved a detail forward with a couple [AN/PRC]-77s and a [OE]-254, I guess, and try and get through an intervening hill mass so they can talk better to the guys at 4/325, but they couldn't get that far out. They got a couple thousand meters out and it was just like four guys and they were in Indian country. They got the antenna up. They could talk periodically to the fire support officer I think.
MAJ WYNARSKY: They could talk back to the battery, but not the other way.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah, but not the other way. And 4/325 at one time said, yeah, they could have used them, but ... and he was on the battalion command net.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: 4/325 battalion command net to take the mission. But I talked to some guys at 4/325 and they said, yeah, we had our 77s with a short whip [antenna] and we were down in the dirt.
MAJ WYNARSKY: In the ground.
LTC GOTTARDI: So sorry about that. And I don't mean this. I am not sorry about that. But there were problems; there were really big problems. Could the battery commander have moved out farther? Maybe. But you can follow that to, you know, he goes up until he's told to ...
[END OF TAPE 2]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Continuing with the third tape.
LTC GOTTARDI: O.K. Let's see, we now have A Battery [that] has established their firing position, attempted to establish comms with 4/325. Evac[uat]ed 1LT Cornejo ... during the same period, the Alpha XO and the soldiers remaining continued to attempt to recover the heavy drop and requested aviation support to assist. We were trying to work that with brigade. At 1915, and this would have been 1915 on the 20th, Alpha reported that 1LT Cornejo had been ground evaced by 4/325. By 2300 we had received reports of incoming mortar fire in 1/504 at Tinajitas; and the 2/504 was preparing to assault and clear a portion of the Marriott Hotel. We also received reports of an enemy contact short of Fort Cimarron by 4/325. At 2330 we got a SITREP from 2d of the 8th [Field Artillery of the 7th Infantry Division]; they had just come in and airlanded with one six-gun battery. We had location and azimuth to fire at 1200.
By 210010 2/504 reported seizing the Marriott and freeing 29 US citizens. [At] 0020 on the 21st 4/325 reported seizing Fort Cimarron after working it over with an AC-130. At 210810 we provided survey data and our own hasty survey on the airstrip from Alpha to 6/8th. They were located up near the fire station. We gave them all of our survey data. At the same time our first resupply to Alpha went forward by CH-47. At 8:12 we sent forward a [AN]/VRC-46 recovered from heavy drop, and an additional 254 recovered from heavy drop, three and a half cases of MREs, three five-gallon water cans, a [AN]PRC-77 with a KY-57, and twenty-one bags of IV solution.
Over the next several hours we were notified that Alpha had a disabled howitzer with five pax at a forward firing location, and that the remainder had consolidated at Fort Cimarron and with 4/325 to perform the team support mission. We began working the air request to sling the damaged M-102 forward, and made contact with FAST-I to see if we could get the necessary repair parts--a spindle on the actuator--in country. At 1330 the brigade S-3 told us that they would soon have a CH-47 to resupply 4/325 and move our howitzer.
Because of continuing problems of interference on the battalion CF-2, which is the command fire net, we coordinated and changed to battalion CF-1, and passed the information to the three maneuver battalions.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Sir, I always thought command fire net two was the fire support coordination net from the brigade to the brigade and the direct support artillery battalion; all battalion-level fire support officers. Which in this operation, it was probably the most critical net because it linked, you know, allowing us to use assets other than field artillery in the overall fire support coordination effort.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. And for some reason on CF-2 there was a lot of interference and we went to CF-1 and we could talk to everybody. And instead of wondering about the mysteries of FM communications, we just said ... we got with, rather, Andy got with the brigade CESO and said, O.K., here's the frequency, and do you have a problem with that, will it interfere with anything? And he said no. So we got everybody up on the net and squawked.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Improved conditions.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah, improved conditions. We went on CF-1 and we had everybody on CF-1. Also, 6th of the 8th (minus) at 1520 had closed on Torrijos, and we had locations on all the firing elements plus the radars. Can we stop here?
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. All right. Just one question, sir. On the one howitzer that was reported damaged. What was the story on that?
LTC GOTTARDI: The actuator and the spindle which the tire is on, and allows you to raise and lower the firing platform, was broken and the variable recoil mechanism that controls the ... it varies the recoil of the howitzer by elevation to shorten it in higher elevations and allow it to go at full length at lower elevations--was damaged.
DR. WRIGHT: So, it was just replacement parts and so on?
LTC GOTTARDI: Replacement parts. We never did get it up. We never got the parts in country.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Although some of the parts we had--about two-thirds of the parts we had on our XO's vehicle for that self-sustaining package--included howitzer repair parts which fortunately we brought, but the 782d [Maintenance Battalion] did not. So, they brought the mechanic, we had the parts. We never were able to get an actuator and that's what prevented us from actually ... .
LTC GOTTARDI: Which is not, you know, it is not an easy thing to get.
O.K. By 1656 we had a CH-47 that departed to resupply 4/325 and sling the howitzer forward to Cimarron. Mission complete by 1800. By 1935 we received current location for Delta [Battery D,] 320th: five guns and its [AN/TP]Q-36 radar emplaced west of the canal. It was currently functioning on a quick fire channel with JTF SOUTH.
Now we're at 22 December. 0440 we coordinated with division FSC to assume control of the 7th I[nfantry] D[ivision] [AN/TP]Q-36 radar and put it in operation for counter-fire. The radar CPT Marsh ordered and was located at 05 hours as it was preparing to depart with the 2d Brigade, 7th ID, convoy to Howard Air Force Base for Rio Hato. By 0650 we had checked with FAST-1 and were told that the spindle for the M-102 was on-hand to expend with the MREs that were on hand and we could receive support and move forward. At 0810 we received a SITREP from Alpha at Fort Cimarron: two M-102s, one operational, one officer, eighteen personnel, fifty-five rounds of HE, twenty-nine rounds of RAP, five rounds of illumination, two rounds of smoke. They also reported they had fired two rounds and were adjusting for defensive targets.
DR. WRIGHT: Can you go into that a little bit? What were they ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: What they did is they just located areas that couldn't be covered by direct fire.
DR. WRIGHT: And then just put a marking round out there?
LTC GOTTARDI: Just put a marking round in there and recorded it as a target.
MAJ WYNARSKY: They actually adjusted off of the thing and made two adjustments.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: These were ranging shots rather than actual firing at a target?
LTC GOTTARDI: We were not ... .
MAJ WYNARSKY: What we should mention there, also, is that once the battery commander moved into Fort Cimarron, LTC [John] Vines, battalion commander 4/325...
LTC GOTTARDI: Oh, yeah.
MAJ WYNARSKY: ...there's a concept which we use in the division here called "Team Support," where the artillery battery and the mortars and sometimes even the engineers are consolidated under command of the battery commander. Once he moved to Fort Cimarron CPT [David D.] Hollands assumed the team support role, so the 81mm mortars which were working with 4/325 were collocated with the battery there. So, they adjusted both the mortars and the artillery fire.
LTC GOTTARDI: And I flew up there that day with the brigade commander--up to Cimarron--visited the battery AO [area of operations]. It was great. You know, Cimarron was really worked over. I was out there and there was just equipment all over the place. They put holes through the roof of the building and whatnot.
So, over the next several hours the battery rear located, derigged and rigged for helo lift the one [M]-102 and two HMMWVs from the swamp. They also reported additional repair parts were needed. We also recovered additional ammo from heavy drop platforms.
About 1500 4/325 (minus) had returned from Fort Cimarron to the airfield. Alpha then conducted a sensitive items/arms inventory and reported seven M-60s, eight [M]-203s, five LAWs and thirty Claymores left at Cimarron. At 1715 we got a UH-60 and retrieved the inop[erative] M-102 from Fort Cimarron. At 2100 hours we received division FRAGO [fragmentary order] 1 which designated Alpha (minus) the division reserve with responsibility of securing the Torrijos portion of the airfield and tasking the battery to assist in heavy drop recovery. What we did is we took the southern portion of the airfield. There is just a map here of how we defended it. Rangers ... 1st/75 Rangers had the Tocumen portion and we took over the...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Torrijos.
LTC GOTTARDI: ...Torrijos portion. We went down there, we established a couple of howitzer positions for direct fire and indirect fire and put out a number of listing posts and automatic weapons positions to include ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: There's a diagram here.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. Here is the diagram. To include on top of the Torrijos terminal. Additionally, we linked in with 2/504 combat trains that were there, and had them orient and defend a portion. We got 1/504 combat trains that moved into the weather station.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: My first in country. By the way they said they found all kinds of blood splashed around inside when they took it over, so it looks as though somebody was in there. Then we linked up with 7th ID, the 1st Brigade ... was it the 1st Brigade?
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was the 2d Brigade.
DR. WRIGHT: The 2d Brigade, sir, is the one that was there.
LTC GOTTARDI: And we linked up with ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Their XO.
LTC GOTTARDI: ... their XO and used some of his MPs and some of his guys to assist in securing one portion of the perimeter. And then we had the 82d MPs then on top of the airline terminal building, or the maintenance...
MAJ WYNARSKY: Eastern [Airlines] maintenance terminal.
LTC GOTTARDI: ... that ... where the division Assault TOC was. We secured the southern portion. We coordinated with 2d Brigade, 7th ID, to use two MP HMMWVs; and tied together two ... . We talked about that.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That actually took a lot of our effort that afternoon, early evening.
LTC GOTTARDI: Nobody was on a common frequency.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Fortunately, the colonel and I had independently conducted reconnaissance of the airfield. I was looking for a place to register then I'd be [INAUDIBLE] on the perimeter; he from ... since he was advised of the security mission first, and ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: That really took a lot of effort to basically link all those units on a common plan, but also to link up with the 1/75 Rangers which we both independently did also.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. I would say that we had a face to face coordination that evening, put everybody in a common airfield defense group. We took one of our enemy's frequencies and we put everybody on that frequency. Then we had some overhead imagery to the airfield. We even got everybody together and we put plexiglass over it and we prepared a defense diagram of who goes where and so everybody knew where everybody else was.
Now, it is the 23d, 0640, 2d Brigade, 7th ID, XO informed us they were departing and would no longer be able to cover a defensive sector. [At] 1256 we were given a warning order for possible RAP mission up to Cerro Azul where an AH-1[G Cobra] had drawn small arms fire. The mission was processed, but not fired due to the observer aircraft being diverted by JTF SOUTH. He came down, landed, refueled, went back up and returned to the location. We were prepared to fire, but he got diverted. They never fired that one.
During the same period of time we coordinated with division FSC for possible change in mission for Alpha. The proposed change of mission was an air assault of the battery into [Punta] Patilla Airfield at [i.e., near] Fort Amador, and establishing a quick fire channel with JTF SOUTH and the 193d [Infantry Brigade's AN/TP]Q36 to assume the counter-fire mission in Panama City and the environs.
DR. WRIGHT: Was there any explanation as to why they were even considering that at that point in the operation?
LTC GOTTARDI: I think ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think there were still a number of mortar rounds being fired. In fact ...
LTC GOTTARDI: There were a lot of Q36 hits on mortar rounds.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: And the feeling was we could range them from down there and if we got them out in an area--we had quick fire channel--we got them out in an area where they were not in the middle of the barrio, or if we could establish a pattern where we could engage them, then, you know, we could get one hit and we could just put, you know, two or three rounds out there. If nothing else, it would say "wow."
MAJ WYNARSKY: Had they had taken some counterfiring, we thought that they would stop the harassing fires. At that time also from G-2 channels we knew that some of the mortars, some of the heavier mortars, were mounted on those electrical power company trucks and moving up and down causing harassing fires. I think at Tinajitas, also at that time, there was a reasonable amount of harassing fires from the mortars. Therefore, the counter-fire mission was pretty much primary in our mind at that point.
LTC GOTTARDI: And we were saying "look, we can do this--if we can get the location we can tie into the radar." So, the change of mission incorporated in the draft FRAGO by either the G-3 or the CG [commanding general]. The remainder of the day was spent tightening up and reworking the airfield defense.
[On] the 24th at 1000 we received notification that the password had been compromised; provided new ones. Late in the day the G-2 advised me that they had received HUMINT [human source intelligence] indicating a probable attack on Torrijos airfield this evening, 24 December. Defensively we reviewed all positions, checked the fields of fire, left and right limits. We held a face to face meeting with all parties and XO of the 1/75 Rangers and all units on Torrijos to talk through a reaction plan. We talked through it. If they come this way, we are going to do that. If the reaction force is going to come from that and we have to fire a beehive. You know, this is the signal [that] we will proceed with that. We had everybody say this is the map, everybody go round. And I was pretty comfortable that we had ... had everybody wired in.
DR. WRIGHT: This is the one that down at the troopie level was the rumor there were, you know, 800 or 1,000 guys massing and they were going to come stampeding down the runway?
MAJ WYNARSKY: All we got from G-2 was 200 to 250 personnel assembling about 1,500 meters from the airport. And that came from the division FSC from G-2. That seemed to be reasonably correct, credible.
LTC GOTTARDI: Throughout this night there was sporadic activity around the perimeter, but no attacks or probes. I think there was some firing. I don't know for certain. But we had a lot of reports about two, three people moving around.
MAJ WYNARSKY: OP-2 was ... the pucker factor down there was fairly high. They were down at the southern end where there was a cross taxiway across the Torrijos Airport and they were pretty much isolated on their own.
LTC GOTTARDI: And 25th, on Christmas day, the division CP planned to displace Fort Amador, to be closer to the maneuver units and better control the activities. We were given the option of 3d of the 319th Assault TOC remaining at Torrijos or displacing. I made a decision to displace with the division TOC. There we cut a change of mission for Alpha and placed them OPCON [under the operational control of] to 1/75 Rangers. Because there was still activity, reported activity up in Cerro Azul. And the Rangers were going to be going up there, operating in that area. So we figgured the best thing to do was to put the battery OPCON to them, which we did.
By 2200, we established our TOC in the former Panamanian Defense Ministry at Amador. We were originally placed in an unlit gymnasium behind the building. And there was just all kinds of trash and stuff in there. I don't think there were any bodies in there.
MAJ WYNARSKY: No. But it sure smelled like dead bodies.
LTC GOTTARDI: There had been some ...
DR WRIGHT: There had been, because that had been--the gym was the center of the resistance in the taking down of Amador.
LTC GOTTARDI: There had been some bodies there because the odor was still very prominant.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Oh, yeah. A lot of standing water also.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. And so what we did is we found an office in the Defense Ministry; coordinated with headquarters commandant; and then we cleared it out, located ourselves in there. Put all our communications vehicles outside. We took the OE-254 [antenna] heads. There was a flagpole there in front of the--I think it was the Navy headquarters.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Navy headquarters.
LTC GOTTARDI: And we put our 254 heads on the flagpole and we ran them up the flagpole, and we could talk to the world after that. We had perfect commo with everybody. And I talked over the radio from there--at one time we were talking about, what, twenty-three kilometers back to A Battery?
LTC GOTTARDI: Which ain't bad.
MAJ LEVIN: Not bad at all.
LTC GOTTARDI: On the 27th, increasingly large concentrations of P.D.F. and DIGBAT [dignity battalion] personnel were reported by unit at Cerro Azul; division designated it as an AO for 1/75 Rangers. [At] 1056 ... we had plans that if that operation kicked off, because the airfield was active again and everything, we were going to send an LNO [liaison] team. The LNO team would have
consisted of the S-3 and the assistant 3. And we kicked you all out that day.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: To link up--it said here at 1056 we dispatched battalion S-3 and assistant 3 to Tocumen as an LNO team to the 1/75 Rangers. The intention is to have positive control of the CCT [Air Force combat control team] since Tocumen was active again to civil aviation and to assure solid comms by TACSAT [tactical satellite] between the battery, the Ranger TOC, and the assault element.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
LTC GOTTARDI: By 2145 the 1/75 Ranger concept and plan for the Cerro Azul operation is approved and helo assets are allocated for an LZ time of 2806.
MAJ WYNARSKY: The one thing there is one of the things that when I studied operations in Grenada, what happened there is the battery had been located on the south side of the airfield while the resistance was north, so CCP put the battery in check fire every time that flights came in. So in EDREs and so on I kept on preaching always look at where the resistance is, position the battery away from the active airstrip so that you could continue firing while flights are going in. But at that point the relief effort started really picking up and a lot of ... you know, a reasonable amount of civil aviation was coming in from all over Latin America and South America. So, what we did is I collocated myself with the CCT in the tower while CPT Chapman (the assistant [S]-3) located himself at the Ranger TOC in the Tocumen airport.
The concern there was although we had excellent line of sight communications with all the FOs (that's the company FSOs) and the FSO in the operation, we were concerned that had they gone into AO STRIKE beyond Cerro Azul, on the far side, that we would not have line of sight and the only way we would be able to talk back through is through SATCOM. So we had established a linkage there between the SATCOM operator and the battery through the Assistant 3 on FM. That was the reasoning behind both those LNO locations.
LTC GOTTARDI: Anyway, Alpha was moved to the northern end of Tocumen runway beyond the active [portion]. Where we put them first there was a mound up there where they could put their 254 and they were actually, what, ninety-five meters or forty-five, or whatever it was.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Maybe with the extension on it.
LTC GOTTARDI: No. I mean the actually altitude.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was a lot higher than in Torrijos.
LTC GOTTARDI: But what we did is we put them in there, and we just, you know, where there was just the highest point on the airfield that they were going to talk with everyone.
By 2230 we coordinated with division G-4 and the 193d ASP to have 300 rounds of RAP pelletized and rigged for airlift (as a precaution) to Cerro Azul. They said it was out and it was rigged, and if we had to move it forward, we could rig it out and move it forward.
On the 28th at 5:30 we conducted our final radio checks with Alpha on Runway 18. All comms are in operation. Throughout the day 1/75 Rangers continue to operate in AO STRIKE without contacting anything. Later in the day we were informed that the division was to begin reploying selected personnel, and each section was requesting to submit a standard name line roster and priority for redeployment. In conjunction with division FSC we submitted a roster through G-3 to G-1 or AG.
Division FSC also notified us that 6th of the 8th was redeploying three of the six guns that had been supporting 1st Brigade of the 7th ID at Fort Ord, or to Fort Ord. On 29 [December] we were informed by G-3/G-1 that 3d of the 319th Assault CP may redeploy to CONUS some time today. At 1200 we were given tentative departure time of 1735. And we arranged to link up with our LNO team at Tocumen.
Upon arrival at Tocumen I linked up with LTC Collins, 1st Brigade XO, to remind him that Alpha 3d of the 319th, currently OPCON to 1/75 Rangers, was located on Tocumen and still drawing their resupply through him. I also spoke with LTC Townsend, DISCOM S-3 and asked him to ensure that if Alpha had any resupply problems they could draw directly from FAST-I. He agreed to do that.
We cleared Customs and departed Tocumen airfield at approximately 2200 hours.
DR. WRIGHT: Which is when we bumped into each other.
LTC GOTTARDI: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: On the flight back ...
DR. WRIGHT: On your flight back you had no problems on the [C]-141 ... you came back on the 141 I guess that I came down on?
LTC GOTTARDI: Mm-hum.
DR. WRIGHT: No problems at all going back? The flight went smooth? You got in here O.K.?
MAJ WYNARSKY: We had to rerig the howitzer because the loadmaster didn't want to let us on the plane.
LTC GOTTARDI: We ate there and I was carrying my fluorescent lantern and we just went out in the runway, turned on the lantern, and ate our MREs out there, and just waited for the aircraft to come in. We cleared through Customs, went in there and shook out all our stuff for the Customs guys. They checked us out, put everything back in our rucksacks, and we boarded the aircraft. I was surprised we saw U.S. Marshals out there just armed to the teeth. I didn't realize that we would have brought them down.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. They ... apparently there was a variety of law enforcement types that were hauled in and wandered around in the damnedest places. We kept tripping over them in all kinds of nice spots.
Once you got back then, you debriefed the family support group then personally?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. Because we still had people down there. We put out the word through the family support chain that assault CP was back. We did not know when anybody else would be coming back. They continued to be ... the division by then was holding a daily 1100 update. And we were getting all the information, continuing to get the operational summaries. And every day we continued to operate the family support group, put out the same information in the same way.
We had a couple of false warnings that Alpha was coming back, then they were not, then they were coming back, then they were not. They came back the 5th I believe. And we had a plan worked out that once we received ... it was actually an N-Hour sequence. Once we received notification they had departed Tocumen, then at such and such time we would do this, such and such time we would do this, and it worked out well. We had all the families over there. We had the battalion down there when they came back. We had the battalion down there, a battalion formation. They came off the airplane. It worked out really well.
DR. WRIGHT: Total strength that you sent down was nine people in the battalion assault CP and then strength ... have you got an approximation?
LTC GOTTARDI: Total was 150.
MAJ WYNARSKY: You have to remember that we had FIST [fire support team] personnel in each one of the infantry battalions, the battalion FSCs, and the brigade FSC.
LTC GOTTARDI: Plus we had the FIST up in Task Force ATLANTIC with 3/504 [3d Battalion, 504th Infantry].
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. O.K.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think it was 168 total ... 151 ... 151 was the total strength.
DR. WRIGHT: And total casualties were the two wounded on the first day?
MAJ WYNARSKY: No.
LTC GOTTARDI: Excuse me. We had two wounded. We had a kid named Pout up on the Atlantic side that was shot in the leg. SGT Coleman from the 2/504, Bravo [Company] 2/504, one of our FIST guys, was shot in the arm and Medevac'd and returned to the unit, and then told that since he didn't have a medical report (he had the x-ray and hadn't applied for the purple heart) he wouldn't get one. We still haven't gone through that.
LTC GOTTARDI: Even Coleman doesn't care. He wanted to get back down to the unit and he did.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Yeah. We had four definite hostile injuries and then there was Turner who was supposedly shot in the helmet.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. We are still trying to blow through that. He was a heat injury and took a round in the helmet
or something. They are still trying to figure out what exactly happened to him.
DR. WRIGHT: Any jump injuries?
LTC GOTTARDI: Not that I am aware of.
MAJ WYNARSKY: If there were, nobody said anything.
DR. WRIGHT: Nobody said anything. O.K. And no particular problem with the heat casualties other than ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: After that first day ...
DR. WRIGHT: Once you figured out and got everybody acclimated then it became ... ?
MAJ WYNARSKY: And we probably--as you can tell from one of the resupplies--we had twenty-one IVs for nineteen people out there, so that is like one apiece. We scrounged IVs everywhere we could. We used our combat life savers a lot, because we are only authorized one medic per battery to run IVs to soldiers.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Once we started, you know, forcing water and IVs, and we really had to pace the operation because of ... we still worked very hard. People were exhausted, but under the conditions it was ... the first couple of days was very hot and very clear. I think midday it probably must reached over ninety-five or so.
DR. WRIGHT: Any significant problems that you hadn't anticipated? I mean not necessarily major problems, but anything that cropped up that you really hadn't anticipated?
LTC GOTTARDI: Nothing that immediately comes to mind.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I expected that 782d would come prepared with more repair parts. Maybe that was naive of me to think so, which just reinforces how important having our own repair parts--even if it means buying them out of our budget and having them on the HMMWVs--is. I thought that they would eventually air land small repair parts.
DR. WRIGHT: Did that ... because you had been assuming all along that you were going to see additional batteries come in. Did that turn into a distractor for you in the sense that you had to ... you didn't have control on your own batteries that were back here and stuff you had planned as follow on wasn't applied--appearing?
LTC GOTTARDI: No, no. See, we went down there prepared to accept that if they don't show up that is just a mission you don't have to execute.
MAJ WYNARSKY: When the 2d brigade, 7th ID, arrived and we were getting updates from division headquarters as far as what the picture in Panama was, of course I think CNN was in the division TOC, it became apparent that after a couple of days that the division was unlikely to send additional forces except for maybe specialty personnel. It was apparent that the 7th ID would be doing the bulk of the reinforcement mission. I think we pretty much knew at that point that probably the additional battery would not be arriving.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes. It was probably around day four I think when we said, no, they are not going to need them.
MAJ WYNARSKY: We processed requests for some fire support personnel who had been wounded and even those were questionable. This is I think by day five. So, it was kind of apparent that things just weren't going to happen.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes. You did not get any casualties replaced, did you?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. In fact, at one point I think it was the brigade S-1 or brigade XO said, you know, what do you end in the way of resupply (we have been asked by division to send a resupply list, which we did), and he said how about personnel, and we did, and we submitted it. O.K. And then about later in the day they came back and said, "why do you want this?"
LTC GOTTARDI: You asked us for it. I mean ... so that, you know, was a little bit on the sublime side.
DR. WRIGHT: The M-102 howitzer ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: Went back on the same aircraft we did.
DR. WRIGHT: No. I mean as a weapon system--you had no problems with that? It performed ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: It would have been nice to have the standard range.
DR. WRIGHT: Was there any thought given to bringing down any of the M-198s [155mm towed howitzers]?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. Too big. Too heavy.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think ...
DR. WRIGHT: No threat?
MAJ WYNARSKY: The key answer to that is you have a trade-off involved. It takes one C-130 to move one [M]-198, another C-130 to move a five-ton [prime mover]. You can move a [M]-198 short distances with a deuce and a half. Then really a half of a C-130 to move the ammunition associated with it.
LTC GOTTARDI: And it takes ...
MAJ WYNARSKY: In that space we can move ... we put two HMMWVs and a gun. We could have moved half a battery plus in that same equivalent where we have one howitzer.
LTC GOTTARDI: Plus had they heavy dropped them, and they'd gone into the swamp, they'd still be there. Your [M]-102 weighs in at about 3,200 pounds; a [M]-198 is about 15,000.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. 15,000. The other factor was that we knew that the aviation assets ...
DR. WRIGHT: It would have wound up like that [M-551] Sheridan?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yes.
MAJ WYNARSKY: The aviation assets were limited. We knew that. And knew the weight the howitzer and ammunition weighed with the crew container and crew of a UH-60 helicopter ... you just cannot do that with a [M]-198. I think the other factor that really eliminated the [M]-198 was also ... reasonably speaking the [M]-102 really, based on the collateral damage that was expected--that we were expected to within--was probably more suited for a light intensity conflict like this than a [M]-198 is. You know, a 100 pound projectile is a measurable increase in explosive weight and fragmentation over what our round is.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the HMMWV as a prime mover, no problems with that?
LTC GOTTARDI: Uh-uh.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you ... during that initial period at the airport when you hadn't been able to recover all your HMMWVs, did you consider field expedient vehicle usage there at the airfield?
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah, we did. We got ... we had a little, a two cylinder Subaru maintenance truck and we used that in the place of my command HMMWV.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. But because of the cross-country capability necessary with the prime movers, there ... the trucks which the infantry used for the resupply of the Marriott--food service resupply trucks which were used for convoys--were good for on-road capability and there was nothing really available there which had the cross-country capability. If we could have gotten the howitzers to the runway we could have towed it with something else. But our inability to get into the marsh to extract them, there was no commercially available transportation available.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you ever find your CDS?
MAJ WYNARSKY: Some of it.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. Some of it.
MAJ WYNARSKY: It was located at the FAST, and we moved some of it as required from FAST-1 to the battery.
DR. WRIGHT: Recovered ... essentially recovered your equipment and reconstituted back here.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: No significant problem there?
LTC GOTTARDI: No.
DR. WRIGHT: Any personnel issues?
LTC GOTTARDI: None that I can think of.
MAJ WYNARSKY: No. I think all in all the training plan that normally takes place, everything from physical training, to road marches, to upper body drills, to the way we configure our loads, pretty much validated what, you know ... we did know what is going on. Section level training is important so that people can take over responsibilities when not everybody is there. I really think we came out of this realizing that probably not ... minor adjustments are necessary. I mean we are talking about really minor things, not anything really greatly changed.
LTC GOTTARDI: I would agree.
DR. WRIGHT: You have made one reference back when we were talking about the drop and the assembly that put you in mind of Normandy. Were your people prepared for the normal chaos of the night drop and how long it takes you to find ... ?
LTC GOTTARDI: Well, we always drop at night, or 99 percent of the time.
MAJ WYNARSKY: And A Battery had done SOLID SHIELD, which was an unfamiliar DZ. I think whenever you go off post and you are going to an unfamiliar DZ, most people who have been here for a while (which there is not enough personnel here who have had several exposures to the division), you know, you are going to have increased difficulty.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. What I meant by the Normandy thing is not like the confusion of where you are, but how ... you read the histories where one guy here would link up and then they would five guys here.
MAJ WYNARSKY: An engineer, a couple of infantry, you know.
LTC GOTTARDI: Yeah. We found these over a relatively short distance. You know, it is not like we were wandering the countryside in Normandy.
MAJ LEVIN: Has anyone given you any indication of why they dropped you off runway?
LTC GOTTARDI: No. A lot of rumors, you know we ... the ground fire was intense; they flew right of center line to avoid the ground fire ...
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: On the distributing of your people, the combat cross loading ... that in a sense always prepares you for that confusion of having to assemble on the DZ. I mean it is not like the old World War II style, you know, your whole stick is there and if it gets screwed up ...
LTC GOTTARDI: We have done that so often that, you know, nobody is made uneasy by looking around themselves and saying, gee, there is only three of us here from the battery and the rest of these guys are from the infantry. We have been cross loading and jumping that way long enough so that it is normal. Not a psychological problem.
MAJ WYNARSKY: I think the one thing I would mention as a refocus which we are going to take in this battalion on training is, I think we will train to try to assemble more on terrain features and not as much on assembly aids. Lightning is going to come down and strike me here if I talk about Stiner Aids, but I think the fact is that there weren't many Stiner Aids available; that the people who were jumping them either were in the wrong place or not available. And we need to hone soldiers' skills on land navigation at night even more than we do now, and have soldiers think about orienting towards the terrain feature first, the assembly aid as a secondary measure. I think that everybody should take another look at that.
MAJ LEVIN: But somebody has got to land with the assembly aid to put it where it is supposed to be.
MAJ WYNARSKY: That's right.
LTC GOTTARDI: Exactly.
MAJ WYNARSKY: And people knowing where they are at relative to where they are supposed to be and picking terrain features, artificial or man-made, as assembly aids is wiser than something which may or may not get there. I think that is one of the larger lessons learned as far as assembly at the DZ.
DR. WRIGHT: Had you been involved in the CAPEX [capabilities exercise] during the Soviet visit [my Minister of Defense GEN Dmitry Yazov in October 1989]?
LTC GOTTARDI: No.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., because I was just wondering on the package there and what went down that way. If that had had any ... if there was any flavor of that that went into this rehearsal.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Are you referring to the fact that some of the material was damaged ...
DR. WRIGHT: No. I was just ... in particular, I had watched that and when you were talking about how the howitzers were rigged for drop, that was the impression I had of how those howitzers went in last fall with the ammo right on them and that packaging done up.
MAJ WYNARSKY: Right. That's a fine tuning item. Normally howitzers are balanced. The howitzer is light enough that it requires ballast ammunition to make the weight required anyway. So, the ammunition and some of the section equipment normally is there. What we have done is taken equipment which normally goes into the objective area on the HMMWV and put that with the howitzer so that it is complete. Previously, I think, probably about, what, sixty percent of the equipment was all on the howitzer platform. What we have done is take that other forty percent and moved it on to the howitzer gun platform.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything else you can think of?
LTC GOTTARDI: Uh-uh.
DR. WRIGHT: Appreciate your time then and I will stay in touch, sir.
[END OF INTERVIEW]