DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CARL W. STINER
Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps and
Joint Task Force South
Interviews conducted 2, 7, and 27 March and 11 June 1990 in the Headquarters of XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr.
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 24
DR. WRIGHT: This is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted on 2 March 1990 in the Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The interviewing official is Dr. [Robert K.] Wright, [Jr.], the XVIII Airborne Corps Historian. And sir, if I could, if I could get you to give me your name, rank, and serial number.
LTG STINER: Lieutenant General Carl W. Stiner, ***-**-****.
DR. WRIGHT: And you are the Commander, XVIII Airborne Corps.
LTG STINER: That is correct.
DR. WRIGHT: And you were the Joint Task Force SOUTH commander in Panama?
LTG STINER: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Could you briefly explain to me how long you have been in command of XVIII [Airborne] Corps, sir?
LTG STINER: It will be two years this October.
DR. WRIGHT: And how long have you been looking at the Panama contingency?
LTG STINER: Pretty much the whole time. This goes back to May of 1988 when the Joint Chiefs of Staff designated XVIII Airborne Corps as the contingency joint task force headquarters for contingency planning and contingency operations in CINCSOUTH's [Commander in Chief, US Southern Command] area of responsibility. We didn't pay too much attention to it in the early stages, except to know that we had that responsibility, because we had a full plate of our own training activities.
But as things began to evolve, it began to move from the back burner to the front. And I guess what really got us going planning operations was about the time General [Maxwell] Thurman got ready to go to SOUTHCOM ... . Now let me back up, prior to GEN Thurman becoming CINCSOUTH, I made a trip into Panama to brief CINCSOUTH.
DR. WRIGHT: Who was CINCSOUTH; General Woerner at that time?
LTG STINER: That is correct. I had even gone down before then, but that was in the capacity of commander of JSOC, to brief General [John] Galvin as to what we could do for him from the JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, standpoint. But I had gone to Panama and briefed GEN Woerner on the XVIII Airborne Corps as a contingency corps, and how we could react to his needs, should the need arise. This was more or less an educational-type visit, to educate him and his staff on what the Corps had in it and how we did crisis action planning and response to contingency operations. We did not really get deeply involved in planning until about the time GEN Thurman was designated to become CINCSOUTH. A plan existed that was called BLUE SPOON. We had reviewed that plan because there was an effort underway to exercise that plan; and that was to be done in Panama. But it did not work out because there was no way that it could be exercised to the extent that the CinC wanted without the risk of compromise. So we had proposed that that be done as a CPX [command post exercise] at some place here in the United States, and I believe that we had named Fort Riley, Kansas, as a possible location because it would be central, and easier--less expensive--for the units involved to get there. As events transpired in Panama and began to heat up, that CPX--FTX [field training exercise] or CPX--never materialized. Then the elections took place in May 1989, [Operation] NIMROD DANCER was executed where three reinforcing battalions--from the 7th [Infantry] Division, the 4th [Battalion] of the 6th Infantry from Fort Polk [5th Infantry Division], and the Marines--were sent in. That did not produce the desired results. So we were watching all this closely as it took place.
The situation escalated after the election process, when Noriega declared the elections null and void. We began to look at the OPPLAN [Operations Plan] very hard. We were not satisfied with the existing plan because it just didn't fit the situation. It called for a phased build-up of forces that would take eight to ten days.
DR. WRIGHT: Primarily by sealift, sir?
LTG STINER: Primarily by sealift. It involved a Marine amphibious force that was to be brought out of Camp Pendleton, California; a Marine air alert battalion; and other forces. Sealift and strat[egic] air[lift] were to be used. Overall the total buildup was to take about eight to ten days. And that, too, was not in keeping with our philosophy for contingency operations: which has always been overwhelming combat power: to try to bring about a decisive victory in the shortest amount of time and on terms most favorable to the United States.
We came up with our own concept for a contingency plan and were working it in the detail that was necessary.
DR. WRIGHT: And this was being done by [the Corps'] G-3 Plans [Division]?
LTG STINER: Yes. It was a coordinated effort with all of our planners here at G-2, G-3, G-4. Our normal planners that we use for this kind of planning at XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters. Pretty much [a] unilateral effort at this point.
DR. WRIGHT: This was at your initiative, then, sir? That you just thought that we needed to ...
LTG STINER: Yes. Since we had responsibility I thought that we needed another plan. There was another thing that drove us to this also. It was obvious that there were opportunities for special operations forces that, if integrated properly into the conventional effort, would be a significant force multiplier. And perhaps it could be done as a surgical operation, and brought to terms quicker, with less damage and casualties on both sides.
DR. WRIGHT: And this--the minimizing of collateral damage and civilian casualties--is something that you have become sensitive to from your special ops [operations] background?
LTG STINER: Well, in part, but one of the driving factors here was that about seventy percent of the people had voted for the Endara government, the democratic government, and here it is that you've got to go in and correct a situation of oppression--where the majority of people want democracy. So that translates, in my judgement, to a requirement to go for the head of the snake at the same time you go for his power base: i.e., his armed forces. That was the primary reason in why we believed that special operations should play a key role in this from the beginning.
We felt that psychological operations would be a very important factor in this overall outcome and should be integrated along with electronic warfare to the maximum extent possible with the appropriate themes. To control the television stations, to control the radio stations--win the hearts and minds of the people, influence the people, while we were in the process of contingency operations.
So the guidance that I gave the staff was: to try to put together a plan where we would strike quickly; it would be a surgical operation; we would do it at night; and we would integrate the capability of all these forces to assure a quick outcome with minimum casualties.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, why did you decide nighttime, sir?
LTG STINER: I decided nighttime because I felt that we would have the greatest advantage of bringing it to a head very quickly if we went after the right targets. That was one reason. Second, because I'm very confident in our ability to fight at night. And third, I would say, is that we "own the night" with all of our night vision capability, and therefore we should take advantage of it. Another reason was [that] most of the people would be in their homes at night.
DR. WRIGHT: Therefore, again minimizing the civilian [casualties]?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: As you start this planning process going, about when is this? July, August 89.
LTG STINER: This is about the June or July time frame. Then the next event that gave me a little charge on this was when the Chief of Staff of the Army [General Carl Vuono] called me one day--he asked me if I had talked to GEN Thurman. This was before the announcement had been made about GEN Thurman. And I told him that we had [had] a couple of conversations. And he said "I want you to talk to him." Then about a week later GEN Thurman got in touch with me and said [that] you have probably heard that I'm going to SOUTHCOM and even though there is a joint task force headquarters that is part of SOUTHCOM, ...
DR. WRIGHT: This is Joint Task Force PANAMA?
LTG STINER: No. He had his own little joint planning cell down there like most CinCs that also has the responsibility for conducting contingency operations. They're dual-hatted. But he said "you're my JTF; I'm going to hold you responsible and I will turn everything over to you. And I hold you responsible for doing the whole thing." And he said that we need to sit down and talk. I said "I'm ready; I've got a concept that I'd like to brief you on. You can come to [Fort] Bragg or I will come to your location. I want to brief you." And he said "fine."
We had been working with JSOC on this. He came to Bragg [when] I could not be here--I had to go somewhere else. He came to JSOC to get a briefing on their part because he had also given them a couple of surgical-type operations, operational requirements, that I knew little about at that time. But I sent, since I could not be here, I sent, LTC Tim McMahon [Chief of G-3 Plans Division], and [Major] General [William] Roosma [Deputy Corps Commander] to sit in and give him a general concept briefing on our plan.
He liked what he saw, and told us to continue to plan. Shortly thereafter we went to Panama. I took the planners down there and we gave him a more detailed briefing. He approved our concept and told us to continue to plan. For that particular briefing I brought the commanders of the in-place forces, i.e., the units in Panama, in on this.
DR. WRIGHT: This is primarily COL [Michael G.] Snell of the 193d [Infantry] Brigade and ...?
LTG STINER: The Navy component commander ...
DR. WRIGHT: [Major] General [Marc A.] Cisneros ...
LTG STINER: General Cisneros, because he was to become my deputy.
It was at that meeting in Panama that we had a plan that we laid out, that would pull together our Joint Task Force Headquarters, and which would integrate Marc Cisneros' [United States Army South] people into this Joint Task Force Headquarters. During that visit we took a look at what they had in the way of a command and control facility and came up with a plan on how we could expand that for controlling tactical operations.
We continued to plan. Events there began to escalate. I augmented that staff down there with my own people so that it would be operational twenty-four hours a day. I took five of the best majors and lieutenant colonels out of this headquarters, fully adept at intelligence and operations, and two SATCOM [satellite communications] radios and put them down there in order that we could monitor the situation. This was before the 3 October  coup.
We did not want to be surprised by anything that could happen down there. There had been some indications of a coup, but nothing concrete at that particular time. They were there when the 3 October coup took place. We all know the reasons that the United States did not get involved in the 3 October coup. It was primarily because the leaders of the coup did not coordinate in advance, and would not agree to the terms that had been put forth by SOUTHCOM on turning over [General Manuel Antonio] Noriega, should they be able to capture him in the process.
During that coup attempt we learned a lot about how they would react: which units were loyal, and what their capability was to react. That helped us to refine our targeting process. We continued to refine our plan. And that, and our improved ability (which was mainly being run by JSOC and SOUTHCOM) to track Noriega--up until that time we were only about fifty percent effective in tracking where he was--caused us to come up with those twenty-seven targets that should be attacked at H-Hour in order to ensure success in the shortest possible time.
I would like to make clear, here, that there was never any intention of coming up with a plan for "invading" Panama. The direction from GEN Thurman and Washington was to come up with a sound contingency plan that can be placed on the shelf in Washington so that we would have one should the threat escalate to the point where U.S. lives or property were at stake. We were to continue to rehearse this plan so that it could be implemented on short notice and very efficiently.
After the 3 October coup, we revised this plan appropriately and then we briefed it back up the tape. There were three briefing sessions involved. The first was to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and to the Chief [of Staff of the Army]; they wanted a briefing on this since it was predominantly Army forces involved in this.
DR. WRIGHT: This would have been GEN Vuono, Chief, and ...
LTG STINER: GEN RisCassi, the Vice Chief. Their comments were that it is complicated and a sophisticated plan, but since "you indicate that it can be done, we will support you. Let us know what you need, and do the rehearsals that are necessary."
The next briefing took place on the 25th of October --a Sunday afternoon--to GEN [Colin] Powell [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] and the Crisis Action Staff in the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. GEN Powell approved the plan and said [that] now we should brief the complete Joint Chiefs as a collective body.
We did that the next Thursday afternoon. The Joint Chiefs approved and pledged their support in every respect, and gave us the direction to conduct necessary rehearsals.
DR. WRIGHT: So now the first version of the plan we [XVIII Airborne Corps] developed is [OPPLAN] 90-1? The October revision is 90-2?
LTG STINER: I don't know. You'll have to ask [LTC] Tim McMahon that, because BLUE SPOON got folded in there, or became non-operable. And there's been some confusion because JCS has continued to use [the code name] BLUE SPOON, SOUTHCOM continued to use BLUE SPOON. The plan that we developed, we gave to SOUTHCOM. It was 90-2. Because I can't submit a joint plan directly to the JCS; it had to come through GEN Thurman. It had to be folded into his plan. And that was the process that took place.
We began rehearsals, and we also continued our planning and coordination trips into Panama. And we began those readiness enhancement actions that we had recommended as necessary. One was to preposition a platoon of tanks, [M-551] Sheridan tanks, down there, which we did a month in advance. They were to be used in a direct fire role against the Comandancia and any other critical targets that required direct fire of a heavy nature. The night before that we had prepositioned a platoon of [AH-64] Apache helicopters down there.
DR. WRIGHT: At Howard [Air Force Base]?
LTG STINER: Yes. Six Apaches. We hid them in a hangar and only flew them at night to keep from being compromised. The reason we did that was, we needed the ability to see at night and up until that point--and except for AC-130 gunships--we could really only see--about 300 to 500 meters. That's the limit to which you can see with the AN/VIS-6 night vision goggles. The AH-64 gives the capability not only to see about five miles but to be able to use the Hellfire missiles as surgical weapons.
DR. WRIGHT: With the precision [laser] designators?
LTG STINER: Yes; in a surgical mode in support of the infantry.
The long pole of the tent was how to get the 228th Aviation Battalion [1st Battalion, 228th Aviation], which was Panama's aviation unit that was in the process of being formed, up to the level of proficiency where it could do night[-time] air assaults--we had to do five of them. We wanted to complete all of them before daylight. The 228th was not at that proficiency level. They were down in strength and they were not proficient for doing night operations under night vision goggles.
So we reinforced their crews by taking [UH-60] Blackhawk crews out of Fort Bragg; by taking [UH-1H] Huey crews out of Fort Bragg; by taking CH-47D [Chinook] crews and retraining them to fly the C-Model Chinook and putting them down there; by taking door gunners out of the 82d Airborne Division; and by putting the aviation task force on a very comprehensive training program to include FARP [Forward Arming and Refueling Point] or refueling operations in the field. We set up two FARPs in the field. And that's the way we got them "up" to the level that was necessary.
We rehearsed the 82d Airborne Division here [at Fort Bragg] in November.
DR. WRIGHT: During [Operation] MARKET SQUARE, sir?
LTG STINER: No. We set up an EDRE [Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise]. It was based on this scenario but all the names were changed. None of the leaders had been briefed below battalion level. Everybody had to have a Top Secret clearance because this was classified Top Secret and then further compartmented within that, in order to do everything possible to prevent a compromise.
We set up Sicily Drop Zone like Torrijos-Tocumen Airport and flew it backwards. Same roads, same everything. We dropped the 82d on that. Troops went to their targets. Our aviation units here did all the night air assaults so that we got our timing down and so on. We had a very good rehearsal here.
DR. WRIGHT: Now that was 3d Brigade [of the 82d Airborne Division] that was the DRB [Division Ready Brigade]?
LTG STINER: The 3d Brigade rehearsed it, but I got with Major General Jim Johnson, the division commander, and told him that I didn't know whether this would ever be implemented or not, but I wanted him to include his leadership, down to battalion level from the next brigade to assume the Division Ready Brigade mission, which was the 1st Brigade. And to put them in as controllers or something so they could see every aspect of it. And he did, and it paid dividends, because it was the 1st Brigade that ended up implementing the plan.
Special Operations rehearsed on their own. JSOC [command] had turned over at that time from MG Gary Luck who had done all the planning. But I knew that [MG] Wayne Downing was going to be his replacement, so Wayne had been in on the rehearsals and I had been taking Wayne to Panama with me for these all-night planning sessions. And by that time we had been down there about five times.
DR. WRIGHT: Now that raises an issue, sir, that other people have commented on. You are a fairly high-visibility figure, going in and out of Panama. You had to clear through Panamanian customs, correct?
LTG STINER: No. We went in at night, we wore civilian clothes. I never emerged with a uniform on until the night we conducted the strike.
DR. WRIGHT: So the Panamanians never had indicators that the people were there?
LTG STINER: I made it a point not to have any association with Panamanians. They kind of suspected at one time because we got caught down there over Thanksgiving for three weeks in the "bomb scare" and GEN Thurman activated JTF SOUTH at that point, so we had to put our headquarters into operation--we were all there. I was still in civilian clothes, though, throughout all of that. I was having to run back and forth over to Quarry Heights [SOUTHCOM Headquarters] about two times a day to meet with GEN Thurman, to coordinate with him. The G-2 of the P.D.F. [Panamanian Defense Forces] sent word that he didn't really know who that fellow was, but they wanted to meet with him. That only occurred a couple of days before I deployed back here after the bomb--the alert status associated with the bomb threat--was reduced. But I don't think that they knew who we were, because we made it a point to stay in the headquarters during the day.
DR. WRIGHT: Stay in Building 95 at Fort Clayton?
LTG STINER: Stay in Building 95 during the day. We only moved out of there at night. In fact, a lot of times we slept in that building for OPSEC reasons.
DR. WRIGHT: So then there was ... because people have wondered how you get in and out of country without getting spotted by their customs people.
LTG STINER: We never went through [customs] there at the air terminals or anything. When we unloaded we were picked up. We took unmarked planes in and were met on the airfield either by helicopter or van and taken straight to Howard. We always landed after dark and went straight to [Fort] Clayton, and we always left after dark to get back. When we left we went straight to the airfield, usually in a helicopter, landed right beside the jet, got on it, and left.
DR. WRIGHT: As you were going through the process of ...
LTG STINER: Let me go back to the rehearsals. [MG] Wayne Downing had command of JSOC when he conducted his detailed rehearsals. He conducted those throughout the southern part of the United States, and spent many dollars (I don't know the exact figures, you'd have to ask them, but I understand it was up to maybe $3,000,000) building replicas of exact targets that his surgical forces would be required to hit.
We rehearsed the in-place forces in Panama through the medium of SAND FLEA exercises. These were exercises code named SAND FLEA and designed to exercise our rights under the Panama Canal Treaty. The troops never knew that the locations that they were going to in these exercises would be the actual targets that they would hit that night. And we got the Panamanians, the P.D.F., accustomed to our going, doing night air assaults on these targets and so on and so forth. That was all done well, and in such a way that everyone would be familiar with what he would be required to do that night. We had just completed those rehearsals when events escalated to the point to compell the President to make the decision. JSOC was the last one to complete its rehearsals. And in fact the 2d Ranger Battalion [2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment] which is based at Fort Lewis, Washington, had just returned to Fort Lewis on the morning of the 18th [18 December 1989] from participating in the rehearsal that JSOC had conducted when I got the call at 1900 [hours] the night of the 18th.
DR. WRIGHT: The night of the 16th?
LTG STINER: 16th, I'm sorry. That they were going to brief the President. I got a call back about an hour later that the President had made the decision to execute, and that H-Hour would be in accordance with our recommendation, forty-eight hours later. That's how long it took MAC [Military Airlift Command] to assemble all the aircraft. And that it would be at 0100 hours [local], which we had requested. I called [MG] Wayne Downing and told him, and he turned the 2d Ranger Battalion around almost immediately and brought them back to Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin to do his task organizing to get ready to go.
DR. WRIGHT: At this point, how many people within Corps Headquarters were really "in" on the plan?
LTG STINER: Probably no more than twenty-five.
DR. WRIGHT: All screened and approved by you to maintain OPSEC?
LTG STINER: Yes; right. By that time I had brought the colonel-level commanders in--COSCOM [Corps Support Command]--and their "threes" [S-3s and G-3s]. COSCOM [1st Support Command], to include the 44th Medical Brigade. Every key commander that would have a key role in this had been brought in on this.
DR. WRIGHT: Including all the folks from out at 7th I.D. [7th Infantry Division]?
LTG STINER: Including [MG] Carmen Cavezza, yes, and his ...
DR. WRIGHT: Down to his O-6 [colonel] ...
LTG STINER: Down to his O-6s.
DR. WRIGHT: 7th I.D. does not officially "belong" to the Corps except under certain contingencies. We had worked with them going down for [Operation] GOLDEN PHEASANT. Was that a positive aspect of the planning?
LTG STINER: Oh, yes. Two or three things here. First of all, when they formed the 7th and the 10th [Light Infantry Divisions], the cadre of those divisions primarily came out of the 82d [Airborne Division]. And they adopted our readiness procedures and our field operating SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] and so on. So it was very easy to operate with them.
We had also included them in a couple of major exercises, to include EDREs. So it was just like operating with the 82d to operate with the 7th Division.
DR. WRIGHT: And General Cavezza had taken command of the 7th after having been Assistant Division Commander in the 82d?
LTG STINER: Correct.
DR. WRIGHT: When you made your determination on which forces to take, sir, what kind of constraints were you operating under? Did you have a ceiling on what you could allocate for this plan?
LTG STINER: No, I didn't. There were no numbers discussed--units were discussed. But that was all in the concept that we had briefed in Washington. The numbers were strictly up to us. Now, for the purpose of assembling enough aircraft, we had to kind of frame the size of the force and the equipment that we were going to drop, in order to give MAC something to plan for. But I was not constrained.
DR. WRIGHT: So basically the task organization that we went in and executed was the task organization you had arrived at as what you thought was sufficient for the mission?
LTG STINER: Exactly. My judgement was trusted. Once we briefed this plan, and throughout the execution nobody monkeyed with it. We had clear-cut guidance all the way down, and we were trusted in making the adjustments that had to be made in the plan, based upon how the tactical situation evolved.
DR. WRIGHT: You have the planning cell here. You briefed GEN Thurman, and GEN Thurman basically turns the whole tactical side of the operation over to you?
LTG STINER: Correct.
DR. WRIGHT: And then he ... how did you work out that relationship? Do you have a previous, in your career have you worked with GEN Thurman before?
LTG STINER: It was very easy to work with GEN Thurman. We go back about fourteen years when I had [command of] a battalion in the 82d and when he had Division Artillery in the 82d, and we ran many combined arms exercises together during those days. And I was the [division] G-3 of the 82d at the same time that he had DIVARTY. And even though we haven't had too many assignments in the same organization since then, we've always had a close relationship. We know how each other thinks and we respect each other as professionals. And he trusted me and gave me clear guidance on what he expected me to do, and I certainly respected and trusted him as the CinC. And he handled the policy matters and let me run the war.
DR. WRIGHT: That strikes me just ...
LTG STINER: The nation-building aspects of this. Now, he was focusing on that. Because early on in this planning we realized that we were going to take down a nation, albeit unfriendly, and raise it back up as a democratic nation that was friendly to the United States. So he was focusing on the broader aspects of that while I was focusing on the tactical operations and how to do this.
DR. WRIGHT: It strikes me across the board that one of the things that characterizes this operation is the fact that essentially the "community" of light fighters, airborne, and special ops people really is one single community with a lot of cross-fertilization between them, and that really there were a lot of key players here that weren't strangers to each other. If I look at World War II operations on this kind of complexity level, there are enormous "glitches" that occur because people don't know each other. Would you say that's a fair evaluation of this one? Things really worked well that way?
LTG STINER: That definitely contributed to it, but there are a couple of other factors that were germane here. We had a mix of all forces here: we had mechanized infantry, we had Air Force, Navy, Special Operations, airborne infantry, we did a lot of air assaults in this although organic to light infantry. All forces were involved in this in the proper mix. We've come a long way in joint operations, where we understand each other's capabilities better and we function better as a joint team.
There were a couple other things here, though, that are very key in this. One is, once the decision was made--it was a joint planning effort from the beginning, and we got very clear guidance from the JCS.
Another very key factor is [that] we developed a Joint CEOI [Communications-Electronic Operating Instructions] and that has not been prevalent in other joint operations to the degree that it was here. It was a simplified CEOI, one that you could stick in your pocket, that put everybody on the same sheet of music as far as being able to talk to each other. And I do not know of a single instance where a commander was not able to get support or could not talk to another in a timely fashion. And that is absolutely key to the success of any joint operation.
DR. WRIGHT: As you were developing the planning process, the JCS told you could have essentially what you needed from any of the services. Who did you work with from the Navy side of the house to get the NAVFOR [Navy forces] elements that you needed?
LTG STINER: I had a Navy Component Commander who was already assigned in Panama. Rear Admiral--you'll have to check this spelling--Cochinko or whatever. I've screwed it up ever since I met him. He was my Navy Component Commander and I held him responsible for the Navy support.
DR. WRIGHT: What specifically were you looking for in terms of the Navy support?
LTG STINER: I was looking for the most effective employment of the capability that he had down there, which I thought was adequate. He had a goodly number of these fast patrol boats of all sizes, that went all the way up to sixty-five-foot boats. And they were very well trained, and had a lot of expertise in operating in that area. They knew the Panama Canal, they knew the surrounding waters all around Panama, they knew how to deal with the Panama Canal Commission, the people that ran the locks. How to clear them, how to protect them, and how to deal with the ships' captains that were in the locks. And the ports that were there. And to protect the approaches to Howard Air Force Base. They were very adept at getting our SEALs in for us. So with the capability that he had in his special operating units and his patrol boats, I figured that was sufficient. And he knew how to put that together.
DR. WRIGHT: So as you assigned his responsibilities, it was primarily related to the Canal, the two ports, and then protecting the Bridge of the Americas--the piers to the Bridge of the Americas?
LTG STINER: Yes, and sealing off Flamenco Island, and preventing the escape of Noriega and his henchmen by some of the boats that he had. The P.D.F. navy had a couple of boats that were fast and were armed and we were concerned about that. And then protecting the approaches to Howard Air Force Base from the sea.
DR. WRIGHT: Similarly, the MARFOR [Marine Forces]. Essentially you have the MARFOR rotation down there out of 2d MARDIV [Marine Division] at [Camp] Lejeune. Who's your point of contact there, the division commander?
LTG STINER: No, the Marine colonel that was the MARFOR commander in Panama. The commander of Task Force SEMPER FI is the one that I worked with there.
DR. WRIGHT: And in assigning them their responsibilities, you took some of their LAVs [LAV-25s; light armored vehicles mounting 25-mm. automatic cannon] to work on the Comandancia targeting and then gave them what? Pushing out to the west?
LTG STINER: I gave them a battalion of engineers, Army engineers, and a company of MPs [Military Police]. And he was assigned responsibility for protecting Howard Air Force Base and taking down a couple of key targets to the west. And for blocking any reinforcement activities from the west.
DR. WRIGHT: And were you particularly concerned about the vulnerability of Howard to attack from the west--the jungle and mountains come right up on it?
LTG STINER: We were more concerned about an indirect fire attack on Howard than anything else. Mortars from the ridge line that dominates it from the northwest, and then the mortars that were in the vicinity of Tinajitas--the [French-made] 120[-mm.] mortars that could reach it. And for that reason we had positioned two [AN/TP]Q-36 [counter-battery] radars in the vicinity of Howard, separated widely enough apart so they could give us an accurate location (grid coordinates) on any mortars that fired at Howard.
DR. WRIGHT: And this was the MARFOR commander [that] had particular responsibility for watching that?
LTG STINER: Correct.
DR. WRIGHT: AFFOR [Air Force Forces]. Who did you work with, since that was the largest of the other service components?
LTG STINER: I had an AFFOR commander who was a brigadier general--Rob Chernow (check that spelling too)--who was down there. And I had done most of this coordinating with him, but also the 12th Air Force commander, LTG Peter Kemp, was designated the overall AFFOR [commander] directly under GEN Thurman. And I had worked very closely with him, and he had provided us some planners here at Fort Bragg that had been working with us on that.
DR. WRIGHT: And his headquarters is in Texas, sir?
LTG STINER: Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas.
DR. WRIGHT: And as you develop your list of aircraft types that you want, in Panama we have a fairly limited capability. We had, what, OA-37 [Dragonflies] aircraft ...
LTG STINER: We had a squadron of OA-37s; we had four A-7s [Corsair IIs]; there were four F-15s [Eagles] that had been sent in there on a drug [interdiction] mission but they were based there and available if we had to use them; we had two AC-130 [Spectre] gunships--the A Models without the 105[-mm.] cannons that were there on the ground; and six C-130s [Hercules] that were there on a rotational basis.
DR. WRIGHT: To provide intratheater lift?
LTG STINER: Yes. Now that was there initially. And we made a deliberate decision not to preposition any more so as not to run the risk of compromise prior to H-Hour.
DR. WRIGHT: But you did have significant other assets that you had programmed?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: I'm particularly interested here in how, given the collateral damage issues, you chose from your Air Force weapons systems which ones you wanted to ask for.
LTG STINER: We wanted more AC-130s. In fact, we needed a total of nine. They were not prepositioned in advance. They are air refuelable and were launched in sufficient time from Hurlburt Field [Florida] so as to arrive in the objective area fully loaded with ordnance and fuel--they hit tankers on the way in--to be available.
DR. WRIGHT: And then you just counted on them orbiting and staying on station?
LTG STINER: We didn't keep all of them on station. We put four on station immediately and put the rest of them on the ground, and phased them through the process to rearm/refuel process so we could keep four on station ...
[End of Tape 1, Side 1]
DR. WRIGHT: Alright, resuming with Side 2. If you would, sir ...
LTG STINER: And then we brought that down to two on station twenty-four hours a day after the first four days. And we kept it two on-station because our units were still operating within the city as well as the countryside. We still had all the other P.D.F. units to take down throughout the entire country. We kept it that way for at least a week, or it may have been up to two weeks by the time we finally brought it down to one--when we were able to begin to send some of them back home.
DR. WRIGHT: And you opted [for] the [AC-]130 as the more precise platform than say an F-16 [Falcon] or bringing in additional A-7s?
LTG STINER: Yes, exactly. For surgical fires.
DR. WRIGHT: Then we had some EC-130 [COMPASS CALL and VOLANT SOLO] aircraft that were also available?
LTG STINER: We used two. They joined in the initial airflow that night. And we ... that was a part of the plan, part of our electronic warfare plan, to suppress their military communications as well as other strategic communications that they had.
DR. WRIGHT: After the initial attack, then that was a requirement that basically went away, once we had crippled their communications?
LTG STINER: That is correct. In the initial assault we used two EF-111s [Ravens] and two EC-130s for jamming.
DR. WRIGHT: We also had available some F-117As [Stealth Fighters].
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: How was the decision arrived at to incorporate those? Was that an Air Force initiative or did you ask for them?
LTG STINER: It was both. It was a recommendation of the Air Force based upon the guidance that I had given the air component commander (in this case, it was LTG Kemp).
Rio Hato turned out to be a tough target. The 6th [Expeditionary Mechanized] and 7th ["Macho de Monte" Infantry] Companies were there as well as an NCO [noncommissioned officer] school and a cadet school. There were a lot of people there. And these 6th and 7th Companies demonstrated in the 3 October coup that they probably had the highest degree of loyalty and readiness of any that we saw react to that. We had also gotten word that there was a children's hospital located right there within where they were garrisoned.
Considering the need to keep casualties to a minimum, reminding ourselves that seventy percent even of the P.D.F. had voted for Endara and probably would not want to die for Noriega, the last thing we wanted was a Beirut Barracks situation on our hands. But we had to drop on that airfield, very close to those barracks. There was no other alternative.
We needed some system that would act to stun them without having to bomb the barracks direct. And I asked the Air Force for a recommendation of a system--weapons system, platform and weapons--that would give us the maximum shock effect but with an acceptable degree of assurance of not hitting those barracks. And I put that in the ninety-five percentile or above category. The Air Force came back and said that the best system that we've got is the F-117 with the 2,000-pound bombs. And the reason ...
DR. WRIGHT: The low-drag bombs ...
LTG STINER: No.
DR. WRIGHT: ... the high-drag bombs, rather?
LTG STINER: Yes. The reason for recommending the 2,000-pounder over the 500[-pounder] is because of the accuracy it has because of higher technology in the guidance fins. Whereas the 500-pounder does not have that. So the Air Force came back with that. They sent a squadron commander and his operations officer to see me--I was in Panama at that particular time--and he laid out for me the accuracy data of I believe it was eighty-three 2,000-pound bombs that had been dropped versus something like a couple of hundred or maybe 250 of the 500-pound bombs. It was very clear to me that the 2,000-pound had the best record, and so that's what we elected to go with. And the delayed fuse mode so that it would go into the ground, and that would shield a great majority of the blast, but it would throw up a lot of dirt and debris, and create the kind of commotion and diversion that we wanted.
DR. WRIGHT: And from the perspective of your airlift, the Rangers went in with C-130s ...
LTG STINER: At Rio Hato.
DR. WRIGHT: And the drop at Torrijos-Tocumen was done with the [C-] 141s [Starlifter]?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: MAC recommendation, or was there some preference on your part as to which platform you wanted to use in which attack?
LTG STINER: That was a combination. At Rio Hato [MG] Wayne Downing preferred to go with C-130s for the Rangers, and that was fine with MAC. Because they had to use a combination and they like to split them--one kind [of airplane] on one drop zone, and one kind on the other drop zone. Torrijos-Tocumen was more ideally suited for the [C-]141s because the drop zone was longer and we had to put more combat power on Torrijos-Tocumen. The reason for taking Torrijos-Tocumen was [that] we needed another base upon which we could build up combat power very rapidly. The only other base we had was Howard, and there was the possibility that it could be interdicted.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of obtaining airborne command and control, the ABCCC, that you put [Major] General Roosma on, there were a couple of different options that could have been used--in what kind of aircraft and how to configure it. How did we arrive at the decision to use the C-130?
LTG STINER: Based on my experience in using both of them, and even though the ABCCC is Vietnam-vintage technology, it is far more capable than the JACKPOT. You just cannot monitor and communicate over the number of nets that you need to with the JACKPOT.
DR. WRIGHT: One other question, then, on the Air Force relationship. MAC is a big player, and you obviously had been coordinating heavily with them. To what extent did you coordinate with TAC [Tactical Air Command], or was this a lesser priority in the Air Force's point of view?
LTG STINER: No. My coordination with TAC was through General Kemp. He is a TAC ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... commander ...
LTG STINER: ... 12th Air Force commander.
DR. WRIGHT: And then SAC [Strategic Air Command], I guess, has to get into the play because of the tankers?
LTG STINER: Yes, but TAC ... it is not necessary for me to coordinate with SAC, the TAC and MAC does that. But General Kempf as my air component commander orchestrated all that.
DR. WRIGHT: The only, I guess final, phase (unless you have something else to add) in this planning process interview, sir, would be to get you to give me a little bit of your philosophy on how you picked the individual targets and how you developed the plan. It appears to me that it was essentially a concentric circles type of tactical plan. Is that correct?
LTG STINER: Yes. Well, in a way. The main criterion that we used was--dates back to the 3 October coup. We watched the units that influenced that [counterattack]--what they did. And then we took a look at the other units that could influence the Panama Canal and that could threaten the safety of the US civilians there (we had almost 15,000 US civilians that we had to protect). And then we had to "get" Noriega, neutralize the Panamanian command and control; we had to control the minds of the people, so we had to take or override or disable certain radio and TV stations. So that dictated what the target list would be.
We couldn't take on the whole country. We wanted to go in with a surgical strike on multiple targets simultaneously with overwhelming combat power and let that send a signal to the rest of the country. And we felt that it would.
DR. WRIGHT: As you communicate the plan down to the major subordinate commanders, do you replicate the pattern of giving them their area and telling them what geographical area they've got, what their targets are, and giving them maximum independence at developing [their subordinate attack plans], or did you try to suggest to them certain ways you wanted certain targets taken out?
LTG STINER: For the initial assault, I assigned targets to them, but I gave them areas of responsibility and told them to develop a plan and brief me back on it. And they did that.
DR. WRIGHT: How did that brief-back process work from your point of view?
LTG STINER: It worked great! What we would do, and by that time I had the planners and the commanders in Panama doing the same thing. During about the last three iterations of these planning excursions that we went on in Panama, I took the commanders with me, so we briefed each other back on plans. They were briefing me and they were briefing GEN Thurman. So we knew each other's plans. We would take our staffs along too--our planners--and as a part of each session, we would identify "glitches" and work solutions to those.
DR. WRIGHT: Deconflict?
LTG STINER: Deconflict, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: One of the other aspects that strikes me of taking that kind of approach is that it then allows adjacent unit commanders not to be concerned when they hear firing break out someplace in their rear.
LTG STINER: Exactly. Plus, it's our procedure also that units exchange liaison officers. Liaison officers were exchanged at every level to keep respective commanders informed. So it was very easy for one commander to coordinate with another commander by this Joint CEOI and liaison officers.
DR. WRIGHT: And that was something that your own experience as you've come up through your career ladder--is something that just hit you as critical?
LTG STINER: It's normal practice for any kind of operations--just good practice--that you exchange liaison officers. But I learned in the special operations business (the two-and-a-half years that I had JSOC) that good, competent liaison officers are absolutely key in the integration of special operations and conventional operations.
DR. WRIGHT: Is there anything else about that planning process that comes to your mind, sir?
LTG STINER: I can't think of anything right now.
DR. WRIGHT: Just the one other question would be: to what extent did you have to look over your shoulder at the possibility of forces from a third nation trying to intervene, or had you pretty much discounted that?
LTG STINER: Well, we had done intelligence studies and assessments on that. Our conclusion was that we didn't have to worry about the threat from other ground forces in the region. And the likelihood of being attacked, our air column, by Cuba was pretty small. But nevertheless to protect the column we gave CINCLANT [Commander in Chief, Atlantic] responsibility. He was a supporting CinC in that regard. He was responsible for Search and Rescue over the Gulf and the ocean, and we gave him responsibility for that. He turned around and tasked the Tactical Air Command as one of his components. The Tactical Air Command came up with a plan, and that involved an AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] aircraft and twelve F-15s that provided column cover as we went down by Cuba. But of course we had planned to use tactics which would avoid detection to the maximum extent, and when we came through around the Yucatan Peninsula, we dropped down to a very low level and went under Cuba's radar coverage.
DR. WRIGHT: And then popped back up to make the drop?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: If there's nothing else, then, sir, I thank you at this time. And we'll continue with a second interview that looks at the D-Day execution phase.
LTG STINER: O.K. Great.
DR. WRIGHT: All the way, sir.
LTG STINER: O.K. Thank you; appreciate it.
[End of Tape 1]
DR. WRIGHT: This is a resumption of the [Operation] JUST CAUSE interview being conducted with LTG [Carl W.] Stiner. Today's date is 7 March 1990 and the interview is being conducted by Dr. [Robert K.] Wright, [Jr.], in the Headquarters of XVIII Airborne Corps.
Sir, if I could get you to pick up with, again, on the 16th of December with the shooting incident and when you get the "go" message from Washington saying stand-by.
LTG STINER: On the 16th of December in Panama was when 1LT [Robert] Paz and three others were headed out for dinner and were stopped at a P.D.F. roadblock in the vicinity of La Comandancia. The P.D.F. was trying to pull them out of the car. They became fearful for their lives and tried to escape. They sped away in their car and the P.D.F. began shooting and Lieutenant Paz was killed.
There was another [US] Navy lieutenant and his wife that witnessed this shooting. They were also taken hostage and taken to another building somewhere in town. He was brutally beaten and she was threatened sexually and was put into a leaning position against a wall where she was made to stand until she collapsed on the floor.
The next day two military policemen at Torrijos-Tocumen Airfield were detained by the P.D.F. They were cuffed about--beaten a little--and their weapons were taken away from them. These incidents, combined with intelligence which indicated that the threat was increasing to American lives there caused the President to make the decision to implement the plan.
DR. WRIGHT: And he, General Noriega, had declared war on the United States on the 15th?
LTG STINER: Yes. He had done that on the 15th when he had made the very provocative speech. All indicators were that the situation was escalating and the threat to the security of US lives was increasing. These conditions prompted the President to make the decision.
I got a call at 1730 [hours] Sunday evening (which was the 17th) that the JCS had had a short meeting in Washington and were heading over to brief the President, to recommend that the plan be executed. At that time I said "we're ready to go," but my request is, since all of this has happened and since there's nothing that we can do about it, that the recommendation be made to the President that we delay H-Hour for the forty-eight hours that allows us to pull the air package together, and that we go with the total force--not piecemeal--we go in to do it right. That call to me came from LTG Tom Kelly [Director of Operations J-3, Joint Chiefs of Staff]. I got a call back at 1900 [hours] that the President had approved implementation of the plan and that H-Hour was in accordance with my request, that it was at 0100 on the morning of the 20th. He asked that I also notify JSOC and emphasized that this had to be kept very close-hold. I did call MG Wayne Downing and told him.
There were several Christmas parties taking place that night, and the Christmas Cantata was taking place at the [Fort Bragg Main Post] Chapel. So I elected not to tell anybody else and to convey a business-as-usual approach, and to go to the Christmas party that I had to go to. And to notify the key staff members there--the key members of the advance party--to meet me in Corps Headquarters at 9:30 that night (it was a Sunday night). By that time the Cantata would have been over so I could pull the people in that were there.
DR. WRIGHT: Who was in that group, sir, that you pulled in?
LTG STINER: The Deputy [Commanding General, MG William A. Roosma], the Chief [of Staff, BG Edson E. Scholes], the principal staff, the select group of planners that had been in on this, and the commanders of each of the major units here at Fort Bragg that were involved in this operation. As well as the JSOC commander, his [G-]3, and the principal commanders of [the 1st] SOCOM [Special Operations Command] that played a role, such as the 4th PSYOPS [Psychological Operations] Group commander and the 96th Civil Affairs [Battalion] commander. We met up in our plans area on the third floor of Corps Headquarters.
DR. WRIGHT: In the War Room, sir?
LTG STINER: Yes, in the War Room. I briefed them on the situation [and] told them that we had plenty of time to execute the plan, but that OPSEC [Operations Security] was paramount. And a major challenge right off was to come up with a cover story, since we were going into the half-day [holiday] schedule, come the next day. If we worked the husbands, the wives were going to want to know what was going on. So we decided to come up with a cover story of an EDRE [Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise], and to play it exactly that way.
We also decided that we should launch out early the next morning about twelve people of our ADVON [advance party], which was to be led by the Chief of Staff. They were to get down there and get the operations center fully operational, staffed up, prepared to receive the rest of us, and prepared to fulfill its role in executing the operation. The next morning at about 0900 General Scholes departed with that group.
I elected to remain back here because there were some things that had to be coordinated in final--such as the EDRE, when the 82d [Airborne Division] would start rigging, and so on. I wanted to get all of this together before I went down. I launched out of here about 1530 that afternoon so as to arrive there after dark.
DR. WRIGHT: Also in a C-20, sir?
LTG STINER: Also in a C-20. We all wore civilian clothes, as we had been wearing when we were going down on the planning iterations.
DR. WRIGHT: Now who, sir, went with you on your aircraft?
LTG STINER: I don't remember all of the exact people, but I took my staff principals from the Corps Battle Staff.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you take [Brigadier] General [Joseph W.] Kinzer, [Deputy Commanding General (Operations)] down with you from the 82d [Airborne Division]?
LTG STINER: I took Joe Kinzer. And I believe BG Bob Ord from the 7th [Infantry] Division. Bob had gone down with us on several planning trips. I wanted them along so we could talk on the way down.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you bring any enlisted personnel down with you, sir?
LTG STINER: Yes. We had enough operations NCOs [noncommissioned officers] and SATCOM operators to do the job until we could get through the initial stages of the operation.
DR. WRIGHT: About what time do you land at Howard [Air Force Base], sir?
LTG STINER: About 1900 or 1930, just after dark.
DR. WRIGHT: And this is on the 18th?
LTG STINER: On the 18th.
DR. WRIGHT: So you have had a chance to witness the EDRE N-Hour sequence start ...
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And you had originally planned for a 1200 N-Hour, and then moved it up?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: What was the thinking behind moving it up?
LTG STINER: It was to give the 82d a little more time to rig because there was a forecast of bad weather heading this way and we wanted to get as far ahead in the rigging sequence as we could.
DR. WRIGHT: And the plan was to have MAC bring the heavy-drop aircraft ...
LTG STINER: The plan--and that's one of the reasons why I stayed back here--was to work the airflow plan. Because it would have given us an OPSEC problem to try to put all forty-three C-141s on the ground at Pope [Air Force Base] at the same time. So we came up with a plan whereby we would bring in the heavy-drop and CDS [container delivery system] birds and load them, and launch them to Charleston [Air Force Base]. They would be brought in by non-airdrop qualified crews; would go to Charleston where the airdrop qualified crews were in [crew] rest and were receiving their briefings, and the planes would be topped off on fuel, and they would launch from there. At the required time, the twenty personnel birds would come into Pope, pick up the jumpers, and launch. The birds at Charleston would join the en route in order to make the TOT [time on target].
DR. WRIGHT: So this, again, would leave a minimum signature of aircraft on the ground, although a higher than average flow in and out of Pope?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did that concern you--that somebody might be watching Pope and notice the increase in activity, or ... ?
LTG STINER: That's always a concern, but we've had several exercises where we had sixteen to eighteen C-141s involved. We also run EDREs so frequently that the folks around here have become accustomed to us running EDREs. What was unusual about this one was that we were running it during the holidays, but the word that we put out was that as we approached the end of the calendar year, and as MAC had recovered its crews for the holiday season, MAC had discovered that there was a large amount of JAT [joint airborne training] flying hours available, and was willing if we were, to take advantage of these hours for joint readiness training.
DR. WRIGHT: As you assess it, do you feel that pretty much the EDRE cover worked in terms of the folks here--that everybody ...
LTG STINER: Yes, I do. Another thing happened that was to our advantage, and that was the ice storm. It kind of hit in piecemeal fashion, but it gave us a good excuse to close the post. By that time we had already moved the troops into the marshaling area. All of this worked out rather well.
DR. WRIGHT: No evidence whatsoever of any compromise from this end, in the sense of troops trying to make phone calls, the wives not harassing anybody?
LTG STINER: No, not to our knowledge.
DR. WRIGHT: Handled strictly as a business-as-usual "of course it's the holidays, so therefore they must do it." A lot of grousing ... did you get reports from your commanders that it was going well because the troops were grousing about having their half-day schedules messed up for just another training exercise?
LTG STINER: The troops didn't really complain, because we didn't give them that much time to complain. When we called this EDRE we moved them straight into the marshalling area, and we called it during duty hours (about 10 o'clock in the morning). As soon as we got them in the marshalling area, we told them "this is real-world." That got their attention in a hurry, and everybody got very serious about the mission ahead. So the biggest problem that we had was for those others that surmised that there was something real-world going on and they weren't going to get to go. Everybody wanted to go.
DR. WRIGHT: Which does come to one issue--to what extent were you concerned about keeping the folks that didn't get to go on this one feeling mission-oriented about the possibility of other things going down? Because, as it turns out, we have a second alert, I guess, during the course of this operation?
LTG STINER: Yes. We went to great lengths to do that. And we did it through General Roosma who was left back here, and the chain of command. We continued contingency planning--or began to go into a refinement phase of contingency planning--for the possibility of another contingency while this one was going on. That pretty well kept people beneficially occupied.
DR. WRIGHT: The Corps traditionally tries to be capable of executing two contingencies simultaneously?
LTG STINER: Our position is that we can do one well, and we can do a second one concurrently, provided it's a smaller one. Now it strains us to do that because you're just not staffed to be fighting two contingencies in two different countries, albeit in the same theater.
DR. WRIGHT: But there was enough here so that we could have initiated the second operation, and then drawn on JCS for additional resource?
LTG STINER: Well, we would have taken them out of our hide throughout the corps. I would have pulled them in from the other divisions that would have not been involved in the second contingency to beef up the staff to the point it needed to be.
DR. WRIGHT: We have the problem with the weather closing down. You were already down in Panama by the time the front hits. Are they keeping you up to date on that situation?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And is that a concern, then, for you?
LTG STINER: It was a serious concern. We were watching that very carefully. I knew that if we could get the heavy-drop off the ground--and it was already at Charleston--and get off at least ten personnel birds in one lift, we would be in good shape to do the majority of the critical tasks that we absolutely had to do that night. Realizing that the remaining ten birds would most likely be coming in in piecemeal fashion, I knew that the impact of that would most likely be delaying at least two of the air assaults until after daylight.
DR. WRIGHT: The C-130s that carried the Rangers to Rio Hato staged out of which airfield, sir?
LTG STINER: They staged out of Fort Benning, Georgia--Lawson Army Airfield.
DR. WRIGHT: So they were safely out of the bad weather envelope?
LTG STINER: Yes. We were lifting from four airfields that night: from Pope, from Hunter [Army Airfield], from Benning, and Hurlburt Field, [Florida]. And the latter three were safe from the ice storm.
DR. WRIGHT: As the airflow starts down, you have been in the EOC at Building 95, Fort Clayton?
LTG STINER: That's right.
DR. WRIGHT: When did we activate the EOC down there? I guess General Scholes when he got down started it?
LTG STINER: He did not declare it officially activated at that point. He got everything all set up. It was declared officially activated when the forces launched from here. We didn't want to create an unusual or out of ordinary signature. In fact we all wore civilian clothes down there until about 2000 hours on the night of the 19th.
DR. WRIGHT: By that point have you brought down additional personnel from Corps Headquarters?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: They come down, what, on the 19th, sir, during the day?
LTG STINER: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: In aircraft increments?
LTG STINER: I think there was only one C-141 scheduled in. We put a few more staff personnel from the corps on it. And that's all we brought in, because we did not want to increase the signature. Anybody else or anything else that we would need was delayed until after H-Hour. And they began to come in with COSCOM [1st Support Command] ...
DR. WRIGHT: Programmed in to airland at Howard?
LTG STINER: To airland at Howard, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: [Major] General [Marc] Cisneros is there with you in Building 95 as you get ready?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: At what point, now, do you start tracking the airflow as they come down?
LTG STINER: From the minute they were ready to load. We were tracking it as the heavy-drop birds would load and move to Charleston. We knew the exact status of every bird and how many loads were ready and waiting.
DR. WRIGHT: So that process goes relatively smoothly?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So you're feeling good at that point that things are on track. Are you concerned for that sort of "fog of war" factor, the what ... where is it going to happen when things start to go wrong? Is that the thinking [that] you're using, or are you assuming that we've rehearsed this enough--we've got it pretty well down?
LTG STINER: I was very comfortable with it--if we could get off the airplanes as we had scheduled. I was very comfortable with the plan.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. The airflow starts down; you've got General Roosma airborne in the ABCCC; and you're on the ground, and I guess you can communicate with the mission commanders of the different elements of the airflow: [Major] General Johnson; I guess the Rangers--you're in communication with them?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: No problems with communications during that ... ?
LTG STINER: No. We were communicating through SATCOM. In fact, we had three ways to positively control the operation ... really four. I was communicating with Will Roosma, who was airborne with an alternate command post. He had full capability to control the whole formation. Wayne Downing was also on the ground in Panama, and he had full capability. He also had an airborne triple-C up that had the same capability. So that was another alternate. And then back here at Fort Bragg, in our EOC, we had a fully manned battle staff monitoring and prepared to pick it up at any time if either one of the other command posts went off the air.
DR. WRIGHT: So there was redundancy forecast into this--and as it turns out, not necessary?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: The airflow as you're watching it come in--2300, 2400 hours. On schedule? The lead elements on schedule?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: But you're aware that there's a problem with the icing for the personnel birds out of Bragg?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you start trying to make any adjustments to the plan at that point?
LTG STINER: No. We went fifteen minutes early with H-Hour with the in-place forces and the Special Operations forces that were there because we began to receive indications that they knew we were coming. They didn't know all the targets, or what our tactics were. We knew we still had strategic surprise, and we still had tactical surprise in the main. We were receiving intelligence information through our telephone taps and our monitoring that indicated to us that they were calling their people in and making preparations.
So for that reason Wayne Downing and I decided to go fifteen minutes ... to advance H-Hour as much as possible, for those in-country forces. The timing of some of the targets was absolutely crucial vis-a-vis taking down of the Comandancia. Some of the special ops targets were particularly sensitive and were tied to the Comandancia.
We looked at all factors, and decided that we could only advance H-Hour by fifteen minutes. One of the main determiners in that regard was how long it took to put in place the Swing Bridge over the Miraflores Locks, and to get the mechanized infantry battalion and the armor platoon and the M.P. company that was on the western side across the Canal and in position to support the attack on the Comandancia. In making the decision on advancing H-Hour, we also considered what impact that an earlier H-Hour would have, and decided that there would be no impact because once the assault started, we were tying down all the key targets. Fifteen minutes later the Rangers were going to drop to secure Rio Hato and Torrijos-Tocumen Airfield. Then the 82d would be behind with whatever amount it could get off the ground. And that once it (the 82d) started, all targets would continue to be engaged; there would be no time to react against us in a major way. Even if we had to delay a couple of the air assaults until after daylight (that the 82d was to do), this would not impact in a major way. So we decided to go ahead, and I'm glad we made that decision. It was the right decision.
DR. WRIGHT: People have commented to me that the idea of continuing to march with the plan, with only that one minor variation, greatly simplified matters, because then the execution checklists and everything could stay in place and people did not start getting confused--and you just minimized that risk.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: You mentioned the indicators of the Panamanians calling their people in and whatnot. That whole concern of "was the operation compromised" and whatnot. Could you comment on that, sir?
LTG STINER: I've taken a lot of criticism over making that statement to the press, and I guess it gets down to what the definition of compromise is in the minds of different people. I cannot say that it was compromised from the Washington level by any government official. But I can say for certain that we had intercept message traffic that indicated that they were making preparations at certain installations and based on what our troops encountered when they hit those installations, it was either great tactical anticipation and good military judgement by the commanders that were there that caused them to take those actions--or, they had some indication that we were coming.
DR. WRIGHT: And I think that maybe is one of the key points to bring out, sir, that there are decision processes that they could have made based on indicators ...
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... and that is just exactly what you said, it's a situation of people not understanding the military meaning of certain terms that we use.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: I guess there had been military activity at selected P.D.F. installations, but not an across-the-board thing, and therefore it indicates that perhaps their duty staff did not assess the situation and communicate to everybody?
LTG STINER: That's correct. We have no intelligence information to indicate that there was any call that came from command and control headquarters at the Comandancia that put out general alert instructions to all units that we were coming.
DR. WRIGHT: But selected installations, the Comandancia proper and I guess Rio Hato ...
LTG STINER: Rio Hato, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: ... and possibly Fort Cimarron?
LTG STINER: Fort Cimarron was another one, and, I think, Fort Amador. Fort Amador was, because they were in the buildings and prepared to fight.
DR. WRIGHT: And I guess that at Amador they had that bus load of people that was trying to get to the Comandancia.
LTG STINER: Right. And Coco Solo. They were in the Headquarters building and barracks armed and prepared to fight.
DR. WRIGHT: In your thinking there, as you see that--the indicators start--particularly with the Comandancia, which is visible from Quarry Heights, when you see activity there, do you start getting concerned, or were our intelligence assets good enough so that you realized that this was a piecemeal thing and therefore probably wasn't going to be as damaging as it could have been?
LTG STINER: I didn't get concerned from the standpoint of our capability to accomplish the mission. My concern was twofold. One was our AC-130s that were up overhead and our Apaches were watching them retreat out of the Comandancia with weapons and going into the city. So the thought process that I went through was "we could end up having to clear this whole city because of armed elements in it." The second thought process was "we're not going to be able to catch them unaware, asleep in their barracks, therefore the level of fighting (intensity) was going to be greater and there will probably be greater casualties on both sides."
DR. WRIGHT: You mentioned possible indicators. The possibility of perhaps some kind of a message coming inadvertently from other government agencies in Washington. There was the possibility of the commentary in the media here about the unusual level of activity at Pope. And I guess the third one that I've heard mentioned was communications from a third country?
LTG STINER: Yes. I heard most of this from people who came into Panama with high-level visitors, telling me that they had heard this, so I assumed it was the position from Washington.
On the information coming from Washington: we have an intercept message, and N[ational] S[ecurity] A[gency] message, from a Panamanian civilian in Panama to MAJ [Mario A.] del Cid, who was out at David, indicating that "tonight is the night, they are coming." And saying that he had learned this from a friend, who got it from someone in the State Department. As a result of our own intelligence initiatives and activities shortly after that we intercepted a telephone conversation from MAJ del Cid to the commander of the 8th Infantry Company, telling him that "the ball game starts at 0100 hours; get your troops out and get them ready."
DR. WRIGHT: This was the 8th Company that was up at Fort Espinar?
LTG STINER: Yes. As far as the burst transmission out of Cuba was concerned, it is my understanding now, as of a conversation with Mr. Pete Williams [of] O.S.D. [Office of the Secretary of Defense] Public Affairs last night, that Admiral Schaeffer from J.C.S. says [that] they have run that down, and that that was a mistake. That the transmission came out of Panama toward Cuba, and [that] it was not related.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K.
LTG STINER: As far as speculation by the media, there was a news report on the 10 o'clock (2200) news, that the 82d Airborne Division has left Fort Bragg and it was believed they were headed to Panama. The Panamanians watch television. Many of the Panamanian officers that were captured said they saw this, and called each other on the telephone and discussed in great detail what they should do. I don't know to what extent this influenced their motivation, but it is obvious that some took action to alert their troops.
DR. WRIGHT: They thought it was our disinformation, rather than the real thing?
LTG STINER: Possibly, but it is obvious that there was a concerted effort by several commanders to assemble and arm their troops, that we would do it.
DR. WRIGHT: Panamanians are also in their holiday half-day schedule. Is that a concern for you? That we might miss people.
LTG STINER: No.
DR. WRIGHT: As the operation, then, is moving along. People start coming on target. When do you start receiving the reports that the actual engagements have begun? Are you doing real-world monitoring [of radio nets]?
LTG STINER: Shooting actually started right before H-Hour. As units were moving to their respective attack positions, some firing broke out, and this was probably precipitated by some nervous P.D.F. Right outside of Quarry Heights, at the gate, there was some shooting taking place. And then down at the bottom of the [Ancon] hill at the Panama Canal Commission Headquarters there was shooting. Then as units were moving around the southern edge of Albrook [Air Station] shooting broke out. So, as units moved into position, some had to clear their zones as they went.
DR. WRIGHT: And the timetable, as you're watching it then, sir, I guess ... . First let's start with an overview. The execution phase, starting at H-Hour, and the reports you're getting in indicate that we're proceeding according to schedule, overall, and that the plan was being executed?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So, from that point of view, from the big picture side, you were fairly comfortable that we had done our preparations well and that everything was going down properly?
LTG STINER: Yes. Then it was time just to let the commanders execute their plan, and to support them with what they requested.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the length of time it took us to execute, does it take us longer to secure objectives, as a general rule, than you had anticipated?
LTG STINER: Yes. The P.D.F. fought harder than we had anticipated. And there are possibly a couple of explanations for that.
Going back to Noriega's famous speech on the 15th. This was a very provocative speech, especially to the young P.D.F. soldiers. That could even account for the shooting of Lieutenant Paz at the roadblock; they might have gotten out of control a bit. I think they were incited and "psyched up," and probably some of them did perceive us as the enemy.
Point two: because they had an indication that we were coming, they had had time to assemble their troops and many of them had dressed in blue jeans. Let me move ahead and say that every supply room that we got into had bundles of blue jeans that were issued as a matter of routine to their soldiers, so when they showed up that night, a lot of them elected to wear blue jeans, and one could say that they did that so that if it got too "hot" they could throw their weapons down and fade back into the city. And that's what many of them did.
But nevertheless, the commanders had time to assemble them (most commanders), and to put them in positions to fight. In debriefing the young soldiers that we had detained, we were told that the commanders had told them "do not believe what the Americans may tell you in the way of giving up and not being harmed,' their intent is to entice you to come out, and they will torture and kill you." So they put their soldiers in buildings and got them fighting, and then their officers abandoned and left them. They were afraid to come out or to surrender. The first night of fighting we did not capture a single field-grade officer. We captured several lieutenants and captains. But the soldiers fought, and it therefore became necessary that we had to clear a lot of buildings where we had hoped otherwise that they would surrender, because our hope was to surprise them and catch them in their barracks.
The fighting went on all that night. Our objective was to have all the fighting done by daylight and then use the first couple of hours after daylight to mop up. But it went on until about 1700 the first afternoon. On the first night there were only three garrison commanders that actually surrendered their troops to us, the rest fought.
DR. WRIGHT: Which three were those, sir?
LTG STINER: I've forgotten. I'd have to get back [to the logs].
DR. WRIGHT: A couple of points to follow up on along those lines, sir. General Johnson, in my interview with him, speculated that the abandonment of soldiers by the leadership left the soldiers themselves in a position where they may have wanted to surrender, but there was nobody there that could make a decision.
LTG STINER: Yes, I agree with that.
DR. WRIGHT: The second point that was raised to me, and this is from junior-level people that I was talking to that had been involved in some of the assaults, and up through say the battalion leader--battalion commander--perspective, was [that] once they got into the clearing operation, and it was clear by daylight that we were "winning big time," commanders opted to extend the time schedule rather than risk loosing any soldiers on either side, so that they stretched things out, knowing that it wasn't going to cause a major problem, but trying to keep their people alive.
LTG STINER: Yes. That's correct, and the commanders had the flexibility to do that.
DR. WRIGHT: I guess, probably, the other general comment that I'd like to get you to make at this time is an assessment, based on the H-Hour fighting, of the combat capability of the Panamanian Defense Forces.
LTG STINER: It was about what was expected as far as capability. They didn't do combined arms operations, but they had a plan. They were mortaring key targets. They were trying to mortar the [U.S.] Embassy. I think one round actually hit the Embassy and some hit in the street. Fort Clayton was mortared about three times. And I don't know what other installations were mortared, but there were some mortars firing around Tinajitas--in fact, we lost a person at Tinajitas due to mortar fire. They had some V-300 armored cars with 90-mm. weapons on them; they used them in the vicinity of the Comandancia and in other places in town. So there was a plan to integrate them into the fight. And even though their senior leadership abandoned them, and even though the Comandancia was knocked out immediately and there was no centralized command and control, I think they fought pretty well.
DR. WRIGHT: General Johnson's comment to me was that there were some individual soldier skills, but that they were ... they did some things that we consider militarily foolhardy, simply because they lacked anybody that was there to exercise any judgmental leadership.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Therefore charging straight up on roadblocks firing AK-47s out of a pickup truck, rather than trying to maneuver in on the target.
LTG STINER: Yes. He's exactly right.
DR. WRIGHT: Panamanian Air Force is a non-player.
LTG STINER: We neutralized them immediately, and their navy immediately.
DR. WRIGHT: So, in that sense we had a priority of tracking on their major weapons systems and we pretty much took them out in sequence and it became very much, then, an infantryman's small arms fight?
LTG STINER: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: Air defense systems: were you concerned about, particularly with our reliance on the heavy air flow, and then with the use of the aviation assets, that their air defense systems might be more capable than we had thought?
LTG STINER: No. I had a bigger concern for small arms fire in mass, than I did air defense systems. Based on the intelligence that we had, we did not think that they had air defense missiles, i.e. the SA-7. And they did not, thank goodness. But even if they had, our tactics of going at night and flying at low level would have minimized the effectiveness of those. We knew they had some ZPU-4s [Soviet-manufactured towed quadruple 23-mm. antiaircraft guns] and heavy-barrelled machine guns. And we knew that we would have to take those on in the form of preparatory fires. We planned for that, particularly at Rio Hato where air defense fire was greatest. There were two there, down on the beach, right on our approach [path]. We took one of those out with an Apache and the other one was knocked out by an AC-130 gunship.
DR. WRIGHT: Pretty much the suppressive fire, as I've had stories recounted to me from some of the other targets ... . For example, at Panama Viejo there was a ZPU-4, and they ... talking to the air crews they said they could watch the gunner try to run out to it, noticed that he was ... there was a Cobra (I believe that was) just hovering right there looking straight at it. And they said you could literally see the guy make the decision (on his face) not to [fire]. He [knew he] wasn't going to win that engagement and he walked away from his system. And I've heard that repeatedly. That perhaps their crews, other than the ones that were in the Comandancia and the ones at Rio Hato, may not have been the most highly motivated soldiers that you could find.
LTG STINER: Yes, there were several reports of this nature. There's another consideration that impacts on that. And that is that we were broadcasting to the soldiers and the people through our VOLANT SOLO aircraft and the SCN [Southern Command Network TV] station that we were there to liberate Panama: that Noriega was no longer in power; and that we were there to return to them democracy, the government that they themselves had elected; and that we would not harm them. "So cooperate, we're your friends." You have to remember that I think it was either 62 or 72% of that country had voted to elect a democratic form of government. Many of their young soldiers that we policed up as detainees said that they had great respect for themselves as soldiers and their country, but [that] they were not willing to give their life for Noriega. So there was not that sense of allegiance and dedication that you would normally find in a professional soldier.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you attribute that, in part, to the cult of personality approach that Noriega took, rather than playing the nationalism trump card as strongly as he could have?
LTG STINER: Oh, I think so. And 7,742 days of oppression plays heavily on the minds of the people. They were afraid, even though young soldiers were members of the P.D.F., they were afraid of the consequences and they were afraid of the reprisals against their families if they didn't march in line with what they were told to march to.
DR. WRIGHT: And this, again, plays back to the development of the themes for our psychological operations campaign?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Who, exactly, worked up those themes for you, sir?
LTG STINER: The 4th PSYOPS Group did it, but it was with our guidance, that these themes were developed and integrated into the plan. The selection of the themes was based on judgments that would best support the tactical objectives but the strategic objectives of freedom, democracy, and that sort of thing were the campaign themes and objectives.
DR. WRIGHT: Close coordination with the USARSO [US Army, South] ...
LTG STINER: Yes. The CinC approved them, and then the overall plan went all the way to Washington.
DR. WRIGHT: I had somebody comment to me that the use of psychological operations in this campaign was a fire support element, and really was employed as fire support in lieu of more traditional tube artillery.
LTG STINER: Well, that might have been his perception, but I always tell all commanders that two key elements of combat power that they have, that is equivalent to any other element of combat power, is psychological operations and electronic warfare. And that both must be integrated into the tactical concept to achieve it's maximum potential.
DR. WRIGHT: That leads us to the electronic warfare issue, then, sir. Since the P.D.F. were not overly endowed with the kinds of systems that most of our gear has been developed to deal with ...
[End of Tape 2, Side 1]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., resuming with the Side 2, sir. We used two EF-111s?
LTG STINER: Two EF-111s and two EC-130s. We targeted all of their military communications to shut those down completely. To shut down the radio and television stations we used two VOLANT SOLO C-130s.
DR. WRIGHT: Then ... so part of our system, the other part of our electronic warfare system was the intercept capabilities. And those functioned beautifully, to include the telephone taps?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Because they relied very heavily, I think people have indicated to me, on land line communications.
LTG STINER: They sure did.
DR. WRIGHT: And you feel that we had done a very good job of blanketing that?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: How quick ...
LTG STINER: We could not read all of the lines, but we tapped enough key lines so that we were getting very good intelligence.
DR. WRIGHT: How quickly were they getting that raw data processed into intelligence and to you for decisions?
LTG STINER: Very quickly; usually within fifteen minutes of an intercept.
DR. WRIGHT: So at that point you were ahead of them on your decision curve by a wild factor?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did that ... I guess that didn't really turn out to be too critical in this specific case, because they weren't capable by about H plus ten minutes ... they weren't capable of doing anything anyway to influence the operation ...
LTG STINER: Correct. Especially for those twenty-seven targets that we took on initially. Other targets outside the city were untouched, but they were watching what was happening on TV. Everybody watches TV in Panama.
DR. WRIGHT: So that's, that's the decision. I guess we had at least one major unit commander in the P.D.F. that surrendered right off the bat that was outside the immediate target area. I believe the log entry said that he had ordered his military region to stand down?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: What exactly ... that's kind of a cryptic term. What exactly did that mean? I mean, did he literally tell his people not to fight?
LTG STINER: Yes, he indicated that he was prepared to surrender his region.
DR. WRIGHT: I think it was M. R. 3.
LTG STINER: Yes. He didn't have that many troops, but nevertheless that was significant that a region commander had done that.
DR. WRIGHT: That early on?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So that is kind of an indicator to you, then, that our targeting process had been pretty well conceptualized, so that the center ...?
LTG STINER: Our concept and philosophy was to go in with overwhelming combat power and to hit those twenty-seven targets in and around the city that had influenced that 3 October coup, plus certain special operations targets in order to try to get Noriega. By doing this we had hoped to convey a message that would cause the P.D.F. to surrender very quickly; thereby reducing casualties and damage on both sides.
DR. WRIGHT: And you were counting on the information of what had happened to the initial targets being quickly transmitted to those outlying regions so that those commanders would then have enough time to do a real quick calculation and decide that this was not the time and place to "fall on their sword?"
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Was there some concern that by taking down the command and control nodes that you might slow up the process of communicating to the outlying commanders, or ...
LTG STINER: No.
DR. WRIGHT: ... were you confident we could come back up and do that?
LTG STINER: No. I knew that we could do that when we wanted to. On the other hand, by knocking it all out and severing all communications, and leaving them sitting out there in the dark, with no orders, no strength to tie to, no nothing, that it should have a significant psychological impact on each unit sitting there wondering "when are they coming after me?"
DR. WRIGHT: Let's go quickly into these--without taking it into the classified realm--on the special operations targets. You are advised by General Downing that they go down quickly, they go down smoothly, with the, I guess, one exception of Paitilla [Airport]?
LTG STINER: Yes: we lost a couple of helicopters in the city that gave me a little concern until we could really assess the status of each crash--whether or not we had lost lives. It took a little time to sort that out. As it turned out we did not. We did not loose a single life in those two helicopters.
DR. WRIGHT: As I have talked to some of the soldiers that were involved in the rescue of those crews, they watched them go down. They could get right to them. They were positioned, because of the way that you had developed the plans to position the forces, they were right there and got right on them.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Then, I guess, those targets go smoothly, quickly, and I guess you were watching the one target in particular, and as soon as the message was given that that objective had been accomplished, then the rest of the plan pretty much kicks in. At that point, which targets are you most concerned with? The Comandancia proper, or were you trying to sort of look at everybody?
LTG STINER: The Comandancia was always a big concern until we knew that we had completely knocked out its capability--and that was command and control. There were other people in the Comandancia and in that compound that constitutes the Comandancia proper. There were two or three companies in there and then there were those true high rise buildings with that Dignity Battalion and their families there. They were shooting down on the soldiers with AK-47s and RPGs and throwing hand grenades down on top of them. So that had to be cleared. There was still a lot of fighting to be done in and around that Comandancia. And if you remember, it had a wall around it which we had to breach to get the forces in to do that work. Pretty intense fighting going on in there.
DR. WRIGHT: Comandancia. I guess let's try to go through the conventional targets sort of one by one and get some general comments and observations from you about each one.
The capture of the Comandancia proper by 4th [Battalion] of the 6th mech[anized Infantry], reinforced by what ... a company of Rangers and I guess they had a company of airborne infantry as well.
LTG STINER: The 4th of the 6th Mech secured it, but we still knew that there were P.D.F. soldiers in there, and we didn't know what else was in there. There were also documents and weapons that had to be secured.
It would be necessary to clear that whole building room by room. It was very dark because there was no electricity. I did not want the 4th of the 6th Mech doing that. I wanted either a Ranger company or a company from the 82d Airborne Division, either of which was much more proficient in clearing a building of this complexity. So I told the brigade commander to keep it cordoned--don't let anybody else out of there--and I would give him a Ranger company, which would be brought in from Torrijos-Tocumen to clear that building. The Ranger battalion commander came in with the Ranger company and actually controlled--came up with a plan and controlled that operation. The Rangers cleared the building and the 4th of the 6th Mech held the outer circle of security.
DR. WRIGHT: When they cleared that building was it from the roof down, or did they do it from ...?
LTG STINER: They went in at the bottom and cleared from the bottom up. First they had to go in and then go down in the basement; then up.
DR. WRIGHT: The high rise building is a difficult test. Anytime you start talking about high rises ... . I think General Johnson's comment (when he saw the size of the Marriott Hotel) was that his familiarity with MOUT operations [warned him] that [clearing a large building] just sucks manpower up outrageously.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Was that a decision to slow the clearing on that [the high rise] to try to minimize the use of manpower.
LTG STINER: Yes. And because there were families in there that had to be gotten out. Many of them were fleeing. Because we had a plan that if we started drawing fire from that building to put a tank round through the little doghouse-like shack that sat on top of the building. That's what we did, and many of the families went out the bottom and fled.
DR. WRIGHT: Which raises another issue, then. We had a plan that assumed that there would not ... because it was going so quickly we would not have a major refugee problem. And then, as it turns out, there's a stampede of refugees in that western part of Panama City.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: How do you improvise what we eventually wind up with, which is using Balboa High School.
LTG STINER: We had made plans to handle refugees. We did not know how many there would be. We had also taken great care not to create a situation that would produce refugees: like fires. The Dignity Battalions produced those refugees. According to the Catholic priest that witnessed that, Dignity Battalion members and P.D.F. members in blue jeans set the slums near the Comandancia on fire.
DR. WRIGHT: ... El Chorillo ...
LTG STINER: Yes, and burned it. They caused the refugees. If we destroyed any civilian housing, it was absolutely minimal, and there was certainly no intent to destroy any civilian housing. The refugees came from right out of that area. They were very poor people. Well, they had to get out. And the closest place to try to corral and bring all these people to was Balboa High School. We just implemented our plan to set up a refugee camp and to begin to process them as fast as we could, and to start feeding them, and then to get shelter over their heads.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., sir. I know your schedule is real tight now, so if it's all right with you I'll pick this up again with tomorrow's interview and we'll continue from there. [The next interview was subsequently postponed.]
LTG STINER: Fine.
DR. WRIGHT: Appreciate it, sir.
LTG STINER: O.K.
[End of Tape 2]
DR. WRIGHT: This is a continuation of the Operation JUST CAUSE interview with LTG Carl W. Stiner. This session is taking place on 27 March 1990 in the Headquarters of XVIII Airborne Corps. The interviewing official is still Dr. Wright.
Sir, we had gone through the initial December 20th D-Day targets from the JSOTF and La Comandancia actions. And I'd like to continue on with that track, sir, and carry through with the Task Force--the rest of the Task Force BAYONET targets. Specifically, [I'd like] to ask you for your comments and your observations on LTC [Ray] Fitzgerald and the 1st [Battalion] of the 508th Infantry and their action at Fort Amador.
LTG STINER: Task Force BAYONET had several other crucial targets that also had to be "hit" or taken down at H-Hour. In addition there were certain targets that would draw nothing more than a security role to protect the 10,000 Americans that were there. They were responsible for protecting and securing the locks on the Pacific end of the Panama Canal.
Starting with Fort Amador, a tough target because it was jointly occupied by the P.D.F. (who occupied the buildings on one side of the fairway to the golf course) and our families (who occupied the other side). The plan called for a combat assault at night, an airmobile assault as night, assaulting with the better part of the battalion. They came in as planned, carrying a [M-102] 105mm howitzer [from Battery D, 320th Field Artillery] slung underneath a [UH-60] Blackhawk, and landed just behind the housing that was occupied by our families--in a kind of a ditch or depression in the ground back there. They came in and landed the helicopters in that ditch behind the housing. The troops manhandled this howitzer into position, and in fact manhandled it during all the fighting that took place at Fort Amador, and used it as a direct fire weapon to support the infantry.
They drew fire almost immediately. They were not successful in talking the P.D.F. out, because the enemy intended to stand and fight. In fact, all the buildings that were occupied by the P.D.F. were not cleared until about 1700 hours. Several of the people who were captured indicated that their leaders had put them in those buildings and told them to fight and not to believe what the Americans were telling them, because we would talk them into coming out and then we would torture them and kill them. So they were afraid. That's what they thought.
We gained a toehold--or the Task Force gained a toehold, a foothold--in the first building at the south end. They had to take Amador building by building and clear it room by room. They did it in a very surgical fashion. In fact, the monument to [Omar] Torrijos stands right in front of those buildings and there's not a blemish or chip in that monument, nor were any American families hurt or wounded in the process. So it was, it was a first-class job by a very disciplined and professional force.
DR. WRIGHT: The importance of the target is that it's the second half of the command and control nodes for the Panamanian Defense Forces?
LTG STINER: That is correct. It was a very major headquarters there. Noriega had an office there, and if I am not mistaken, many things of intelligence value were taken out of that office. I think that's where they recovered the most.
DR. WRIGHT: As I understand it, the tactic employed was essentially similar to the one used with La Comandancia: seal it off, try to talk them out, and then use the measured application of force? And again, take your time once you're sure that its sealed and that we're "winning;" take your time so as not to inflict needless casualties on either side?
LTG STINER: Exactly. They attempted several times after they had sealed it off and after the fighting had commenced to talk them into laying down their arms.
DR. WRIGHT: I believe you sent MG Cisneros down there at one point to try and negotiate with the [5th] Company commander?
LTG STINER: Yes. And the company commander had indicated at first that he would be willing to surrender his troops, but he did not. When it came down to the end (or the decision time) he abandoned his troops.
DR. WRIGHT: And he was one of the Noriega inner circle of loyalists, so he was a particularly important target?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: The other half of the 193d [Infantry] Brigade is LTC [William] Huff's 5th [Battalion] of the 87th Infantry. And they had, I guess, the most difficult mission in terms of sheer numbers of targets that they had to take: the area, the P.D.F. installations in the Balboa area and around Albrook Air Station and whatnot. As their operation is going on, with the critical distinction that it's not a discrete thing that we can easily seal, how do you monitor that one; how do you get the sense that that is flowing?
LTG STINER: COL Snell was keeping me posted. And I knew that all of that was going on simultaneously and on schedule. But there was a lot of fighting taking place simultaneously all over the city, and he had some tough targets. One was the Balboa D.E.N.I. [Departmento Nacional de Investigaciones] station. In fact, one of the first soldiers killed in action might have fallen right there in the street in front of that D.E.N.I. station as we were trying to talk them out. They had to destroy that D.E.N.I. station as a result of that.
DR. WRIGHT: That's the one that was destroyed, and yet we avoided any collateral damage to any of the next-door buildings?
LTG STINER: That is correct. Just in the yard on the grounds very close to the building was a little thatched-roof type structure underneath of which was a complete life-sized Nativity scene. And it was not touched.
DR. WRIGHT: So, again, the measured application of force. And that was done strictly with organic weapons?
LTG STINER: That's right: [M-2] .50-caliber machine guns, AT-4 antitank weapons, and [M-72A2] LAWs.
DR. WRIGHT: And then it caught fire because there was an arms cache inside?
LTG STINER: Yes, there was.
DR. WRIGHT: As you get the general sense of the reports coming in from COL Snell, do you feel comfortable that Task Force BAYONET has accomplished its missions and that the major elements then inside the city are all accounted for?
LTG STINER: Yes. No problem there. He had to reinforce some based upon the intensity of the fighting. He had a plan to do that, and he did it very efficiently.
DR. WRIGHT: And his plan, I believe, was very innovative in the way that it integrated Military Police to provide the rear security to the combat elements?
LTG STINER: Yes. Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: How did that idea originate? Was that his, or was that guidance from you?
LTG STINER: No, that was his idea. His plan was tactically sound, and it was very innovative, because he did not have enough infantry troops to cover all the targets that he was given. So he was innovative in using engineers to fight as infantry. And also in using MPs to secure those areas where he did not expect major combat but, nevertheless, there was a definite threat; and an issue of stability that had to be dealt with while the fighting was going on.
DR. WRIGHT: So, in essence, he just took the rear battle mission that the MPs had and applied it onto an urban terrain?
LTG STINER: Yes, he did.
DR. WRIGHT: And you had furnished him with enough of the loudspeaker teams so that he could do that. How did you get those teams down? Were they prepositioned?
LTG STINER: Yes. We used the teams that were already in country to support him. Now, we didn't have enough to put a trained psychological operations team--broadcast team--with every one of his companies because we just didn't have enough down there, and [there was] no way to get them in without compromise. So they bought additional loudspeakers and bullhorns; he had enough loudspeakers and Spanish-speakers so that he was able to accomplish the same thing.
DR. WRIGHT: As his operation goes off, we had alluded to the refugee problem. Do you shift a major burden, the responsibility for the initial twenty-four hours with the refugees, onto his back?
LTG STINER: Exactly. Because he controlled that area down in there, down in the Comandancia and Balboa High School, where most of the refugees would come from and where they would have to be held. He controlled all that area. Plus, I had given him an entire M.P. battalion so he had the assets to try and keep open the roads. And we made the decision early-on that the holding point or area would be the Balboa High School. So it was very easy for him to move them over there by keeping them on the roads and by moving them with the school busses that he had. He was able to do that.
DR. WRIGHT: And those were the school busses that came out of the motor pool at Fort Clayton?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So you, by 1700 on that first day, feel very, very comfortable about the progress in Panama City? In the downtown area.
LTG STINER: Yes. I felt very comfortable by daylight. There was never a time that I did not feel comfortable, because I knew that we had a good plan, we had rehearsed it, and I felt that I had a good feel for the capabilities of each unit involved. And since things went so well at H-Hour. We had destroyed the Comandancia and I felt that we had broken the back of the P.D.F. I knew it was just a matter of mopping up.
The only thing that I was concerned about as the operation progressed was that I knew that there were many that were slipping away in the city. Many P.D.F. showed up in civilian clothes, and fought initially in civilian clothes--blue jeans. They were supplied with bundles of blue jeans that they issued to the troops. And I was getting reports from the Comandancia as they were attacking down there, the 193d, that P.D.F. were slipping away and going into the city. So the question was whether or not we would get into urban warfare in the city, trying to clear that out building by building and block by block. That was my main concern.
DR. WRIGHT: If we cross over the Canal to the area of Task Force SEMPER FI, who was the commander of Task Force SEMPER FI, sir?
LTG STINER: Williams. COL Williams. I'll have to check that for you, but I think it was Tony Williams.
DR. WRIGHT: And you ... he had essentially his Marine forces, less the one platoon of LAVs [light armored vehicles], and then you gave him, I guess, the firing battery from the 193d Brigade (minus the one howitzer that went to Amador) ...
LTG STINER: I gave him that firing battery. He really had a battalion of Marines, because he had two companies, and one of them was that reinforced company with those LAVs. In addition to that I gave him the firing battery (less one tube), I gave him an M.P. company, and I gave him a US Army engineer battalion that can fight as infantry if needed. They could establish road blocks or do whatever he needed them to do.
DR. WRIGHT: And basically the way they were actually used, the engineers were actually used, was primarily as infantry personnel to do security missions?
LTG STINER: Initially. He had the mission to protect Howard Air Force Base and to block any enemy movement from the west and the north. Also to secure the Bridge of the Americas, to keep that from being knocked down. So initially he used engineers to establish road blocks on the major arteries leading from the west in toward Panama City. That didn't take all of them. He used the rest of them to secure key facilities that he had to protect, especially the tank farm.
DR. WRIGHT: The Arrijan Tank Farm?
LTG STINER: Yes. By Howard, because that's where all the POL [petroleum, oil and lubricants] was stored. So he had a lot of security missions. Then he also had a physical security task to defend against someone setting mortars up on that ridge line that dominated Howard Air Force Base. So he had a big area to cover.
DR. WRIGHT: Plus, I guess, he had the couple of small surgical targets.
LTG STINER: Yes, he did.
DR. WRIGHT: And all of those go off pretty much without a hitch?
LTG STINER: Exactly. No problems.
DR. WRIGHT: And how does his reports coming back to you ... how are they phrased? That all's going real well, or ... ?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Does he ask for additional personnel?
LTG STINER: Not until the second or third day. He requested another infantry battalion because he wanted to get out further to the west in his area and really run some clearing operations. He felt that there were areas out there in those villages, or sectors, that had not been properly searched to the degree that they should be.
DR. WRIGHT: His tactics are compatible with the Army tactics? Did jointness really work in that sense?
LTG STINER: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: Can you attribute any of that to the fact that the two rotational companies come out of the 2d Marine Division at [Camp] Lejeune, which works fairly closely with the XVIII Corps?
LTG STINER: That could have been part of it, and the relationship that existed down there in Panama. But I think the major factor was the joint planning that we put into this.
DR. WRIGHT: If we can pass on up now to Task Force ATLANTIC, sir, and work our way through those targets up there. Because that's, again, another multiple set of targets going down at the same time, with a much greater geographical spread.
LTG STINER: Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Who is the task force commander, sir?
LTG STINER: COL Keith Kellogg was the brigade commander, but I took in with me, when I went into Panama, BG Bob Ord, who was the Assistant Division Commander for Operations for the 7th Division. He was the overall commander in that area.
DR. WRIGHT: The plan up there hinged, I guess, in its essence on taking down the P.D.F. naval boats, naval infantry company at Coco Solo, and the, I guess its an M.P. company and the school troops that were there at Fort Espinar?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: How does that plan get conceptualized, as far as the numbers go?
LTG STINER: He had some other crucial targets, too. He had to defend the Gatun Locks; he had to defend the Madden Dam to keep it from being blown; he had to conduct an air assault at night and secure and liberate the prisoners that were in the El Renacer Prison; and he had to secure Cerro Tigre, which was their main supply depot (a lot of ammunition was stored there too). And he had to do some of these targets or accomplish some of these missions with less than optimal-sized forces.
For example, he went at the Madden Dam with fourteen infantrymen in a deuce and a half truck; they rode down there to secure that. He went at the Renacer Prison with a company-sized unit, but that was a combination assault with about two-thirds of the company (or all but two [UH-1H] Huey loads, two squads) coming down the Canal in landing craft, timing it so that they unloaded and got in a position, attack position, next to the Renacer Prison. When they were in position those two Hueys, supported by two [AH-1G] Cobras, came down that Canal right on the deck (because it was very foggy that night--they were navigating by the lights) and landed. The Cobras took out the guard outpost and the two Hueys landed right inside that prison while the rest of the company laid down the base of fire in support of that operation. So that was done with a company. A very classic ... you might say it was a combination amphibious-air assault.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. It's more ... it's almost Marine Corps tactics, with the over the beach and the airmobile assault element.
LTG STINER: Yes. And they secured every one of the prisoners unharmed there. And then the raid on Cerro Tigre was a night company-sized airmobile assault. So he had units going everywhere simultaneously, to hit all of his targets at H-Hour.
DR. WRIGHT: And they all get hit at H-Hour.
LTG STINER: They all get hit at H-Hour.
DR. WRIGHT: How does ... what innovations does he come up with to exercise command and control?
LTG STINER: He sent his brigade Executive Officer, I believe it was, to the Renacer Prison. He stayed in the Colon area and ran all that himself, organized into task forces.
DR. WRIGHT: And then I guess delegates to the subordinate element commanders and just, having been briefed on their plans, just lets them do their thing, so he doesn't try to over control some of that complex thing?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Up in the Coco Solo-Colon area proper, does he use landing craft up there as well, or is the ... ?
LTG STINER: He did later on. On the first night he did not. He followed the plan of action that we had laid down for surrounding targets and trying to talk them out. But the first night he sealed Colon by sending, it think it was twelve troops down under the command of a sergeant to establish a road block where the road going into ...
DR. WRIGHT: Where the peninsula chokes down?
LTG STINER: Of course. He sealed that city with the intent of going in there later to clean all that out, when he could get all of the other targets cleaned up and pull his units back together. And it was when he went in there to clean the city out, I think that was the second night, that he moved the majority of his infantry across by landing craft.
DR. WRIGHT: Staged them out of Fort Davis ... out of Fort Sherman?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: The attack on the naval infantry company was facilitated by the fact that we had a part of that battalion [4th Battalion, 17th Infantry] in garrison right next door to them?
LTG STINER: Yes, definitely.
DR. WRIGHT: And he was able to maintain OPSEC [operational security] with no problem?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: His task force up there is really only two infantry battalions and then the better part of that transportation company?
LTG STINER: Two infantry battalions, that transportation company that he had, and I gave him a Special Forces company.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., so he had a little extra?
LTG STINER: Yes. And he had an M.P. company.
DR. WRIGHT: He ... he's fairly successful in talking the P.D.F. [8th Infantry] Company at Fort Espinar into surrendering?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that the company that surrenders?
LTG STINER: Yes. That's the one that gave the least resistance of all.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the naval infantry company, did they put up much of a fight?
LTG STINER: Yes, they did. They would not come out. In fact, that complex there--I like to consider the two [patrol] boats there and the naval infantry company as one target because they were connected. Both of those boats tried to get under way. One was sunk with an AT-4, and the other one was sunk by the [M-167] Vulcan.
DR. WRIGHT: Sort of an innovative use of air defense assets.
LTG STINER: Yes. The commander of the naval infantry company would not give up. They tried several times and used measured, graduated application of fire. It was a good plan to get them to come out. They would not come out. So he had to end up using a pretty significant force: AT-4s and the Vulcan directly into that building.
DR. WRIGHT: Who's idea was it to employ the Vulcan? Was that his?
LTG STINER: That was his.
DR. WRIGHT: Did he give you any indication of where he came up with that solution?
LTG STINER: We had talked about it a couple of times before. He said he had a limited number of AT-4s, he had no artillery. We had a limited number of gunships that would be capable of supporting him at night. Most of the AC-130 gunship support was going to the 193d and to JSOTF down at Rio Hato, in the vicinity of La Comandancia, and out at the Pacora River Bridge, where there was a significant action taking place at that particular time. So he told me that he had a Vulcan up there, or two Vulcans, and that he had planned to use them in a ground role. I told him to go ahead and do it.
DR. WRIGHT: Did he give you any idea where he got that ... that idea from?
LTG STINER: Well, I think it was just his background. Keith Kellogg commanded a battalion here in the 82d Airborne Division, and the 82d uses its Vulcans in a ground role, and especially in a defensive situation, quite often. And certainly have it as part of their tactics and doctrine.
DR. WRIGHT: So that's another one of those instances of the cross-fertilization between the 7th and the 82d, making things move in a smooth manner?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: His reports come in to you fairly promptly, indicating that all is well up at that area?
LTG STINER: No problem. In advance, we had established radio relay teams or stations, retrans[mission] stations. And they worked perfectly. Plus he had SATCOM. So he had very good commo.
DR. WRIGHT: So you were, you were able to check his targets off on the ... I guess you were using an execution check list at the EOC?
LTG STINER: Yes. Yes, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: You mentioned Rio Hato. Now, we had alluded to that a little bit when we were discussing the targeting. How are you posted on how that operation goes down?
LTG STINER: MG Wayne Downing was keeping me posted. Plus, you recall, we right there in that operations center a liaison team from JSOC that was keeping me posted minute-by-minute on everything that they were doing.
DR. WRIGHT: Was MG Downing in the EOC with you, sir?
LTG STINER: No, he was in Hanger Number 3 at Howard. He had his EOC set up while all that was taking place.
DR. WRIGHT: But you had secure land line [communications] then?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: So that operation ... you're fairly confident, then, that those two [P.D.F.] companies go down relatively quickly. Because that firefight doesn't really last too long?
LTG STINER: Once the Rangers got on the ground, and the battle was joined, it didn't last long.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything that strikes your memory about your tracking [of] that operation? Any of the accounts that come in to you of how it's going? Did the drop go right on target?
LTG STINER: Exactly. Both drops that Rangers were involved in (that one at Rio Hato and the one at Torrijos [International] Airport) went right on the money. The Air Force put them exactly where they were supposed to put them.
No, that operation went just as smoothly as could be. And it happened just as efficiently as we have practiced in our training iterations in the past.
DR. WRIGHT: We put in ... we've got two companies, which makes it about (numerically) the biggest of the P.D.F. targets. One of those two companies is their [6th] Mechanized Expeditionary Company, so you had to anticipate having ... that they would run into some of at least the light armored-type vehicles. Did that turn out to be a problem at all?
LTG STINER: No. We did not know that there were that many V-300s there at Rio Hato. We knew that they had eighteen in their inventory, but we didn't know that the preponderance were there. They moved them up on the airfield. They had V-300s on the airfield, they had .50-caliber machine guns up there, and they had other weapons systems. And many of these systems were firing on the troops as they came down and as they assembled. But the Rangers moved out very quickly and very efficiently to eliminate those things.
DR. WRIGHT: And that's a factor of the rehearsals: making the ... making them not have to worry about orienting themselves about where they were and exactly where to go?
LTG STINER: Yes. They had a very good plan and then the discipline and the professionalism of those Rangers ... .
DR. WRIGHT: Do we ... do you get reports back of a casualty rate there that's at all significant?
LTG STINER: Well, I can't recall how many the Rangers had killed or wounded there. It was not too many. It seems to me a couple of killed and I just don't know how many were wounded--probably, oh, fifteen or twenty.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you get much of a count of jump injuries?
LTG STINER: There were a few jump injuries. There would be broken legs where they landed with their rucksacks still attached.
DR. WRIGHT: Where they hit the tarmac?
LTG STINER: The rucksacks weighed between eighty and a hundred pounds apiece. The fighting that took place was very intense. Although it didn't last long, it was very intense. The P.D.F. that were there firing at them were engaged (almost every one of them simultaneously) by those Rangers.
DR. WRIGHT: So they never had a chance to develop any coordination to their defense?
LTG STINER: It didn't last long, because they captured ... I have to go back and read the after-action report, but they either captured 230, 227, or 427 men. I can't recall.
And in addition to that, they captured all those Cadets that were there that ... the P.D.F. had moved all of the Cadets out of their school [Instituto Militar 'General Tomas Herrera'] and moved them about three-quarters of a mile to a mile away. They were up at the far [north] end, off to the right of the airfield; and they had them sitting down in a grassy field out there with no weapons; and they were guarding them. A Ranger squad came out there, and the squad leader (through his Night Vision Goggles) saw a couple of guards walking around. And he got to looking at this, and he saw all these heads sticking out. So he got his squad organized and they went in there and took all these guards out, and did not injure a single Cadet. They captured every one of them.
DR. WRIGHT: Thereby making it much easier to stand up the new force without having massacred a bunch of Cadets in a firefight?
LTG STINER: That's right.
DR. WRIGHT: You get the report back, then, that all is essentially secure and you're able to start air landing. How soon? Because they're out pretty far.
LTG STINER: They brought in five C-130s very quickly. I'd have to go back and check the log and look at the exact time, but I would say within thirty minutes to an hour they were landing C-130s on that strip. Offloaded their 'gun jeeps' so they could push them out further.
DR. WRIGHT: And is that a factor in the P.D.F. not being able to melt away into the countryside from there? Being able to capture so many, such a high percentage of that garrison.
LTG STINER: That is part of it. But it was the momentum and speed with which they overwhelmed them, in my judgement. I don't think the P.D.F. knew what hit them. They came at them so fast and with such efficiency.
DR. WRIGHT: Now if we go back up to (I guess it's back up to) Torrijos-Tocumen, to where the other battalion, or reinforced battalion, of Rangers jumped. You said on schedule, right exactly on target. And they engage the P.D.F. company and whatever you call the air force element up there?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Catch them pretty much in their barracks, or were they alerted?
LTG STINER: They were out. There were a few in their barracks, but most of them were out on that airfield. That was the 2d Infantry Company, as I recall. And their mission was to guard that airfield and guard the international terminal. So they engaged them immediately.
And in fact the P.D.F. engaged the Rangers, too. The first Ranger that was killed on that airfield was killed in the grassy area right in front of the hangar by a P.D.F. vehicle that came from behind the hangar in the vicinity of where their barracks was. Came out, and they were shooting from the vehicle, and killed this Ranger.
But that combat there was done in a very surgical fashion. They took the control tower and all the facilities at the airfield very quickly. Again there was no damage to those facilities, not even pock marks on the buildings. They immediately attacked behind the control tower area where their garrison was. Now in the meantime an AC-130 gunship was pounding their barracks from above. So the Rangers took that down very quickly.
The big fight that developed there at that airfield was in the international terminal. Because at 2300 hours a Brazilian 747 landed there with about 387 civilians on it. They were still in that terminal trying to get through customs when we dropped.
DR. WRIGHT: And that was an unanticipated ... ?
LTG STINER: Unanticipated. The P.D.F. that were there saw us dropping and a lot of them ran in that terminal. There were already some in the terminal, guarding it. A lot of the others ran in the terminal. This was reported to me. The Rangers reported that they would try the best they could to clear it out, and if they needed help by surgical forces, they would let us know.
They went in there in a very disciplined fashion that is almost unheard of. They eliminated the P.D.F. that would not give up, but that were mixed in with the people (guarding them). Then other P.D.F. had withdrawn back in--tried to hide in, or ran into--latrines and other corners in that building. And there was some very tough fighting that took place in there. Very close quarters fighting, hand-to-hand combat. To include grenade exchanges in latrines, fighting with knives, kicking each other. Well, the Rangers didn't get kicked through places with glass windows, but the P.D.F. did. They cleared all of that out that way and not a single civilian was hurt in any way.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that, again, attributable to the fact that the Rangers were so well trained, and they were able before the P.D.F. could react?
LTG STINER: Yes. Well, the P.D.F. had an opportunity to react, but the Rangers are just so well trained. That speaks to the quality of the Rangers and their training, and their discipline. Their maturity to be able to do that.
DR. WRIGHT: They secure the building, then, and report to you that ... ?
LTG STINER: Hostage situation eliminated; P.D.F. eliminated; all under control.
DR. WRIGHT: At that point the 82d has already begun dropping?
LTG STINER: Yes, the 82d dropped at that time. There's still some fighting going on. Some shooting down at the far end, the southern end of the airfield. Firefights going on down there while the 82d is dropping. The Rangers had the international terminal, the military terminal, and the whole north end of Torrijos Airfield, the military side secured; but that was still going on down there. So the 82d dropped, linked up with the Rangers, assumed OPCON, and began to assemble as quick as they could to start doing their air assaults.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, that becomes a fairly tough challenge that you've given ... [INTERRUPTION] ... that you've given MG [James] Johnson, then, to assume OPCON of a situation while the fight is in progress by jumping onto it?
LTG STINER: No, we had planned for that. He had exchanged a liaison team with the Rangers before they had ever went in. This team had jumped in with them [the Rangers]. The Rangers had given him a liaison team. We had practiced this in our rehearsals that we had here at Bragg. So everybody knew all the details that had to be carried out in order to do this efficiently. And it was.
DR. WRIGHT: Now we've had the icing problem, so the initial drop is slightly late (not terribly late, but slightly late), but it's only the lead seven aircraft?
LTG STINER: We dropped all the heavy drop. All the CDS went as scheduled. Ten out of the first twenty ...
DR. WRIGHT: So ... ?
LTG STINER: ... ten out of twenty PAX [passenger aircraft].
DR. WRIGHT: ... so that was the magic number that you had considered. You told me in the planning process that if you could get the first ten in, you felt very, very comfortable.
LTG STINER: Yes. Well, I knew when they told me that ten were still on the ground being de-iced. And I told them to launch the ten that you've got ready (and they did). In calculating what that would do to the plan, I still felt very comfortable that we could accomplish the mission. But what it meant was, what it would ultimately mean was, that we could not complete all three of the air assaults that the 82d was to complete before daylight. That was Panama Viejo, that was first priority. Tinajitas was second, and Fort Cimarron was third. So I knew that probably most likely, two of these air assaults would have to go after daylight.
DR. WRIGHT: And at that point you're not concerned about a much higher incidence of casualties on both sides?
LTG STINER: Well, there's no way to estimate what the casualties will be. But I just knew that the risk would be greater because you have to fly during the day (because they can see you and shoot at you). Tinajitas was in an area of suburbs, surrounded by suburbs, that were reported to be most loyal of all throughout Panama to Noriega. But we to go over those to get to the landing zones. So I anticipated that we would draw quite a bit more fire, particularly that air assault, by going during daylight than if we had gone at night. Tinajitas [i.e., Fort Cimarron] I was not that worried about because we can pound the devil out of it by AC-130 gunships; we could get our tanks up the road to use; and we could land a little further away in those fields. There were plenty of fields around Fort Cimarron where you could land.
DR. WRIGHT: How long does it take MG Johnson to get in touch with you and indicate that he is ... has proceeded with his function?
LTG STINER: I would say that I was in contact with him probably in fifteen to twenty minutes. He was relaying through MG Roosma, who was in the ABCCC, to me. And then he got his SATCOM up probably in about thirty minutes, and we were talking direct.
DR. WRIGHT: So in terms of the history of airborne operations, you have the luxury of being able to talk to him a lot quicker than we've ever been able to accomplish before?
LTG STINER: Oh, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Does he report any specific problems to you; anything that's causing him a concern?
LTG STINER: He reported that the drop zone was much more difficult than they had anticipated. Grass was over their heads. And that his troops had been dropped, and equipment had been dropped, further to the east than he had wanted them to be dropped.
DR. WRIGHT: And what kind of reaction does this news produce, then, in the EOC and in the command group? As you start trying to sort out what are the implications?
LTG STINER: Not that much. I told him to get moving and launch the first air assault just as quick as you can. Because that was the one to Tinajitas, and that's the one I wanted tied down with surgical force.
DR. WRIGHT: Panama Viejo.
LTG STINER: Panama Viejo. I wanted that one to go for certain before daylight. We had a gunship and an Apache team watching Tinajitas. In fact, we'd already struck it twice because there were mortars firing from up there.
DR. WRIGHT: So you were fairly confident that that one ... there was limited problem that could be caused because you could catch them with the air assets.
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: The same way that the battle at the Pacora River Bridge had pretty much had cleared up any concern that troops could still move in from Fort Cimarron?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: But Panama Viejo remains a difficulty that has to be overcome?
LTG STINER: Yes. And also we did not know exactly how many P.D.F. troops were at Panama Viejo. We knew that after the 3 October coup that Noriega had purged his military. At that time the cav[alry] squadron was stationed there. But he had also moved elements from the 6th Company, the 7th Company, Battalion 2000, and the U.E.S.A.T. [Unidad Especial de Seguridad Antiterror] there to kind of watch each other, and to secure the Comandancia, and to secure him. So we really didn't know how many troops were there.
DR. WRIGHT: Any weapons systems that you assumed ...
LTG STINER: There were some V-300s.
DR. WRIGHT: The V-300s?
LTG STINER: The V-300s. We had reports that there were three there.
DR. WRIGHT: And some ZSUs [Soviet 14.5mm antiaircraft machine guns]?
LTG STINER: Yes. They had some of them.
DR. WRIGHT: MG Johnson launches the first of those airmobile assaults down there built around which battalion, sir?
LTG STINER: That was the ...
DR. WRIGHT: 1st [Battalion] of the 504th [Infantry]?
LTG STINER: I believe that was the 2d of the '04, because [LTC Renard H.] "Bernie" Marable went to Tinajitas.
[End of Tape 3, Side 1]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., sir, resuming. We have the 1st [correctly, 2d] Battalion of the 504th, then, that goes on down to Panama Viejo. Right about daylight that they go in?
LTG STINER: A little before then. They got in there before daylight.
DR. WRIGHT: And come in on two LZs [landing zones] on opposite sides of the target? Run into some fire, but not an exceptionally heavy amount?
LTG STINER: No.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that a concern for you, then, that maybe those folks might have gotten into the city before we could get there?
LTG STINER: Yes. Particularly the U.E.S.A.T., because we had some intelligence that indicated that if things got tough, the U.E.S.A.T. was to go into the city, break up into five-man teams, and take hostages.
DR. WRIGHT: As it turns out, that really doesn't happen. In retrospect, with the value of all the information that we've gathered since, what exactly happened?
LTG STINER: No, I think that they did go into the city. After interviewing certain prisoners, during the interrogation process some of the officers of the U.E.S.A.T. told us they did go into the city and then awaited further orders. Now another indication of that is when [LTC] Harry Axson got sent down the next night to secure the Marriott [Hotel], about a third of the way down he came around a turn and there was a trailer truck sitting there. I don't know whether you've hear about this or not?
DR. WRIGHT: No, sir.
LTG STINER: There was a trailer truck sitting there. And the side went up on that truck like a venetian blind. Sitting in that truck behind three machine guns were four members of the U.E.S.A.T. in that truck, three of them behind machine guns. And they were dressed in their black [uniforms], with protective vests on, and black balaclavas, just like our special operations troops wear. And when they went around that corner, these machine guns opened up on that rifle company. When they did, they started returning fire immediately. In fact we lost one or two wounded as a result of that. I don't know whether anybody was killed there or not, but there weren't too many wounded. A young soldier stood up from the 82d, and took a LAW (right in the face of that fire) and very carefully aimed it at that truck and achieved a dead-center hit right in that truck. And that eliminated that group. Now, that was a very brave action for any unit to take, and was carried out (as close as we can tell, from all indications) by the U.E.S.A.T.
DR. WRIGHT: But it was an issue where most of them chose not to put up a fight like that? They waited for other instructions, or just assessed the situation?
LTG STINER: They waited. I would say that they probably waited that night and realizing what had happened to the Comandancia, realizing that probably Noriega was either killed or captured by that time (they didn't know), and not having received any further instructions from anybody, they decided to break up.
DR. WRIGHT: And most of them tried to escape and evade, rather than surrender?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: What about the other elements, the more conventional elements that had been there, that had made it into the city? I've heard stories that some of the Battalion 2000 V-300s were found abandoned in parking garages and things like that. Pretty much an indication, too, that they went to designated rendezvous points where no instructions could be received, assessed the situation, and decided that discretion was the better part of valor?
LTG STINER: Yes. The force that we hit them with that first night, the number of targets, overwhelmed them so much and fragmented them so much, that there was no command and control. They just figured that (in my judgement) it was better to break up and kind of lay low until it was time to give up and turn their weapons in. And that's what they did.
DR. WRIGHT: By and large, then, that pretty much clears us in the city environs. We still have Tinajitas and Fort Cimarron, looking out.
Tinajitas, the second one of the airmobile assaults, is the one that runs into the fire you had feared?
LTG STINER: Yes. He went at Tinajitas at about, I think it was somewhere around 8:20 in the morning when they were able to launch that air assault. There were twenty Blackhawks, one of which was a command and control ship, two Cobras, and two Apaches in that lift. Seventeen of the twenty Blackhawks had ten or more holes in them. The command and control ship had the console shot up so badly it would not function--the communications console. One of the Cobras has his gun systems, fire control systems, shot out. And one of the Apaches had his rendered inoperable. But both the Cobra that was shot up and the Apache that was shot up stayed on station and they helped direct the fire from the other two until they finally came out.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, in terms of the physically demanding assault, that's the worst? In terms of the private who has to go in with the full ruck and then make the climb under fire up that long hill.
LTG STINER: Yes. What made that so tough is that they landed down from Tinajitas in the low ground, in an LZ to the southwest. And as they went in there, they were drawing fire from all the buildings down there--houses and particularly there was a warehouse. They went in under fire, and as soon as they hit the ground, one soldier was killed by small arms fire as soon as he got in the LZ. Another one was shot and shortly after the helicopters lifted out they started receiving mortar fire. And that one soldier that was down there wounded was also hit by the mortar and was killed.
They started fighting their way up that hill. In the meantime it was still being hit by Apaches and AC-130 gunships, because the mortars were on that hill, and so were machine guns. It took them until about five o'clock that afternoon to fight their way to the top of that hill and secure that area. They did not capture many prisoners up there, because most of the P.D.F. had gone into that village, to include the commander, a captain. We captured him--a major, it was a major in charge of that complex--we captured him later. But we did capture a captain up there who had admitted that that's where [the] major, the one who led the 3 October coup, had been taken on orders of Noriega, tortured and killed. This captain admitted to his part in it and implicated another captain that was involved in it.
DR. WRIGHT: So that's an intelligence ... an unanticipated intelligence from that operation?
LTG STINER: Yes, it is.
DR. WRIGHT: Essentially, you're able to track that by communications, and you know that while it's going slow, and it's fairly intense fighting, there's never any doubt in your mind that the objective's going to get taken? We have enough force there to do it?
LTG STINER: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: Fairly significant also that the troops don't destroy the surrounding community in the process of taking it out?
LTG STINER: Exactly. Yes, they did not cause any damage during that operation.
DR. WRIGHT: We finish off then with the movement up to Fort Cimarron.
LTG STINER: Fort Cimarron was a more deliberate operation since we knew we had to go in the daylight. They were able to assemble most of their tanks by that time and their HMMWVs with .50-caliber machine guns mounted. And they went up. That was a combination of ground and air assault: they were supported by the ground when the air came in. And I think they actually landed up at Fort Cimarron at about 1700 that afternoon.
DR. WRIGHT: And just secured the compound? Was there much fighting up there?
LTG STINER: There was quite a bit of fighting. In fact, I think they used about sixteen or eighteen tank rounds on those barracks before they eliminated all the firing in the barracks.
DR. WRIGHT: Again, a situation possibly where command and control had disappeared on the part of the Panamanians. And they didn't know enough to get out of the barracks?
LTG STINER: Exactly. Some, the evening before, of the soldiers (being interrogated later) stated that they were told to disperse to the jungles. And some left, some didn't and continued there.
DR. WRIGHT: So then by, I guess, by about 1700 then you've pretty much gotten "everything is a go" right across the board. Hours of darkness are starting, I guess, about two hours later is when we get darkness. So how do you feel at the end of that first day of action, sir?
LTG STINER: I feel good (if you can use that term). Our plan has gone pretty much like we wanted it to go. The fighting has lasted a little bit longer because, in some cases, they had some tactical warning. But the big unknown at that point was what were we going to run into in the city. Because we hadn't captured as many prisoners at that point as I had wanted, the garrisons as intact as I had hoped to capture.
DR. WRIGHT: So it's sort of a mixed bag, then. You're not sure what the next day will bring?
LTG STINER: That's right.
DR. WRIGHT: When does action start down at the [American] Embassy, and had you anticipated that?
LTG STINER: Well, action at the Embassy (if you can call it action) had been going on all night. I had talked to the Embassy twice. What it amounted to was that the Embassy was nervous. There was never any threat to the Embassy, it was just a nervous employee in there that was calling the State Department direct. I was talking to the Marine Staff Sergeant who was in charge of the security. All that had happened to the Embassy was [that] they had been raked one time by small arms fire that had no effect. A couple of RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] had been fired at the compound, and two mortar rounds had impacted. One hit the west wing and one had hit in the street in front of the Embassy. But during the night we reinforced the Embassy with backup Marine reaction detachment, and I also sent a platoon of APCs [M-113 armored personnel carriers] down there to the Embassy.
DR. WRIGHT: From LTC Reed's battalion?
LTG STINER: Correct. So there was never any threat to the Embassy. In fact, the Embassy wanted the APCs to bust the gate down and come in because they didn't want to come out and unlatch the gate from the inside. And I told them "no." Because if you bust the gate down, then we'll end up securing the thing from now on. Pull up and climb over the fence and unlatch it yourself if they won't come out. [LAUGHTER] And that's what we did.
DR. WRIGHT: I guess the second sort of unanticipated target that you had to devote attention to is the Marriott Hotel. How does that mission come about?
LTG STINER: We were watching the Marriott all night long because we knew that there were Americans in there. Now, first of all, Americans had been warned about going into hotels in the city. The Marriott was not my priority initially. I was concerned and we continued to watch it, but my priority was to continue the fight, break the back of the P.D.F. that was still dangerous, and to continue to protect 15,000 Americans. They were my two priorities. And in my mind we would get to the Marriott as soon as we could. Now we were watching it, and we had a plan. Should a hostage situation develop at the Marriott, we could deal with it, but in my judgement one had not developed. What caused all the hullabaloo about the Marriott was an Eastern Airlines captain in there who had a telephone; he was on about the third or fourth floor. And he was calling directly to the White House on that telephone, and it was coming back down to us that way: "do something about the Marriott." So that was the situation at the Marriott.
DR. WRIGHT: And you ... you're solution to the problem was to dispatch one of the 82d companies down there?
LTG STINER: Along with the battalion commander.
DR. WRIGHT: And how did they make that move, sir? By ground?
LTG STINER: They made it by ground, by running as hard as they could run on each side of the street, hugging the buildings to get down there. They lost two people on the way down.
DR. WRIGHT: They get down there and they find that the hotel is not in fact occupied? It just has Americans in it? Were there any P.D.F. in it?
LTG STINER: Well, there had been some 'bad guys' on the bottom floor that had been going through, shooting and banging and that sort of thing, if you can believe the reports that were coming from this captain. But it didn't take them long, at all, to secure it.
DR. WRIGHT: Then the next morning, I guess, there's ... there is a brief firefight when they try to bring the ... move the rescued people out?
LTG STINER: Yes, yes. The next morning we decided to move them all out. Brought some trucks down. The firefight did break out right there in front. There were no hostages injured during that firefight, but there was a Spanish reporter killed right there in the street in front of the Marriott.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, the people that were in the hotel were not just Americans? There were also other foreign nationals?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: As you get those people out, then do you leave a security element in the hotel? I believe there's a story, then, about the supply of food and the authorization for our people to eat in the hotel?
LTG STINER: Well, we left a rifle company there. The manager of the Marriott did not want them to leave. He wanted them to stay as long as we would let them stay--and then longer. He was feeding them free of charge. And they liked it--that good Marriott
food--better than they liked those MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat]. He took good care of them.
DR. WRIGHT: At this point, now, as dawn breaks on the second day ...
LTG STINER: One of the reasons that I left the rifle company at the Marriott as long as we did was that the Marriott was a good place to position it. We had a combat element at the Embassy and further up the road we had a rifle company, so we had two good areas from which to operate in that city--those locations.
DR. WRIGHT: During that first ... well, the night of the 20th-21st is when the looting starts?
LTG STINER: Yes. Probably the morning of the 20th is when the looting really started, of course. There was hardly any looting that night.
DR. WRIGHT: At that point, as dawn breaks on D plus One, on the 21st, now how do you reorient your forces to start dealing with the sweep of the city, and the security of the city?
LTG STINER: I ordered the 82d to put the preponderance of its combat power in the city as soon as possible. And by that time most of the brigade, the additional brigade, from the 7th Division was in. And I put them in the city. And then I attached them to the 82d.
DR. WRIGHT: And then at that point is it that you make your call for the third of the brigades to come down from the 82d [correctly 7th]?
LTG STINER: Yes, and also most of the 16th M.P. Brigade had landed by that time. The priorities at that time were still really about three. One was to continue to protect US lives. The second was to continue to neutralize the P.D.F. and to police up the leadership of the P.D.F. and the dignity battalions. And the third was bringing stability to that city.
DR. WRIGHT: O.K., sir, I think at this point we'll wrap, if it's O.K. with you, on this session. And then that will leave us the one remaining session to go over the stability operations and then the hand-off issues.
LTG STINER: O.K. Good.
DR. WRIGHT: Thank you, sir.
LTG STINER: O.K. Thanks, Bob.
[End of Tape 3]
DR. WRIGHT: This is the conclusion of the Operation JUST CAUSE interview with LTG Carl W. Stiner. This interview is taking place in the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters. Today's date is 11 June 1990. The interviewing official is Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr.
And sir if you recall when we finished off the last of the interviews, we pretty much worked our way through the combat operations and the follow-on as we moved out across the countryside. In reviewing that stuff, I had just one question that relates to the combat side, and that is: why did we make the decision not to activate Task Force PACIFIC as originally contemplated?
LTG STINER: In reflecting back, I guess the main reason was because of the compelling need to guarantee stability within the city [Panama City]. The 82d [Airborne Division] had reoriented its efforts toward the city, and had secured most of the critical facilities. To assist the 82d, I had OPCONed [placed under operational control] to it the next brigade of the 7th [Infantry] Division to arrive.
DR. WRIGHT: It was basically the 9th Regiment [1st Brigade, 7th Infantry Division]?
LTG STINER: That's correct. And the 16th M[ilitary] P[olice] Brigade was also coming in at a rapid clip. A stable situation within that city was absolutely paramount to being able to stand up the new government and have it function the way it should, especially during the early stages. So that's one reason that I left that mission with the 82d.
At that time also, the majority of 7th Division had arrived; enough to where I had another major headquarters with a two star-level commander who could focus on neutralizing the remaining P.D.F. units throughout the country.
DR. WRIGHT: So it [Task Force PACIFIC] just became a redundant echelon, then?
LTG STINER: That's correct.
DR. WRIGHT: To talk a little bit about our logistical side of the house ... the logistical tail for the committed units. They went down [to Panama], especially the one ones that came out of here [Fort Bragg] went down, thin. And there was no real plan laid out to bring those additional [organic logistical] personnel down. Was that because we had the in-country logistical structure [that] we could count on?
LTG STINER: Yes. We had enough of a core structure there in the form of the support group [41st Support Group], that was a part of US Army, South. And [it was possible] to use it as a nucleus upon which to build. It had the capability, the in-country stocks, to meet our initial combat needs. The augmentation that would be required, early on was programmed into our flow as would be needed. These additional augmentation units were to come from our COSCOM [1st Support Command] here at Fort Bragg.
DR. WRIGHT: And without building up the troop strength excessively? And was that a concern of yours and GEN Thurman's after the first day or two that we not make it appear that there was a massive US presence in the country?
LTG STINER: Yes. We wanted to accomplish this mission with as few additional troops as we possibly could. So that when it was over [and] we could begin to break loose and start redeploying our combat units, we would not have a logistical tail for our base support structure that would be extraordinarily large.
DR. WRIGHT: Essentially the same process, sir, the same thought process about using the 7th S[pecial] F[orces] Group quickly because it is an economy of force thing? Relatively few people doing the mission?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of our logistics and the related combat service support issues: what were you particularly concerned with early-on that you thought might turn out to be a problem (that obviously didn't become one)? Was there any one area that you were nervous about?
LTG STINER: Within the area of combat service support, I was a little concerned about our ability to adequately handle the number of casualties that we might have. We had gone in very light in that regard, and had deliberately made the decision not to preposition the Air Force MUST [Medical Units Self-Contained, Transportable] hospital that they (the Air Force) were pushing hard to get in, because of the possibility of a compromise that might result from the twenty-four C-141 sorties that would be required to bring it in. But I had a good feeling that if we could handle our casualties for the first twelve to eighteen hours, we could bring in enough additional medical augmentation from our own COSCOM's 44th Medical Brigade to take care of that problem.
The other area that I was a little concerned about was graves registration. Not from the standpoint of having too many KIA [killed in action] or bodies laying around to handle, but it was the mere fact of having bodies lay around. I wanted to make certain that we did that [function] in a professional and humane way, and did not convey any signal that we did not care about the dead.
DR. WRIGHT: To include the Panamanian dead?
LTG STINER: That's correct.
DR. WRIGHT: That being one of the lessons from Grenada, that we took a little bit of a pounding on?
LTG STINER: Well, that and just the moral obligation that we have to treat our dead (or all dead as far as I'm concerned) with honor.
DR. WRIGHT: The MRE [Meal Ready-to-Eat] issue becomes an issue fairly early on, largely (I guess) because of the unanticipated ... just volume of refugee traffic that we had to support?
LTG STINER: It was an issue and it really wasn't an issue because we dropped a lot of additional MREs with the 82d Airborne Division.
DR. WRIGHT: In the CDS [Containerized Delivery System]?
LTG STINER: In the CDS. We dropped three plane loads, about sixty bundles of ammunition, medical supplies, and mainly MREs. So as soon as we were able to recover those I knew that we had an adequate supply of MREs. And then, of course we did bring additional MREs in as soon as we started landing our resupply aircraft.
DR. WRIGHT: Were you a little concerned at how long it took us to open overland MSRs [main supply routes], or had you assumed that would be a problem?
LTG STINER: I assumed that there would be some sniping. I did not think that there would be sniping to the degree that there was along the route that led to Torrijos-Tocumen Airport. Especially that area that ran from the Marriott Hotel out to the airport proper. That was the work of some of those Dignity Battalion members that were in that area, that we had not been able to neutralize early. We learned early on that if you had a Sheridan tank in a convoy, they would not mess with it. We "got smart" on how to run convoys relatively unopposed while we set about to clean that area out with infantry.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the casualties as they feed in on D-Day. Are you getting a very detailed account back at Fort Clayton during the first, say, twelve hours?
LTG STINER: I'm getting estimates. But you never really know from initial reports how many casualties you have taken, because a lot will show up for treatment later as the situation permits that were not reported in the initial reports.
DR. WRIGHT: In the initial reports did they identify jump casualties [as] distinct from WIAs [wounded in action]?
LTG STINER: No, not really. They did not have a good handle on jump casualties at that particular time. Commanders were too busy fighting to really stop to attempt to separate them.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you feel fairly comfortable, then, after about twelve hours, that we haven't run into excessive casualties?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And that the Panamanian casualties do not appear extremely high either?
LTG STINER: Exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: As we get into the stability operations what did you draw upon as doctrine for that sir, or was that based upon your own experience?
LTG STINER: Well, it was based upon the rules of engagement and operating principles that we had pretty much set for ourselves, as well as our understanding of the P.D.F. and hope that the signal set the night before, the first night ... by going in during darkness with overwhelming combat power would minimize casualties on both sides. Those were the main considerations that led us to do what it was [that] we did by continuing to emphasize psychological operations in conjunction with measured application of force to get the remaining P.D.F. units to surrender. It worked extremely well, beginning with Penonome Prison. Because from there throughout the country, for all remaining P.D.F. units, only three rounds had to be fired.
DR. WRIGHT: And then, again, I guess, using the theory of moving ... of keeping infantry troops moving through the city and the villages, that brought in the "onesies and twosies?"
LTG STINER: Exactly. Once the people realized that our operation the first night had been successful, and that even though we had not captured Noriega, the P.D.F. had in fact been neutralized in their minds, and he had no basis of power, then they began to call in and report who was P.D.F., who was Dignity Battalion, who existed within the communities who had committed crimes against the people, and so on--hoping that we would pick them up. We were receiving hundreds of calls each day from the Panamanian people.
DR. WRIGHT: Did your G-2 suggest that perhaps we might use some more HUMINT [human-source intelligence] assets as all of a sudden we started getting buried with all of these tips?
LTG STINER: Yes. It just about--you used a good term, it just about buried them. They were tied up on the telephone and didn't have much time to try to go about collating these calls to see how many would pertain to the same area or the same individual, so we could better focus our units or combat power on those areas where the concentrations seemed to be.
DR. WRIGHT: That, as everybody I've talked to has pointed out to me, that's extremely hard to train to. It requires enormous numbers of role-players, things like that, that just fall into the "too-hard" category. Do you anticipate, if we were to execute an operation like this again, trying to obtain from, maybe external to corps sources, more HUMINT assets?
LTG STINER: Yes, we might not could get permission to employ them in a pure HUMINT role, but I think we could better organize ourselves for another operation based upon our experiences. We learned that we would definitely need more intelligence people, and to organize them as experts on regions and maybe use the team concept. [Tell] three or four people, 'you have this region, you take all telephone calls or all intelligence information that pertains to this region; you three or four take this [other] region.' By doing that we could get ourselves better organized so that it would be less likely that information coming in would just be entered into an intelligence log and would not be analyzed and processed to see if it was part of a pattern.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the "Muskets for Money" program being locked into and supplementing that intelligence effort, are you pleased with that, sir?
LTG STINER: Yes I am. We took in a lot of weapons under that program. I don't know exactly how many. It's obvious to me that some of the folks who turned in those weapons were either P.D.F. in person in civilian clothes, or they were families of P.D.F. Had we not had a program like that, it's doubtful that we would have been able to recover the number of weapons that we were.
DR. WRIGHT: And as I've talked around, I've found [that] most of the units found out that collocating the "Money for Muskets" point with the food distribution point with the place where they could place their Spanish-speaking MI people to make it a more economy-of-force measure.
LTG STINER: Yes. That's true. A minor problem that we had with the money for guns program right at the beginning was that only certain people could be certified [as Class A Agents] to deal out the money for the weapons, and then we had to record--get the person to sign that he had turned in a weapon [and] that he had been paid. It was a slow process.
DR. WRIGHT: As we start working the stability angle, what is your input from the Endara government? Are you getting [it], or is that going to GEN Thurman? What they would like to see happen in terms of what functions we turn over to them, which ones we continue to do?
LTG STINER: Most of that was handled at GEN Thurman's level, and it was handled through the medium of counterparts. The counterpart committee or commission, if you will, that GEN Thurman had set up downtown was under the leadership and responsibility of his J-5. I, along with GEN Thurman, did have several late-night meetings with the--particularly with Vice President [Ricardo Arias] Calderon--to try to sort out their vision and the future for the P.D.F., what we should do in that regard.
DR. WRIGHT: So the hard choices on how to go about doing the reconstitution of the new defense force ...
LTG STINER: That's exactly right. Purging the P.D.F.; the selection of the new commanders to go in; the initial steps in the process of beginning to train them as a police force.
DR. WRIGHT: Would you feel more comfortable in the future doing it taking a little more time, or did you feel ...? I guess what I'm trying to ask is, were you under pressure to move quicker than you would have liked to?
LTG STINER: No. In fact, I think it was the other way around. We were prepared to move before they really had their act together. We were pushing them.
DR. WRIGHT: I guess as part of this return to normalcy, which is, I guess, the key for us to be able to pull our people back out, what were the critical elements you were looking at to try to make the determination on how to start phasing down?
LTG STINER: In my own mind there were several:
One was: we had to assure an environment within the city that was safe for the people to walk the streets. I.e., [that] you did not have snipers killing people. We had to assure the security and environment around those seats of government that we had secured: the Presidential Palace; the Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Justice; that of Health; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [The places] where people could go ... where employees could work (the new government), where people could go seeking services without fear for their lives.
We had to assure that those people who had been displaced had adequate food, clothing, and shelter and medical treatment.
We had to assure that the Torrijos-Tocumen Airport was opened and functioning in an uninterrupted way. And that the route leading to that was safe so that people could travel it.
We had to assure that the leadership of the Dignity Battalions and the P.D.F. units that had escaped was either captured or neutralized in such a way that they could not gather up remnants of what was left and mount a guerrilla campaign or campaign of violence against the new government and/or the people; causing them to loose faith and confidence in the ability of the new government to provide protection to the people.
And then we had to assure that there were no pockets of resistance remaining throughout that country that could threaten the security of the Panamanians. Those were the things that I was contemplating.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you work up some kind of a decision matrix on that to start achieving the check marks?
LTG STINER: Yes, we did.
DR. WRIGHT: As the rules of engagement change, are you the one (since you were the one who drafted the original rules of engagement) ... are you the one who is the final approver on the changes that take place?
LTG STINER: On the changed rules of engagement, GEN Thurman and his staff came up with those. But he certainly coordinated that with me.
DR. WRIGHT: For example, the decision to stop using the camouflage [face] paint: is that your decision or is that one you delegated?
LTG STINER: No, that was mine. And that was based upon the recommendation of my commanders that were in the city. They just felt that it would convey a ... more of an atmosphere of normalcy and not combat to the local citizens.
DR. WRIGHT: And in retrospect are you happy with that one?
LTG STINER: Well, yes. But that only applied to the city. Those units that were still out in the countryside, still pursuing and dealing with the P.D.F. that had not yet been disarmed were still in their full combat dress--everything they did was tactical.
DR. WRIGHT: As we move into the execution phase of the second half of the plan, that which, I guess, we originally had called BLIND LOGIC in the planning process, and then implemented as [PROMOTE LIBERTY], the stability operation itself. There's some initial confusion about deploying the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion. I think the original plan had envisioned them coming down on D-Day and we actually held them a day or two?
LTG STINER: We took part of it with us on D-Day. The reason that we did not take more was the availability of airlift; and the priority that we had to afford to bringing in more combat units as the fighting was not yet over. I think that we were able to get them in to fulfill those functions and responsibilities in a timely manner.
DR. WRIGHT: When we go to pull back out, when do you get the decision from the National Command Authorities that it is time to stand down JTF SOUTH and handoff to JTF PANAMA?
LTG STINER: I think ... let's see, we redeployed on the 12th ... the first major combat units on the 12th of January. I think it was about the 9th or the 10th that we got that decision.
DR. WRIGHT: So then we moved very expeditiously to bring the 82d home?
LTG STINER: Yes. Yes we did.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the choice of who to hand off to as C[ommanding] G[eneral] for JTF PANAMA, how was that decision arrived at? Was that GEN Thurman's choice?
LTG STINER: GEN Thurman came up with the plan. His staff came up with three alternatives. BG Hartzog drafted those. All general officers were present from MG Cavezza and MG Johnson, and we went over those options to see what would be the best course of action and each one of us gave our recommendations. Then GEN Thurman made the final decision.
DR. WRIGHT: Which was essentially to use MG Cavezza?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And then have MG Cavezza hand off to USARSO?
LTG STINER: To hand off to MG Cisneros.
DR. WRIGHT: Cisneros?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: The idea there being to ... just in case something flares up, we have the man with the maneuver elements to go after it?
LTG STINER: Yes. And there were still parts of that country to be searched, and there were still P.D.F. units to be dealt with. And he still had--this is MG Cavezza, the 7th Division commander--he still had a major part of his division's combat power tied up with these P.D.F. units. Because as he went through and disarmed each one, he left at that particular location either an infantry rifle platoon or an infantry company depending upon how large the P.D.F. installation was. We have to remember at this point all he had done was take their weapons away. They were still P.D.F. that only a couple or three days before had been serving Noriega. So since he had his combat power out all over the country, it made sense.
DR. WRIGHT: ... to leave him ...
LTG STINER: ... in charge.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the decision to make the jump back in to Sicily Drop Zone [at Fort Bragg], is that your call, sir?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Are you happy with that?
LTG STINER: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Can you explain just briefly what your thought process was in making that decision?
LTG STINER: I wanted to bring them home in such a way so that they would feel good about themselves. And I wanted the world to be able to see them.
DR. WRIGHT: As you've gotten the feedback from your subordinate commanders, then, do you feel comfortable that that in fact did take place?
LTG STINER: Oh, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: The kids are pretty happy about it?
LTG STINER: Yes. It accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. And in my judgement, the only way to take paratroopers anywhere is to jump them, and the only way to bring them home is to jump them.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of that kind of approach, and the, I guess, the solidifying [of] that professional attitude about how we conducted our operations: is your policy then on decorations, and GEN Thurman's policy on decorations, part and parcel of that same thought process?
LTG STINER: Yes, and we have been very careful to scrutinize the awards process very closely.
I was given authority by [the] Department of [the] Army to award medals through the Bronze Star for Valor. Anything Silver Star and above had to go above me unless it was posthumously awarded. I gave two-star division commanders responsibility for approving merit awards for meritorious service below the level of Bronze Star, but I put out some very clear guidance on what criteria had to be met.
And I personally scrutinized what it was that they were doing. Plus I personally acted on all the awards that were submitted to me. We set up boards, whose judgement, I hope, cannot be questioned. I shared with each commander the information and the track record on how each unit was doing so that we kind of stayed in line on this. One unit didn't award a whole bunch by applying different criteria than another unit. I'm very happy with the judgement that they applied in that process, and I do not think that anyone can question our judgement on awards.
DR. WRIGHT: In other words, your goal in all this was to keep it a "level playing field" and to eliminate some of the wild discrepancies that took place in Vietnam?
LTG STINER: That's right. And our philosophy also was to give an individual an award for valor [where] clearly one was indicated. And to give an individual an award that recognized his performance for meritorious service when it was so conspicuous that it was far above and beyond what he was expected to do in the normal course of his duties and responsibilities. And also to give priority to enlisted men, and to scrutinize very carefully any award that was submitted for an officer. I do not believe in having the impression develop among the enlisted men that if you're an officer you get an award, and if you're a lower-ranking enlisted man you don't get anything. I would rather take care of officers and senior NCOs who did an outstanding job in the efficiency reporting process than in the award process. It's far more meaningful also when it comes to career [considerations]; it's better to have something in their records that the next board is going to look at than it is [to have] something hanging on your chest.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the battle trophy policy: who came up with the idea of handing out the bayonets and trying to minimize the troops foraging on their own?
LTG STINER: The G-4 was COL Ken Beam who was keeping me informed of the weapons count daily. He told me early on in the operation that we had captured enough bayonets to where one could be given to each man as a war trophy if I approved it. I got with the JAG [COL John R. Bozeman] and had him look at all the regulations and run this up his channels, the word came back that it was my decision. The staff recommended ... said "this is the prudent way to go." They also recommended that we not allow any other trophies except maybe flags or uniforms. So it was on the basis of those recommendations.
DR. WRIGHT: As we come back here to Fort Bragg, how quickly do we reconstitute?
LTG STINER: We never lost our DRB [division ready brigade] capability here at Fort Bragg. We reconstituted that immediately when we left here, so then there was another division ready brigade slice intact. In fact, while we were down there I thought there was a possibility that we may have to conduct another contingency operation in another part of Central America, and it was the Division Ready Brigade back here that would have gotten that mission, under MG Roosma.
DR. WRIGHT: And so we ... the way we plan for doing that (one [contingency] plus a second one that's slightly smaller) enabled us to, as soon as we got back here, be 'good to go?'
LTG STINER: Yes. We could have gone immediately on that contingency.
DR. WRIGHT: As we went down there, one of the things that I observed was [that] there were a significant number of people back here that had been intimately involved in the planning process. Was that a deliberate decision to leave 'smart' people back?
LTG STINER: Yes, it was. Because part of our concept for command and control of this whole operation had MG Roosma up in the ABCCC, had me forward, and had the Emergency Operations Center working here. With the SATCOM radio capability that we've got, either one of these battle staffs could have taken control of that operation, had something happened during the execution phase. JSOC had essentially the same thing: MG Downing was down there with me, they had an ABCCC up, plus their Emergency Operations Center at JSOC Headquarters. That was the reason guys were left back here on that battle staff that were intimately familiar with the plan and what the situation was on the ground--because even after the initial stages of combat, we still had the requirement for follow-on operations and logistical support and those sorts of things. It was necessary to have people back here with detailed knowledge of the operation.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the learning process: have you asked the subordinate units to take a re-look at their METLs [Mission-Essential Task Lists] just to make sure that they hadn't left anything off?
LTG STINER: Yes. And I think that they pretty much did that on their own, because they were keeping up down there on a daily basis with how many METL tasks they had been able to accomplish in this operation. In fact, every time some visitor came around, one of the first charts to go up was 'I have accomplished ten tasks out of my twelve that's on this METL.' So they were watching that very carefully.
DR. WRIGHT: Did that make you feel pretty good about the quality of the training?
LTG STINER: Yes. Yes it did.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the relationship during this operation (this is a question sort of that the Center of Military History was particularly interested in) ... what was the relationship with the ARSTAFF [Army Staff] as the operation was being planned, being conducted, and then in the debriefing process?
LTG STINER: First of all, the ARSTAFF was very responsive to any need that we identified. But because of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 86, the responsibility for contingency operations rests with the combattant CINC [commander in chief], which was CINCSOUTH. And since the JCS in 88 designated us as the joint task force responsible to GEN Thurman, all of our planning was done under GEN Thurman and directly through him through the joint route straight to JCS. But I stayed tied in with LTG Sullivan (the DCSOPS), GEN RisCassi (the Vice Chief), and GEN Vuono--kept them briefed (as well as Forces Command who is the provider of combat resources). And any requests that we had, I felt free to go directly to the Army, and they responded.
DR. WRIGHT: Is this in part because the senior leadership gets together frequently enough so that there is face-to-face credibility? Sort of looking at a macro level, the same thing that we found throughout the operation: that our key players knew key players from other units and you were able to cut right through "turf-type" issues and be responsive?
LTG STINER: That's part of it. Plus, I made a concerted effort to meet with and personally brief every key person that might have anything to do with this operation. For example, I went to Scott Air Force Base and personally briefed CINCMAC [Commander in Chief, Military Airlift Command] and his key staff members early on. That was in November  that I did that; it might even have been October. I went to CINCLANT [Commander in Chief, Atlantic] and personally briefed ADM Kelso and his staff because we would be transiting his airspace and he would be responsible for search and rescue in case anything happened. I briefed the FORSCOM commander on two occasions.
DR. WRIGHT: GEN [Edwin H.] Burba[, Jr.]?
LTG STINER: Yes, GEN Burba. I've already indicated that I briefed LTG Sullivan and I ... both LTG [Gary E.] Luck and I both briefed GEN RisCassi, and GEN ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... Vuono ...
LTG STINER: ... GEN Vuono a couple of times long before we ever took this briefing into the "Tank." So I made it a point to establish ... to make those folks knowledgeable, to establish those relationships that would facilitate this planning process and would support the operation.
DR. WRIGHT: Question of the Family Support Group. This is the first war we've gone to with a fully-established mechanism in place. Do you think it helped?
LTG STINER: Oh, it sure did. Those wives really "had their act together." Particularly [Mrs.] Sharron Nix, wife of the 1st Brigade commander in the 82d Airborne Division. And they convened the Family Support Groups immediately. MG Roosma helped them by providing expertise and assistance from the agencies of the corps that they might have needed help from. They didn't need much!
DR. WRIGHT: I've got one last question to ask you, sir. It's the one I've asked every participant. What is the one funniest or most unusual or strangest thing that happened to you during this operation? The one thing that's going to stick in your memory fifty years from now.
LTG STINER: Gosh, I'm ... there were a lot of funny things that happened to me. I really don't know! [Laughter.]
DR. WRIGHT: Any little anecdotal moments that maybe broke the tension for you?
LTG STINER: No, I don't think so. About the first three days and nights we went straight around the clock and then it got to where, the next two or three nights, we got one hour's sleep a night. [Then we] finally got into two hours. When we finally got into three hours I thought "we've got this thing made."
No, I just can't think of anything.
DR. WRIGHT: Let me ask you maybe in terms of ... say maybe in terms of say when you were trying to get that hour of sleep and, as it's been described to me by the Protocol Section who were apparently sleeping on the floor. Did you have to step over them to get back and forth to the couch you were sleeping on?
LTG STINER: Yes. I slept on a couch for the three weeks that I was down there, so that I could be right there in case anybody needed me for anything. Yes, a time or two I had to walk through the Protocol Section and they were sleeping on the floor.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of my questions that I've asked you, is there anything that I have left out that you feel is really important, or is something that you'd really like to just get on the record with?
LTG STINER: I think that the best way to wrap this up from my point of view is [to state] it was a very complicated operation. It was a large operation; we hit twenty-seven targets simultaneously, bringing 14,000 additional people in in a matter of twenty-four hours--additional soldiers deployed into combat. But it went extremely well.
It went extremely well for several reasons. One was it was planned jointly from the beginning--we had a joint team. And there was no bickering. Everyone had a job to do and they just got in there and did it as a very professional team.
A second [reason], and this might have been the biggest contributor from a concept standpoint: this is the first time ever, in my memory, that we have integrated and combined the capabilities of SOF (special operations forces) and conventional forces toward common objectives in such a way so that the capability of each and the potential of each was maximized. I won't say a force multiplier, although it was, but it was more than that. It was maximization of potential.
[Thirdly,] I think our ability to operate at night was a great contributor and was absolutely key to our success. There is no way that we could have done what we did during the day. The casualties would have been far greater on both sides, and the fighting would have dragged on a lot longer than it did. So that is the only way to go: night operations, night air assaults, everything at night. We own the night.
Another absolute key is the joint CEOI (communications-electronic operating instructions) that we developed so that we could all talk to each other. Without that you cannot do joint operations, much less integrated joint operations.
And then the other factor, and certainly not the least in importance, is the quality of our leaders and troops. They all believed in what they were doing, and they believed that the operation was appropriately named JUST CAUSE because it was exactly that. They demonstrated a professionalism, a maturity, and a compassion and a restraint that I have never seen troops display on the battlefield before. I do not know of a single one that hesitated to go into battle knowing that his life was on the line. That is very important.
So I think those were the great things that came out of this operation, as it pertains to our services--all of the services.
DR. WRIGHT: A number of people have commented that that basic list that you just ran through is almost a check list of all the things that were "wrong" with Grenada. As you were working on this process did you specifically look at Grenada for insight.
LTG STINER: No, I didn't. I knew some of the difficulties with Grenada. I had seen the after-action report, but that really didn't enter my mind. We just did what we thought needed to be done.
But there were several things that were different with regard to this operation when compared with Grenada. One was [that] a single warfighting headquarters was designated as overall responsible. There was no split or dual responsibility. And that was this [XVIII Airborne Corps] headquarters. GEN Thurman held me responsible and he gave me everything underneath me, so it was easy to assure coordination. Everybody knew who they were working for.
The second thing that made a big difference ...
[End of Tape 4, Side 1]
LTG STINER: ... was that we had time to plan this operation. [We] came up with a good plan.
The third thing was [that] we got a chance to rehearse it. Although it was piecemeal, and it had to be that way (in parts) for OPSEC reasons, but we got to rehearse it.
The fourth thing that was different was [that] we got to implement it to its full extent. I mean it wasn't piecemealed. We got the airplanes that we needed, we got the forty-eight hours required to launch the whole force. And we got to implement our plan as we had written it, and nobody fiddled with us. We were given the latitude to make the changes that had to be made, based on the situation as it developed.
DR. WRIGHT: I thank you very much, sir.
LTG STINER: Thank you, Bob.
[END OF INTERVIEW]