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 COLONEL JOHN N. SCHORNICK
Chief, Current Operations, J-3, Joint Task Force SOUTH, and
Chief, Current Operations, G-3, XVIII Airborne Corps
Interview conducted 22 March 1990 in the Emergency Operations Center, Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., Historian, XVIII Airborne Corps
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 035
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. this is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted on 22 March 1990 in the Emergency Operations Center [EOC] at XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The interviewing official is Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., XVIII Airborne Corps Historian.
Sir, if I could get you to give me your name, rank, serial number?
LTC SCHORNICK: John N. Schornick, Lieutenant Colonel, Infantry, ***-**-****. I'm the chief of Current Operations.
DR. WRIGHT: And down in Panama, JTF--in the JTF South organization--did you a have comparable position as J-3?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes, I did.
DR. WRIGHT: When did you first become aware of the operation plan for JUST CAUSE?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, I'd been kept abreast of a plan for that area down there for several months, because we knew things were not well there. It came to the surface, of course, when the reports came out through the news media of the American civilians down there being harassed to some degree. And then on the night of the (I guess it was the 16th of December ) when we were called in to headquarters and found out a Marine Lieutenant had been killed down there. I personally knew, and we were informed the appropriate command here that things were not good down there but stand by, go on home and we'll monitor [the situation]. And then of course we got word early Monday morning the 18th to start preparing to outload, deploy down there with a command and control package.
DR. WRIGHT: And in that command and control package from the G-3 [Current] Operations element, how many people were you preparing to take?
LTC SCHORNICK: It was a standard list of people that was kept on file for just this case. Of course, we have them for other possible operations too. I would have about a twelve- to fourteen-man contingent to work the TOC [Tactical Operations Center] initially, because that's my job where I was to set up Corps commander's TOC. So the initial breakdown was about twelve to fourteen. That included officers, NCOs and enlisted. And we had another list of add-ons; as the situation progressed down in Panama, then we would send on additional people to have sufficient people to run two shifts (a day shift and a night shift). Initially it was about twelve to fourteen people.
DR. WRIGHT: And the concept is twelve [hours] and twelve with an overlap for shift changes?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's correct. We run our shifts twelve hours. Normally we'll shift-change 0700 and 1900 hours. I had the day shift down there, although I was responsible for the overall operations of the TOC under Colonel [Thomas] Needham (the G-3). I would go past the 1900 shift brief and stay until about 2100, 2200, sometimes much later just as an extra set of eyes and so forth for that operation there. But the night shift did have a MAJ(P) [Raymond] Fehrenbach to run the night shift. The night shift did very well, but I just stayed a couple hours extra just to add some extra glue.
DR. WRIGHT: When you start loading out on the morning of the 18th do you start loading out then to preposition people or ...?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes. A lot of the command group went down prior to the 20th, went down on the 18th. I believe some went even the day before, but the major components went down on the 18th.
DR. WRIGHT: Accompanying LTG [Carl] Stiner?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes, yes. There was about 20 to 25 personnel with the CG [commanding general]. That was the initial group there.
DR. WRIGHT: And they had to travel in civilian clothes?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, yes. Yeah. They went on a C-20 in civilian clothes. They moved right on into Fort Clayton down there.
DR. WRIGHT: Now, did they leave behind the packed rucksacks and whatnot for the later element to bring down to them?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, they took a bag with them to get them by, but some follow-on bags were sent to them, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: You, yourself then are responsible for coordinating with who[m] to set up the EOC at the rear back here?
LTC SCHORNICK: The EOC back here was turned over to the Exercise section here under G-3, COL [Larry] Cousins. Their initial place of duty was upstairs in Plans. Just lined the hallways, put in radios and telephones. And they were responsible for pushing us out and getting us down there. And once we were down there then they would move their operation down here into the EOC. So COL Cousins' group took care of that and did a magnificent job.
DR. WRIGHT: Do they normally train to fall in like that? Is that Corps standard procedure?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes. They're prepared to do that. It's my responsibility to run this EOC back here too, and to staff it with operators. I will get staff assistance from the G-1 through the G-5 and COSCOM and the MPs. They all have a designated place here in the EOC to man at any time an emergency comes up. But the other sections know there will be times when they have to take responsibility to push us out. It depends on how many people in the Operations [section] of G-3 need to go on this deployment. If not too many go in some cases, I won't go. Like I didn't go to the Hurricane Hugo in St. Croix. I sent some people down there, but I stayed back here and ran the EOC. For JUST CAUSE, of course, I went forward. So we had to have some people come in for me. So it's kind of an ongoing understanding that they be prepared to do this.
DR. WRIGHT: Then that flexibility is built in?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Sure, absolutely.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you actually physically depart, on the 18th?
LTC SCHORNICK: I did not go until early morning on the 20th. And I sent the initial operators down there to assist LTG Stiner and the G-3 in getting the TOC operational. Again, it was a fixed site down there at Fort Clayton. There were already communications established and the facility was there.
DR. WRIGHT: And you had inspected the facility previously?
LTC SCHORNICK: We had made several trips down there before, yes. During the planning. So we, the people went down there initially, were well aware--well aware, excuse me, of the surroundings; what facilities were available, what communications were available. That was all planned, very thoroughly too. I did not deploy until the 20th. I brought on the additional personnel for the TOC.
DR. WRIGHT: Airland ... .
LTC SCHORNICK: Airlanded. We were due to airland about 0400 on the 20th, a couple hours after H-hour, but our plane was detained out of Pope [Air Force Base].
DR. WRIGHT: Because of the icing or just the normal backup ...?
LTC SCHORNICK: It was just backup, yeah. We were the first bird to land after the initial assault into there. We landed about 7:30, 8:00.
DR. WRIGHT: In a C-141 [Starlifter], sir?
LTC SCHORNICK: C-141, yes. There were about forty of us. I guess myself, then we had the JAG [COL John Bozeman] on there and some other additional operators and NCOs. And then we moved on to Fort--we flew into Howard [Air Force Base] and moved on to Fort Clayton.
DR. WRIGHT: How did you do--how did you make the move in the initial hours of the operation? Did you fly over by CH-47 [Chinook] or ...?
LTC SCHORNICK: No, we went by ground convoy. We had to wait a couple hours at Howard because at that time no one could move without an armed escort. The MPs then showed up in their vehicles with mounted machine guns and put us in busses, escorted us out very deliberately, very cautiously. We had no problems getting to Fort Clayton. It was about 15 minutes, something like that.
DR. WRIGHT: What did you do, go over Swing Bridge or did you go over ...?
LTC SCHORNICK: We went over Swing Bridge. And it was--things were still going on but we had no problem getting there.
DR. WRIGHT: On the flight down had you been issued ammunition at Green Ramp?
LTC SCHORNICK: The ammunition was with us for M-16 and 9-mm. I kept it in the boxes until we got to Howard and then I broke it down at Howard. Gave each soldier several magazines full and those were the rules of engagement with them. I personally did that. And they all listened. They all obeyed.
DR. WRIGHT: That gets to the question of what was the state of mind of the team as the aircraft is enroute.
LTC SCHORNICK: I need to compliment the Headquarters Commandant on this one, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Ross. He was with me on that flight, and about two hours after wheels up Dan went to each soldier on that airplane--all thirty-nine, forty of them--and personally told them (although most of them probably knew where they were going), but he personally told them where they were going, why they were going and that it was "for real." That was a terrific job that he did. It took him about an hour but he went to every soldier, talking real loud because of the noise of the aircraft and personally insured that each soldier knew what the heck was going on.
We landed. They unloaded quickly, did exactly what they were told. The thing that got your attention when they landed is as soon as the tail dropped on the C-141, we looked out and there was a MASH [Mobile Army Self-Contained Hospital] hospital already treating soldiers right there in front of them. I was one of the few guys that had ever seen that because of my Viet Nam experience. But these young kids, I mean that just brought it home to them. They weren't panicked or anything, but they saw all these helicopters coming in and bringing these young men off the stretcher. [It was a] well organized hospital too. It was a tent, the old MASH setup. But watching these guys being taken off the helicopters and the C-130s [Hercules] and being treated immediately, they just kind of stared at that for a little bit. And then you could look off in the other direction and see the smoke coming out of the Comandancia, and [aircraft] flying around. No rounds came into Howard while we were there. But they knew ...
DR. WRIGHT: Helicopters moving with guns out?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's correct, that's correct. So they ... .
DR. WRIGHT: They took it seriously?
LTC SCHORNICK: It was going when we landed. Yes, it was.
DR. WRIGHT: The trip over in the busses to Clayton produce any moments of humor?
LTC SCHORNICK: Very quiet. Again, they were thoroughly briefed on the rules of engagement. I had them put a magazine in each weapon. On safe.
DR. WRIGHT: Did they chamber [a round]?
LTC SCHORNICK: No, they did not. I told them do not chamber a round. They put a magazine in there and put it on safe. That's when we left the gate at Howard, enroute. Once we hit the gate of Clayton then they took the magazine out, and carried their weapons backwards.
DR. WRIGHT: You move into Building 95 at Fort Clayton directly, or do you go someplace to drop off your bags?
LTC SCHORNICK: We went right to Fort Clayton and were met by some of my advance people down there, and the kids, the young soldiers were taken to the [Valent] Rec[reation] Center, given a bunk set-up. The officers and NCOs were put in their place. [We] had to get the people set up. Because again we had ... we had sufficient people in the TOC at that time to keep things going. So everybody got settled down in about an hour, and went up to the TOC and got read in. I took over the shift immediately. Because the guys on shift there had been up about a day and a half, almost two days. Of course, we had been up a long time too. But I then established the shifts.
DR. WRIGHT: So on D-Day is when you started trying to work your shifts?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's right, that's right. And they had somewhat of a shift down there. It was pretty hot and heavy for a while, so they just continued to work. They did a great job. So when I got there I just looked the place over, got a quick update from the action officer that was there, Ray Fehrenbach who was there ahead of me, got me oriented on the setup in the TOC, and I sat down and made two shifts. I sent some of the people to bed right then, because they were coming back that evening after about four to six hours sleep to run the next shift. It went real well. With that load of forty that came in with me, we had sufficient people.
DR. WRIGHT: Let's go over a little bit the physical layout of the EOC down there versus the EOC up here that you're used to working out of. Do you impose an order on it that approximates the way the desks are arranged here: where you place the LNOs [liaison officers], where you placed the different duty officers, and what not.
LTC SCHORNICK: That room where our TOC was at Fort Clayton was a little small for the amount of people we had in there. The standard set-up that I had for the Corps Tac[tical] CP [Command Post] and the Main CP is, you have your maps of the G-2 to the left, the G-3 to the right. And then you have your action officers in front of that on tables with phones and then behind that table you have the G-3 Chops (like me) and the G-2 Chops, and then down both sides going to the rear you have your FSE [Fire Support Element], your Aviation [desk], your Engineer, your LNOs. That's about what we had there but it's extremely cramped.
DR. WRIGHT: A long narrow room, sort of L-shaped.
LTC SCHORNICK: Yeah. Everybody's in the same room. Now, the G-1, the G-4 and the MPs were out of the Main TOC, down the hallway, and sometimes on the second floor. Which in a lot of cases in the field they'll have their separate tent for that area right close to the operations of the G-2 and G-3. So that worked out fine too.
DR. WRIGHT: So in that sense, although it's modified, it was still basic ...
LTC SCHORNICK: That's correct.
DR. WRIGHT: ... and everybody then feels comfortable because you know where to turn to look to find something?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's exactly right. And I myself stand behind my action officers, and I had the [J-]3. I had the Chops; I was the day Chops, Ray Fehrenbach was the night Chops, even though I was the Chops overall. It's the job of the Chops to keep the flow of information going through all the staff section, but particularly between the G-2 (when they get intel reports) to the G-3. And then we in turn take them back and give them to the G-3 and the Chief of Staff or the CG. That's my job, is to insure that the G-3 and the command group are kept informed of the present situation. That is my number one job. The action officers (I had two in front of me) ... and I gave each action officer so many units to monitor, like the 82d [Airborne Division] and the 7th [Infantry Division] and the Marines.
DR. WRIGHT: Broken down more or less geographically?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, yes. Whatever, I just gave them so many each. But they worked with those units every day. I didn't switch them. So the 82d G-3 heard two voices ...
DR. WRIGHT: And only two?
LTC SCHORNICK: ... and only two. That was the day action officer and the night action officer. And just really helps the flow. They know each other, they can just pick up the phone and say "Dan this is Joe, yeah, what have you got, humma humma." So I kept that consistent. Then I had another officer who kept track of all the message traffic coming in. He kept a file for Colonel Needham, Colonel [Ray] Dolan, myself. And all the message traffic, the spot reports which were enormous (had to be), and the other stuff that was coming down. That was a full time job. And that officer also would fill in at my desk when I was up front.
I spent a lot of my time up front between the maps and the action officers, because I'm looking at the action officers. If they're on the phone talking to the 7th ID G-3 about something and they'll turn around and look at the map. Really kept me abreast of the situation, because any time the CG would walk in, or GEN Thurman, or the G-3 [and ask] "what's going on or what happened in the last two minutes," I had it. That's the way I do it. I always stand up in front of the map, even though my desk is back in the rear so to speak because of the phone there, I need some space sometimes to do some writing. The vast majority of the time I'm standing right in front of the map.
DR. WRIGHT: The map board situation is fairly easy one down there because it is an established facility?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes.
DR. WRIGHT: And you had no problems getting maps?
LTC SCHORNICK: No.
DR. WRIGHT: Because they were ... .
LTC SCHORNICK: The maps ... when I arrived, of course, the maps were already up, plotted, the boundaries in, unit locations.
DR. WRIGHT: Did it take you very long to get oriented when you got down there, not being there for the jump-off at H-Hour?
LTC SCHORNICK: No. I was aware generally of the sequence of what was transpiring and had transpired since H-Hour. And, again, my action officer at the time was Ray Fehrenbach, my long-standing supportive sort of guy. And he took me right down through the sequence.
DR. WRIGHT: Execution check list was up?
LTC SCHORNICK: Execution check list was up; significant activities [SIGACTS board] was up.
DR. WRIGHT: G-2 and G-3?
LTC SCHORNICK: G-2 and G-3 both maintained a butcher-paper SIGACTS. The log, and maintaining the log reports. And then the second day I put up two Corps easels with butcher paper up by the maps for ongoing operations. 82d, the 7th, 193d [Infantry Brigade], Marines, JSOTF [Joint Special Operations Task Force], all of them; put their primary missions for the day, just [as] bullets. [For example,] 7th I.D. ongoing missions in three bullets, two bullets, whatever they are. And then we would follow that throughout the day. Different people would come in, they would look at that, instead of having to brief everybody, the G-2 could come over and look at that, double-check the missions ongoing and wouldn't have to ask the questions.
DR. WRIGHT: It did cut down on the confusion?
LTC SCHORNICK: Absolutely. I just kept them posted at all times and we used that to update the shift change briefing at 1900 that night. I would use that to update the shift coming on. I said "these were the missions for the last 24 hours, and this is what happened in each one." I would make little notes by each one. And then I would come in the next morning about 0600 for the day and MAJ Fehrenbach kept the same thing, he did updates on the missions. And we're using that concept now. It really helps. It's nothing fancy.
DR. WRIGHT: Where did you come up with this idea?
LTC SCHORNICK: In my head.
DR. WRIGHT: Just based on experience?
LTC SCHORNICK: I started looking around and I said "hmm." That's right.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything to cut down on the chaos?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's right. The SIGACTS is good because you put those primary things that are happening. I said "we need something," because there was so much going on.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. It's an incredibly complex thing ... .
LTC SCHORNICK: It was very complex and I needed to have it out in black and white that I could refer to and that the G-2 could refer to, and my action officers could continually look. Say, "I haven't had an update on that one mission let me give them a call." It just provided some glue for the many things going on.
DR. WRIGHT: And that's something that now you are going to introduce as SOP?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, absolutely. I used it last week at Fort Stewart on the 24th I[nfantry] D[ivision] CPX that I went to and the TOC down there used it. My people kept saying "who's idea was that?" I said, "I don't know, some smart guy."
DR. WRIGHT: Communications are pretty good down there in general?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes. Across the board they were very good.
DR. WRIGHT: What kind of communications were you working with out at the TOC?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, we had, of course, the normal STU-3 [secure telephone unit]. We had land-line point-to-point (which is TA-312 point-to-point to the 82d and the other units). Then we had regular FM (secure); had TACSAT [tactical satellite communications]. We used courier, we had courier runs several times a day--vehicle taking messages around. The point-to-point would go out once in a while. They would lose their shot or whatever they call it, but the signal people worked very hard down there. So across the board we could talk.
DR. WRIGHT: FAX machines?
LTC SCHORNICK: FAX machines, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Valuable addition?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, sure.
DR. WRIGHT: Is this the first time?
LTC SCHORNICK: They all have their place.
DR. WRIGHT: The first time we've ever used the FAX for real. It gives you accuracy of transmission? Things like airflow data and stuff like that?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes, sure.
DR. WRIGHT: Could you FAX down to the divisions or just back here to the States..
LTC SCHORNICK: Sure, we could FAX data. Normally ... the normal modes of communication to the divisions was the point-to-point. And the courier.
DR. WRIGHT: As the operation progresses, do you a sense a shift in intensity, a shift in rhythm? Or does it go pretty much ... ?
LTC SCHORNICK: It's like any other operation where a lot of people are involved. You get smoother as time goes by. Again the transition of the initial group being down there to the add-on group that I brought down to beef up the TOC I thought was very smooth. I thought the shifts went very well. Of course, you get smarter each day; you're more aware of the situation and your working with the same people at the division level. So there is a feeling of confidence.
DR. WRIGHT: To pursue that a little bit, we've got XVIII Airborne Corps people and we've got USARSO [US Army, South] people in the TOC. Fit together ... ?
LTC SCHORNICK: Very well, very well. I was given a total of about four. I had two--three Navy, three Navy Officers working for me on different shifts and I had about three (yeah, that was more than one) about three USARSO people. All did a wonderful job, responded to do exactly what I asked them to do. Some worked nights, some worked the day. Very smooth transition. The working relationship among all the services, the Marines, and the Rangers, and the 82d, the 7th, the 193d, the Air Force, all of them, I don't mean to leave anybody out. Everybody was there on the same sheet of music.
DR. WRIGHT: So, it functioned truly as a joint headquarters?
LTC SCHORNICK: It really did. To me it was a model of a positive joint atmosphere. Sure, we had challenges, but it was --"hey what can we do" not " gee, we can't do that" or "what the Hell you trying to do," none of that. It was totally team effort. I mean that. I use that word a lot, and I have in my 22 years, but teamwork personified JUST CAUSE in that TOC.
DR. WRIGHT: So many people in there, so many radios, so many telephones, does the noise level become a problem?
LTC SCHORNICK: It can. It really didn't down there. Many people were so busy at times that you just don't hear it all, they are concentrating on their area. Not a problem.
DR. WRIGHT: Talk me through a typical shift change. How do you do it, how do you conduct briefings?
LTC SCHORNICK: We did our shift changes officially at 0700 in the morning and 1900 hours at night. The shift coming on was due there thirty minutes prior. So lets take an example of the night shift, 1900. The day shift is on, the night shift personnel arrive by 1830 and they will do personal overlaps with their day shift people.
And then the Chops (and in this case it was me for the day), I would stand up and do the "one over the world," so to speak, for everybody. The G-2 would stand--the G-2 Chops for the day would give an intel update to everybody. They would just all form around those desks up there, be right in front of the map, the G-2 would give a general intel of the last twelve hours. And then I would stand up and give, using those two easels, I'd cover each division, each separate brigade, whatever, at a time. The major mission accomplishments of the last twelve hours.
Then we would just go down the line with fire support, aviation, Air Force, LNOs, G-1, [G]-4, G-5, PSYOPS. That would take only about fifteen minutes. So everyone would hear "one over," but again they would have time also with their counterparts.
DR. WRIGHT: To do face-to-face?
LTC SCHORNICK: They get to look over each other's logs and say "okay, you need to call this guy" and "this thing is still pending." So it was a "one-over-the-world" brief and also one-on-one with counterparts. And the total thing took thirty minutes.
DR. WRIGHT: In terms of the development of the logs and whatnot, everybody understood that there was no training gap on how you do a log, how you set things up?
LTC SCHORNICK: No.
DR. WRIGHT: How did you administratively handle the sheer volume of paper that starts accumulating in an operation that goes on three, four weeks?
LTC SCHORNICK: We would ... logs would go midnight to midnight. When midnight struck we would take everything in this working log, put it in a separate folder, and file it. Then we'd start a new log at 0001 until midnight the next night.
DR. WRIGHT: And you had your own admin staff to police up the logs so they didn't keep building up in the room?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's right. We put them in manila folders and put rubber bands around them and marked them with the date-time group and kept them down in the admin room where our typists worked, in those big boxes.
DR. WRIGHT: That's SSG [Brian] Landis' room?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's correct. And we have those today. Because if you didn't do that it would be the largest book in the world. So that helped. Again I had an officer that personally monitored logs, and he took care of that. And if there was a question about what happened two days ago at this time, is it in the log? We'd go down and just pull that file out.
DR. WRIGHT: So you had information retrieval.
LTC SCHORNICK: Sure, sure. We kept it handy.
DR. WRIGHT: Computers. Did you use computers down there?
LTC SCHORNICK: We did not in the TOC, no. It was strictly ...
DR. WRIGHT: Stubby pencil drill?
LTC SCHORNICK: Stubby pencils.
DR. WRIGHT: Simply because it's not its not enough time to go through the data entry process?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's right. It was strictly communications with subordinates passing up information; the briefings. Of course we had some fancy computers in the admin [section] typing up the commander's SITREP [situation report], which is a daily report.
DR. WRIGHT: Is that your responsibility or someone else's?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes. I do the commander's SITREP, yes. Which is the highlights in all areas of the JTF in the past twenty-four hours. I tried to have that out by 2000 every night then it goes all the way up to Washington.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you have an action officer specifically tasked to do that?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes, I did.
DR. WRIGHT: Who was that?
LTC SCHORNICK: The first one was a Navy commander and he did it for a while, then I moved MAJ [Howard] Barton, one of my action officers to do it for a while and MAJ Holt, who used to be with Current Ops but is now with the Deployable JTF [element of G-3]. Rick did it for a while. So I had three, all did a very fine job. It's a full time effort.
DR. WRIGHT: I was going to say did you rotate them simply because they hit burn-out?
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes, we do. Plus they're so valuable too, they're good action officers, you want to put them on the desk. Just like briefers. You rotate briefers every once in a while to give them all some experience and variety in what they're doing.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything during the operation that strike you that "gee I'm glad we had trained on this" or "I'm glad we had practiced this on a regular basis?"
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, across the board on many efforts. That was about the fourth or fifth time that we had set up the TOC. So we had done it in [Operation] GIANT STEP IV; we'd done it in MARKET SQUARE here [at Fort Bragg]. So that, again, the set-up inside the TOC, the physical set up, we try to keep standard. Of course, it depends on what the shape we'll be going to, but for the most part we keep our standard set-up. When I got down there I looked around there were a lot of the same people that were with me during MARKET SQUARE, which was an 82d [Airborne Division] big exercise last fall, and GIANT STEP IV, which is also a big exercise during the summer. We try to keep the same team. So there were a lot of the guys, and ladies, officers through enlisted at JUST CAUSE that I have worked with in past exercises. So we know each other, and it helped. Continuity is, of course, the name of the game.
DR. WRIGHT: You mentioned females. Did you bring any female soldiers down from the Ops section?
LTC SCHORNICK: I did not bring any from the Ops. Of course the G-2 had some, an officer and enlisted who I'd worked with before, numerous times. My NCOIC's the same since I've been here and he's the glue of the facility set up I had in the exercise.
DR. WRIGHT: That's SFC Jeff Howard?
LTC SCHORNICK: SFC Jeff Howard. SSG [Stephen] Tate ran the night NCOIC slot. I've been with him since I arrived; he knows what I want. SFC Howard knows what I want. Of course, I know what COL Needham wants. That's the key.
DR. WRIGHT: That brings up an interesting point. The senior leadership level as I've been talking to them, they've all commented on the fact that everybody knew everybody. MG [James] Johnson and MG [Carmen] Cavezza had been ADCs [assistant division commanders] together. And what your saying is this extended all the way down.
LTC SCHORNICK: Absolutely.
DR. WRIGHT: The teamwork is, in part, a function of the fact that people have actually worked together.
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, absolutely. That was very evident there, very evident and it meant a lot.
DR. WRIGHT: And that cohesion aspect is just as important in a headquarters element as it would be in a rifle platoon?
LTC SCHORNICK: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that's one of the reasons that things went well, because the command and control structure of the JTF headquarters--it started there. It really started with SOUTHCOM headquarters. And I'll say this, the relationship between the SOUTHCOM commander GEN Thurman and LTG Stiner, the JTF commander, was superb. They both did their jobs magnificently and they both had really separate jobs to do down there. They both understood that and it started at those two levels and that's where it should start. And that positive "you have your stuff to do, I have my stuff to do" they were talking, they were a team too. I thought Thurman and Stiner were a good team (GEN Thurman and LTG Stiner, excuse me) were a good team and that permeated all the way down. Sure, there were times your patience was pushed. At times you get a little irritable, that's true of a situation like that, but the positive approach from everybody just took care of that.
DR. WRIGHT: How, as you go along, do you see the strain of sustaining the tempo of the operation impact on your people?
LTC SCHORNICK: I didn't see that. Very little of that. If you give the soldier--the soldiers I know--who are physically fit, and mine are, in Current Ops. You give four to five hours sleep a night, you feed them, and you give them that positive stroke on the back that they're doing a good job--they'll go on forever. And that happened.
We made a concerted effort after things were well in control down there. We got a good routine. You have to ... any leader has to work to have a routine for his soldiers, whether it be a rifle platoon or a rifle company or a truck company, whatever it may be. You have to work towards getting a routine where your soldiers are rested, so that even though the days are long, the nights are long. Sure that's part of it. But you must do that because you will reach burnout and you'll get to the point where you get non-effective if you're up three or fours days without any sleep and not eating right. I don't care how strong you are physically, it's going to affect you. And it was a concerted effort down there to give people a break.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, I was going to follow up on that. We had an advantage down there in that we had some facilities.
LTC SCHORNICK: Sure.
DR. WRIGHT: Thinking in particular of the Rec Center where your people were billeted. A better facility than, I think, most everybody expected they would find in deployment.
LTC SCHORNICK: Sure.
DR. WRIGHT: I think a lot of people have indicated to me they went down carrying a hammock or something like that figuring that it was going to be out under the stars. And I noticed that your NCOs appeared to be doing a pretty good job of ensuring that when the people were off-shift they did something relaxing to try to unwind their minds and sort of not be thinking twenty-four hours a day about events.
LTC SCHORNICK: That's right. They did that. Just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the TOC for a couple hours. That's why the shifts are important. You have to have shifts to run the TOC. In a real situation or just an exercise here at Fort Bragg, you have to have some type of organization to work your people in and out. You're just more effective that way.
DR. WRIGHT: As the operation starts to wind down in terms of the combat level and we're more into the watching over, chasing down leads, hunting for caches and whatnot so that the crisis tempo in the TOC is lessened, do you try to get your people, especially the junior enlisteds (when you can do it) ... cut them loose to do a courier run or something like that just so they can see what the country looks like?
LTC SCHORNICK: We did that. We put some of them on helicopters. Aviation was right there behind me of course, and they would have different flights going to different parts of the area for courier or whatever and we put our soldiers on there. It's an education for them and they enjoyed that.
DR. WRIGHT: It's an important morale factor?
LTC SCHORNICK: Sure it is, sure it is. They want to see that. They want to see what's going on outside, past that gate. So we did that, and I feel we got almost everybody out on that, some more that once. They came all smiles, seeing the good job that the soldiers where the rubber meets the road down there had done a heck of a job. They could see the results, they could see the happy Panamanian faces, which they were, and just the feeling they said that the people because we put some in these MP vehicles that would escort around and they would run around and just see people waving, happy, an education. Sights they'll never forget. So, yes, we did make an effort to do that.
DR. WRIGHT: Any little moments, any little anecdotes of life in the TOC that come to your mind? Moments of humor, moments of drama?
LTC SCHORNICK: We always try to maintain our sense of humor, and I think you can even in a real-world situation like we had. There's ... you have to smile, you have to keep that sense of humor to a certain degree depending on the situation. I think we did that. And as time went on and things were moving like we thought they would, in a very positive, successful manner because it was just an excellent job by the JTF commander. LTG Stiner had this thing wired and he was a great commander for it. And the confidence level every day grew and grew because of the results that we were seeing out there, about the Dingbats [Dignity Battalions] and the P.D.F. turning in weapons by the hundreds and surrendering and the Panamanian civilians turning in their neighbor because they knew that the neighbor was no good and part of Noriega's crew. Hey, this thing is really going the way that we wanted it to, it should go. So that's when the humor started coming. The first couple of days was ...
DR. WRIGHT: It was pretty busy?
LTC SCHORNICK: It was totally business, as it should be. But as things get going ... I felt no one [was] really uptight to the point that they were doing knee-jerks on everything, as I like to say. It was controlled.
DR. WRIGHT: So it was just little things like, say introductions at the shift change brief when you'd ask one of the sections for their report and maybe there was nothing much that had happened this twelve hours so they'd try to get creative with something humorous?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh sure, sure. Absolutely. We had some humorous times during the shift change brief, sure.
DR. WRIGHT: Anybody stick out in your mind like that?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, the aviation guys who did a hell of a job down there would stand up and say "well, aviation had another typical day, flying through the wild blue yonder, keeping an eye on everything; we're just having a great time out there and we're offering free rides to anybody that wants to go on them." Like at a carnival. Just things like that. It was done in a positive way, because they were proud of what they were doing and they felt good about what they were doing. Just things like that. And then the engineers started getting into the levelling of the Comandancia, and they had had several different appraisals of what it was going to take and so forth. They were about 180 [degrees] from each other. Someone said "well, you probably don't have to do anything because they're ... the locals are going to take everything out of the Comandancia anyway" because they had some looting problems down there. So we kidded the engineers you probably don't have to do anything, just hire a bunch of civilians, they'll go in there and take it down for you, and you won't have to use your bulldozers. So things like that. There was a communion, a congenial group, Doctor. And it ... I thought it was an effective group.
DR. WRIGHT: How did chow work?
LTC SCHORNICK: The mess hall across the quadrangle there [at Fort Clayton] supported us very well. So the soldiers ate well.
DR. WRIGHT: I mean, how did you handle releasing people for chow and ...?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, the shift coming on would eat ...
DR. WRIGHT: Before?
LTC SCHORNICK: Before. The shift going off would eat after shift.
DR. WRIGHT: And the mess hall was open?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, yes. The mess hall, I think, extended their hours for us. They did a nice job, they really did.
DR. WRIGHT: MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] for the noon meal?
LTC SCHORNICK: We had MREs for the noon meal, yes.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you notice your people eating them or [INAUDIBLE]?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh, they ate them, sure. Soldiers will eat them.
DR. WRIGHT: And then, of course, I guess, about a week, ten days into the operation the snack bar starts opening.
LTC SCHORNICK: The snack bar began I think it was about that ten, fourteen days. And there was a pizza place there. Which was good also because people were coming back to work. Civilians worked in those places. That was a positive sign, that they're working there.
DR. WRIGHT: Barbed wire around Building 95 and armed guards carrying weapons, does that pose any problems?
LTC SCHORNICK: The soldiers securing Building 95 were the band.
DR. WRIGHT: The 79th Army Band.
LTC SCHORNICK: Yes, the band that was stationed down there. That's their job. They did a superb job. Checked everybody coming in, they were all alert, meant business, proud of what they were doing. Because I went out and looked at them all the time. So did the Headquarters Commandant, Dan Ross and SGT [INAUDIBLE], who was his first sergeant down there. They both constantly checked the guards. They did their job. I felt pretty good about them being out there.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything else that strikes you about the operations down there?
LTC SCHORNICK: I think I've covered about everything. But it was well-planned, well-executed. I think we had the right number of people down there. I'm talking about the command and control now. There were some challenges, but there's going to be in a situation like that. But the overriding, positive factor in my area of operation, which is running of the TOC, will always be the teamwork approach of everybody--in all branches of service, all ranks--made the major difference on how well we did down there.
DR. WRIGHT: When do you get the word that you are going to be pulled out, you're going to have to do the hand-off?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, it's ..... They started planning that as soon as we got down there, you have to think about coming out. Because the plan was not for us to be down there that long. Contingency corps don't do that. They go down there and do their job, hand off, and then move on out. So we started looking at message traffic requesting redeployment of certain units, on these dates, after Christmas. And it got in full force after New Year's, when we had specific dates. Because that has to be approved all the way up the line. But I read all the message traffic. But I guess it was ...
DR. WRIGHT: Okay, resuming with side two, sir.
LTC SCHORNICK: The message traffic had certain units going back on certain days or windows really, three- or four-day windows that they could go back. And the aircraft was being validated and so on and so forth. Then COL Needham walked in and we talked one day. He did a superb job. He said we're going to jump the 82d back in, the corps headquarters would get a hundred 'chutes to go back in for everybody from the headquarters. We're looking at ten or eleven or twelve January; of course, it worked out to be the 12th, a Friday. So we worked that. And then the Special Forces started coming in, of course, overlapping with the 7th. See the plan was initially to go in there and fulfill the mission of protecting American lives, securing key facilities, and getting the major people in Noriega's force, to include Noriega himself. And as it went along, and we finally did get Noriega.
Then after that it was a mission of the 7th I.D. replacing, taking over the responsibility that the 82d had. And then the Special Forces coming in and relieving the 7th I.D. in certain areas.
DR. WRIGHT: Out in the country?
LTC SCHORNICK: Out in the countryside. And the 7th I.D. would pull into the city and still have certain responsibilities throughout the [Panama] Canal. But the major area was staffing the city along with the 16th M.P. Brigade. And all that was just going beautifully. And the plan was for overlap for these units several days, and then this day they would stand up and say "we got it." And just hand-off. So the redeployment was based on how well the hand-off would go between the units and among these units it went very well.
DR. WRIGHT: And then within the TOC itself, then Joint Task Force PANAMA replaces Joint Task Force SOUTH on the twelfth of January?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's ... to tell you the truth it was the night of the eleventh, Doc, and we had been prepped for that too. A lot of the officers that worked with me in the TOC from USARSO were staying on, of course, to run the shifts when we cut our controls on the eleventh. So there's a lot of continuity there, which is good. But we worked with them intensely in the last two or three days on the briefing, just how everything was flowing, to make sure that their chops would know exactly the flow of information and intel and so forth and so on when we pulled out.
At 1800 hours on the eleventh of January, JTF PANAMA took the reins of the TOC. And I flew out to Torrijos-Tocumen Airport immediately after that and linked up with the rest of my people and parachutes. The 82d was getting their 'chutes and getting ready to go for departure later that night, early Friday morning. We jumped back in here. So the transition in the TOC, JTF PANAMA to JTF SOUTH went very well.
DR. WRIGHT: It made particularly easy ...
LTC SCHORNICK: Or, JTF SOUTH to JTF PANAMA.
DR. WRIGHT: ... made particularly easy because of the personnel continuity angle?
LTC SCHORNICK: Oh sure, sure.
DR. WRIGHT: As opposed to like 7th I.D. people coming in just cold.
LTC SCHORNICK: That's exactly right. And the 7th I.D. started way out of coming up and talking to us because they were going to move some people into the TOC area, too. MG Cavezza's people. So there was ongoing coordination for that too. So people were thinking ahead, and there was positive coordination down there. So the transition did take place, and JTF South (us) moved out and JTF Panama took over, it was smooth. Again having those same guys there on the desk just solidified the continuity. Didn't have any problems at all. They were good folks.
DR. WRIGHT: As you decide on who gets the 'chutes and who has to airland back here, was that a problem?
LTC SCHORNICK: No. It wasn't a problem. We started sending a few people home on the backhaul birds before the twelfth. Of course we have some people on profile that can't jump. So we made a concerted effort, the NCO and I ... the NCOIC, SFC Howard and I did go over those in [INAUDIBLE] who could go back with the 82d and jump and those who could not. And SFC Howard worked that every day for about three days before he could get down for our fair share. Again we had to spread those hundred 'chutes throughout corps headquarters. G-1 had a couple, G-2 ... and I think it worked out pretty well. And the rest we sent airland. Everybody understood. At one time we had more than a hundred people, but once we worked it out we got down to just about a hundred. I heard no cries. It was wonderful to come back that way, too. It was a terrific ceremony on the twelfth. I was sorry everybody didn't have a chance to see that. But the redeployment was smooth also, it was planned. The Air Force did a good job.
DR. WRIGHT: You get back here, how long does it take you to reconstitute the sections so that you're good to go if another crisis breaks?
LTC SCHORNICK: Well, again, I think we had the ability to work ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... two different areas at the same time?
LTC SCHORNICK: I had four action officers back here that I did not take to Panama. I just couldn't; I wasn't allowed to take that many down there. So the four majors I left back here plus a couple NCOs and young enlisted soldiers. Again, they worked with the exercise people in here, COL Cousins' group. They worked shifts in here, pulled their full weight. They are very capable, those four guys, of going and being action officers in the TOC somewhere else. I never deploy all my people at the same time. I can't do that. So I have two groups, and I try to rotate them. We have two exercises coming up. One in CONUS and one OCONUS. I will not send the same guys to both, if possible. I try to spread the wealth and give them all experience. So if something would have come up while we were still down there, these four guys right here.
DR. WRIGHT: So reconstitution in that sense isn't really a significant problem?
LTC SCHORNICK: If we start talking about three areas then I have a challenge. But I always keep a group back here ready to go. Plus there's many other everyday stuff at the Corps that must continue to go on. Even during Panama we had deployments of other units, USR [Unit Status Reports], and all this other stuff that must be maintained.
I manage that personnel ... who goes where. I normally go everywhere. MAJ Fehrenbach usually goes everywhere because he does my night work. I did not go to St. Croix [Operation HAWKEYE] because that was a little different cat. But I stayed very busy back here in the EOC, you know.
Reconstitution was not a problem. I gave people time off to have a belated Christmas with their families. I thought the Corps was great giving several four-day weekends to those who participated. Even those that worked back here, they got them. Their job back here was just as important as ours was downrange. So those that stayed back here, a lot of them felt bad that they couldn't be down there where it was really happening. But I think deep down inside ... and we kept telling them "hey your job back here was just as important anyway." So they were treated the same way that you were.
DR. WRIGHT: Anything else that strikes you, sir?
LTC SCHORNICK: It was a terrific experience for me and everyone else feels the same way.
DR. WRIGHT: One, I guess, last comment, sir. You've been in Viet Nam, what is your impression of JUST CAUSE versus the way they conducted operations in Viet Nam? Did you see any difference in the soldiers, any difference in the routines?
LTC SCHORNICK: The soldiers I had in Viet Nam as a rifle platoon leader I wouldn't trade for anybody. I was very fortunate to have super young men with me in my year as a platoon leader over there. The soldiers we have in the Army today, particularly those ones that took part in JUST CAUSE, are also super soldiers. We've had good soldiers in the Army all the time. They're as good as the leaders make them to be. And the influence that NCOs and officers have on these young men will either win for you or lose for you. The soldiers we sent to JUST CAUSE, I think prove that they knew what they were doing. They went in there and did it successfully, stayed within the rules: minimal damage and injury when you think about it, the night assault and like that. The mission was accomplished two-fold, and the results, of course, are also going to be a better Panama and a happier people and a more secure people.
The soldiers in Viet Nam had a terrific challenge because they were over there an average of a year. These guys were down in Panama about three weeks, I think about three or four weeks. It's a little different. I think both groups did an admirable job, in my opinion. The soldiers I had in Viet Nam, would I take on JUST CAUSE? Absolutely. But they both were good. The one that happened many years ago was a different--they did the best they possibly could in the circumstances.
DR. WRIGHT: Comparing apples and oranges because of the nature of the conflicts?
LTC SCHORNICK: That's correct, that's correct.
DR. WRIGHT: I was thinking there more in terms of did we seem to have rhythms down better--procedures, jointness--down better?
LTC SCHORNICK: I didn't get into the joint venture in Viet Nam, it was just myself and my platoon. I later became the battalion S-1. It was all Army; the only other group I worked with, of course, were the aviators--I did a lot of combat assaults. But I didn't know what the word "joint" meant at that time, in reference to working with other branches. It was strictly myself and my platoon, and the A Shau Valley.
But I think we learned a lot from that one. I went back to my battalion TOC on numerous occasions to get briefed on an order and it seemed well-organized, they're good people. I never, I didn't get any higher than that battalion TOC. There is a lot of difference between a battalion TOC and a corps TOC. There are so many more people involved.
But again, from my perspective we have the same people in the TOC and that really made a difference. I knew the G-2 Chops, as a matter of fact, we served together before in the 194th [Armored] Brigade, [MAJ] Steve Bond. I've worked with COL [W. P.] Walters before and MAJ [Jeanette] Wade and [MAJ] Felix Aponte. And they in turn have worked with Ray Fehrenbach and SFC Howard.
DR. WRIGHT: So ...
LTC SCHORNICK: I knew the FSE, I knew the aviator.
DR. WRIGHT: In that sense, it's not just within G-3, it is also ...
LTC SCHORNICK: Absolutely.
DR. WRIGHT: ... across the board that people knew people ...
LTC SCHORNICK: Absolutely.
DR. WRIGHT: ... and had ...
LTC SCHORNICK: Sure.
DR. WRIGHT: ... and this is sort of another facet of that issue "fight as you train, train as you fight?"
LTC SCHORNICK: That's it exactly.
DR. WRIGHT: If there is nothing else, thank you, sir. I thank you for your time.
LTC SCHORNICK: My pleasure, Dr. Wright.