DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
Oral History Interview
CPT Antonio S. Huggar
4th Psychological Operations Group
Interview Conducted 5 April 1990 at Hardy Hall, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: MAJ Robert P. Cook (326th Military History Detachment)
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 056
MAJ COOK: This is a[n Operation] JUST CAUSE interview. I'm MAJ Robert Cook, 326th Military History Detachment. This is April 5, . If you will, CPT Huggar, will you please give your full name, serial number, unit and duty position?
CPT HUGGAR: CPT Antonio Huggar; ***-**-****. I'm with HHC, 4th POG [Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Psychological Operations Group] and currently in the position of S-2.
MAJ COOK: Thank you CPT Huggar. Let me start with whereever the beginning began for you. What was about the time and place you became first aware of Operation JUST CAUSE?
CPT HUGGAR: I was stationed here at Fort Bragg. We were possibly given heads-up about the exercise around the 16th of December, 89. That was just an idea that we needed to start gearing up for possible ... in case we'd be going into Panama. And it was still considered a readiness exercise. However, that's first heads-up, as I look back now, that was given to us.
MAJ COOK: When ... so that was on the 16th. When did you get an alert to really go?
CPT HUGGAR: I, myself ... [INTERRUPTION] Just go ahead and pick it up? We departed on the 24th. Correction, we arrived on the 24th in Panama. We were alerted that we were actually be going down there on the 21st and I was part COL Norman's Group staff along with the [S]-1, -2, -3, and as well as the -4.
MAJ COOK: At this time who was 4th POG subordinate to?
CPT HUGGAR: Currently we were subordinate to the XVIII Airborne Corps at the time. At least the staff elements were. Various other elements were actually attached to various elements of XVIII Airborne Corps.
MAJ COOK: And could you sort of describe the general mission that the 4th POG had in the overall operation?
CPT HUGGAR: Our mission was primarily to support Corps in whatever psychological operations aspect we can do: loudspeaker support and any other method. That's in general what we are actually geared to do.
MAJ COOK: Okay. So you went down, then, on you said ...
CPT HUGGAR: ... the 24th ...
MAJ COOK: ... on the 24th and air-land in?
CPT HUGGAR: That's correct.
MAJ COOK: And that would be with the command group?
CPT HUGGAR: That's correct. It was with the command group as well as with elements of 96th Civil Affairs unit [Battalion].
MAJ COOK: And describe to me what .. where you set up, how you got your [S]-2 shop operating and how you plugged in once you got on the ground.
CPT HUGGAR: Working with COL Norman's staff I was located Quarry Heights, SOUTHCOM [US Southern Command] Headquarters. And we were basically supporting COL Norman's needs as a staff. Other elements were spread out throughout Panama into various places, but primarily we were at Quarry Heights (on the staff level). And the various staff sections just kind of assisted the other elements--battalions--in whatever needs they were actually having coordination problems with. No direct coordination with the people, just sat there basically as assistants.
MAJ COOK: In general, and then to the extent possible in particular for this mission, what is the S-2's role in the sequence of events?
CPT HUGGAR: Primarily, we ... my role is there to whatever intel[ligence] that I can assist the other battalions in obtaining. I'm primarily there to get that information; or make sure the flow is okay; or they were getting the required information. In general that was all we were basically doing there; most of the flow was already established. They were getting whatever intelligence requirements they were getting ... as far as maintaining, also, the physical security areas that existed in the battalions.
MAJ COOK: The how does the TO&E [Table of Organization and Equipment] come out? Did you have your own organic troops to do security or were you relying on other personnel?
CPT HUGGAR: We did we based it right on XVIII Airborne Corps assets that was already in place down there: military police and such things like that. But they basically supported us in all those aspects.
MAJ COOK: And did you have other of your battalions that were there ... were their S-2s there?
CPT HUGGAR: There were two other S-2s in respective battalions that were located there: 96th [Civil Affairs Battalion] and 1st [Psychological Operations] Battalion had their respective S-2s there assisting their battalions in whatever need they were having, as well as loudspeaker teams and other assets that were there.
MAJ COOK: Did ... tell me something about ... for example, how long, when you got there, how long were you all anticipating on staying? And did you take sufficient gear? I asked that a lot of the soldiers that went on the 20th--you know, went in one uniform, one t-shirt. What was your understanding by the 24th of about how long you'd be there?
CPT HUGGAR: Well we didn't anticipate how long we were going to be there. We ... I guess we all thought that it would be over with fairly quick. We were ... we had enough essential equipment to survive for X number of time down there. It's not like you're away from civilization. There are PXs and stores around if you really needed things. I think overall everybody was pretty equipped with personal gear to last the extended time down
there--which could have gone on for months. That wasn't any surprise. We were well prepared in packing. Again, we did not know how long we were actually going to be there.
MAJ COOK: Were there any particular things that you encountered vis-a-vis the Panamanian people? Were, in terms of support, in terms of particular problems that you were ... or concerns that you all were getting, at least through the [S]-2 channel?
CPT HUGGAR: No everything was positive down there, with the Panamanian people ... I mean in every aspect. I'm really talking about in general. There was nothing that we asked that we probably couldn't get down there. In a positive manner and more from all aspects of intel to just "welcome you're here" and things like that so it was probably one of the best situations you could be in if you're probably going to go to war.
MAJ COOK: With the 96th CA [Civil Affairs Battalion] there, I suppose ... and this is sort of backing up a bit. You worked with their S-2 as well as ... in the same relation that you did with your own battalion? They would come under your own M.O.
CPT HUGGAR: That's correct.
MAJ COOK: Okay. The ... were there any particular (and I ask this because there will be, in addition to the military material that will come out, there will be a book, there will be a movie) what particular notable, exciting, humorous or good anecdotes did you have while you were down there? Specifically with the command group working relationships? Surprises?
CPT HUGGAR: You know, really, the more I think about it there really wasn't very much. It was day to day activity. You had a job to do; it wasn't the best of times, because you ... it's around the holidays, so you mostly ... kind of had your concentration on ... when it wasn't on your job, on what's going on back at home. And there wasn't really one thing that stood out that--the short period that I was down there--that would make me think that it was humorous or whatever. It was more "let's hurry up and get back home and get this thing over with." But nothing out of the ordinary really jumps out at me and says "hey, I'm glad to be down here," or "it's great." There really isn't anything that really ... I guess I can get excited about.
MAJ COOK: Were you able to follow ... or what sort of access did you all have to TVs? Either the Armed Forces Network down there or anything you were getting in off American networks?
CPT HUGGAR: It was both. CNN [Cable News Network], believe it or not, was there and that was all coming of course off the ... no, correction, we had a direct link to CNN just like ... the cable news, as well as the Armed Forces network. So we had and then the Panamanian television once it got back on the air. So you had three basic areas there that you could find out what's going on in the world. I was lucky again at Quarry Heights to have this modern thing during the wartime as well. So it worked out well. What the other soldiers were getting was very little. But as time went on down there, I think everybody got access to a television somehow. I remember kind of going out give reports to them (a loudspeaker team) and there they were looking at one of the bowl games. And they were just having fun, but they were out there doing a job at the same time. R&R [rest and recreation] was a portable television. Some Panamanian had came up to them and said, "hey, just give it back." Access to the media was great.
MAJ COOK: Did you have, other than simply watching an on-air product, did you all have any interface, interviews or anything at all with international media people?
CPT HUGGAR: No, we wouldn't. Not at the POG. The only person that had access to them was COL Norman and that's only because he spoke for the command.
MAJ COOK: How did, in looking back on it, how did the things that you did compare or contrast to the doctrine (schoolbook, FTX, training) that you would run through to be a group S-2?
CPT HUGGAR: Again I guess we had ideal situations to make everything just flow just correctly. Of course there were problems but they were problems that were quickly overcome. I guess if you look at how the doctrine actually works, 4th PSYOPS ... some things had to vary and you found that out once you actually ... . You'd be out there, if you wanted to call it war, but overall the flow was so good that doctrine--when we did step outside of the doctrine--we kept quickly coming back on track. And I think that's the reason why one mission was accomplished in so many areas. That we stuck to the doctrine that we was supposed to have done, which made our life a lot easier.
MAJ COOK: Did you have ... encounter any either difficulties or triumphs with language resourcing? Did you have enough or not enough language specialists?
CPT HUGGAR: No, we were very prepared. Again the ideal situation is the Panamanians speak English as well. And there were some areas where they didn't, but we had enough linguists in the area and spread out throughout the countryside to support the missions that we were given.
MAJ COOK: Was that primarily because you had them on the rosters going in or you got them attached when you got in.
CPT HUGGAR: Uh, no, we had them going in.
MAJ COOK: We had them going in.
CPT HUGGAR: We were pretty well prepared for ... with what we've got. You can always more, but overall we were right on target for having the right team in the right places.
MAJ COOK: Were there any secondary missions or taskings that you all got that you had either not anticipated or were surprised to get?
CPT HUGGAR: No. None whatsoever.
MAJ COOK: So you stayed pretty much with the ... ?
CPT HUGGAR: Everything was on track. We just simply followed through and ... with nothing really surprising ... or add-ons.
MAJ COOK: How did you start bringing your slices back? Certain of your S-2 people, 'cause I understand that you came back in pieces.
CPT HUGGAR: Yes. In particular slices.
MAJ COOK: So if you could just describe how you all interfaced in with that?
CPT HUGGAR: We, the staff, came back basically intact as one. You would probably have to talk to the battalion to find out how they actually got back. But I think CPT Hebert. But I, myself, am not sure actually how the slices came back. And the airflow was that sometimes you'd get a whole ... have a battalion come back and the next one, you'd have two or three people on there because the priority was always somewhere else. Most of the unit came back intact: either a whole battalion or a half of a battalion.
MAJ COOK: Then how about the command group itself?
CPT HUGGAR: The command group came back basically intact.
MAJ COOK: Okay.
CPT HUGGAR: At one time about four or five days after Noreiga's capture. Basically we started out and, again, we came back basically intact. Basically the same way we went down there.
MAJ COOK: In terms of strictly what you were doing in the S-2 arena for the POG, what do you think were some of the biggest successes? Or some of the particular events or parts of missions that you really felt best about?
CPT HUGGAR: You know, when I think about it I don't think of anything that went negative. Again, you're talking about almost ideal situations that one would want going into anywhere. I mean, a building to work--operate--out of; systems already intact and flowing [that] you just plug into them to get what you want. And I just couldn't ask for any more. I mean, everything was there. It was ideal situations.
MAJ COOK: Did ... what ... if you were asking me questions, what would you want to say most about, not simply your role, but your whole unit's role? What do you think was ... ?
CPT HUGGAR: You know we was always asking what are the folks thinking back at home. I mean what's the atmosphere, what's the overall feeling back in the States? Because in the beginning we was not aware of how people were taking it and it was a concern of us a lot. We knew that there was a positive image down there the Panamanians had adapted; it's a good thing to do. But the question kept popping up, you know, you wondered what the folks actually ... what are they getting? Are they getting the whole story? The news media was putting out certain things. But that's the flow that I would ask when I called back to the States, you know, "what's the overall view?" And that would be one question.
MAJ COOK: Is there anything else that you would like to comment on or add?
CPT HUGGAR: You've heard me say ideal situation and I think that's one thing if I ... the more I look back on, and I think that was one thing that really was successful for us down there. It will probably never happen again in this situation: just go down there do your thing and get it out of the way. One thing I was really impressed about was overall mission, the coordination effort. That had to happen at a very high level for everybody to get into that country and even the exit out in a timely manner. I was very impressed with the planning aspect of the entire thing. I think the POG handled it well. There were problems, but once the problem came up it was quickly alleviated. It was just smooth going. Everybody was very positive about it.
And I can also remember the first thing. I think when soldiers first realized that they were actually going it was a "but" and a "my," you know, "why is it happening around Christmas." And you could feel the tension, you could feel concern. You could just see it on the soldiers' faces. That's something that I will never forget shaking hands and saying "hey, good luck," and good stuff like that and ... but it all came out well. We're lucky to have very few injuries overall.
MAJ COOK: Thank you very much. This concluded side one of tape one of CPT Huggar.
[END OF INTERVIEW]