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
SFC Richard C. Hopkins
S-4 Noncommissioned Officer in Charge
4th Psychological Operations Group
Interview Conducted 6 April 1990 at Hardy Hall, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: SSG Gerry Albin (326th Military History Detachment)
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 062
SSG ALBIN: This is SSG [Gerry] Albin of the 326th Military History Detachment. This is 6 April 1990; a JUST CAUSE Operation interview at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. SFC Hopkins can you give your full name, rank, service number, unit and duty assignment?
SFC HOPKINS: My name is SFC Richard C. Hopkins; Social Security Number is ***-**-****; presently assigned to HHC, 4th PSYOPS [Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Psychological Operations Group]; Group S-4 NCOIC [Noncommissioned Officer in Charge].
SSG ALBIN: SFC Hopkins can you describe for me how you found out about Operation JUST CAUSE; the circumstances concerning the alert?
SFC HOPKINS: I found out through and about operation JUST CAUSE either through the media, through privates within the organization itself (be it at HHC 4th Group or our battalions) and any other means other than the normal chain of command that it should have come through initially.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe your job functions here at Fort Bragg?
SFC HOPKINS: My primary function here at Fort Bragg, assigned to the HHC Group S-4, is NCOIC of the group['s S]-4 being ... giving guidance to all subordinate units: be it 1st, 6th, 8th, 9th [Psychological Operations] Battalion; 96th Civil Affairs [Battalion]; 112th Signal Battalion; and the 528th Support Battalion. My complete capacity is to support them in any means or way that I possibly can, and whenever I can. Additional duties assigned to that is to take care of personnel being assigned to the billets, coming up with billets for different people, health and welfare, and etc.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe for me the preparation that you went through ... the members of your section ... well let me back track just a second. Can you describe for me the structure of your section as related to your job function? The organizational structure.
SFC HOPKINS: You'll have to elaborate on that question a tad bit more.
SSG ALBIN: Who do you have in your ... ?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. My section ... who is the officer in charge of the S-4, CPT Brian Keeth; his assistant is 2LT Thornton Harvell; warrant [officer] tech[nician] is Mr. Morehead, I'm an E-7, NCOIC of that section. We have a SGT Bennett who assists in logistical portions to include BAQ [Basic Allowance for Quarters], housing for individuals. We also have a Spec 4 [Specialist Fourth Class] who is basically like the real, real work horse now (so to speak). So it's like S-4 does his main function which is like pushing a lot of paperwork to include a lot of the leg work that the battalions for some reason drop the ball on and we complete the mission.
SSG ALBIN: Did you deploy to Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama?
SFC HOPKINS: No I didn't.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe to me the ... how you in your job and members of your section worked? First of all did your ... can you can you tell me the people, not necessarily the specific persons by name, but the people, the personnel that went to JUST CAUSE from your section?
SFC HOPKINS: The only person that finally went to Panama, for not really participation since it was so late in the game, was CPT Keeth. He tried repeatedly over and over again to go there, or to be briefed even more in depth to get there a lot earlier to really make the logistical portion of this operation function the way the military has set it up to function. No one else basically was permitted to go--regrettably.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the training that you received here at Fort Bragg to prepare you for an operation such as JUST CAUSE?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. Like an operation ... or any operation very similar to JUST CAUSE. I think the training I received over the last seventeen and a half years basically trained me to have my battalion or battalions ... inform them of how to have their personnel and equipment standing by, ready on a moment's call to be able to deploy with at least minimum equipment and supplies for such an operation. And prepare them for any other type of equipment or supplies that they need after the initial five days of supplies that they taking with them.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe to me what you and your section did here at Fort Bragg in support of Operation JUST CAUSE?
SFC HOPKINS: No problem with that. What we what Group S-4 did, they initially threw out ... we worked basically seven days a week, as many as 20 hours a day. CPT Keeth, Mr. Seaver who's in Panama now, worked sometimes 24-hours-a-day down at the S-3 shop. What we did we did mostly ... a lot of things that ... in support of all the battalions. We did as far as getting pallets, having things palletized, MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat], picking up ammo for active and reserve units. We obtained vehicles and PI'd some that were broken; we even brought them up and made them functional so they could be deployed on aircraft. We did a lot of local purchases--things that had to be picked up within a 24-hour time period. And basically our function ... we did a lot of unnecessary things, but things that had to be done, but they should have been done by the battalions themselves. I do feel as though that if this was done a lot more professional the [S]-4 would not have had to be as involved as they were ultimately.
SSG ALBIN: Can you tell me your section's involvement as related to your job function, and their job function here, with the actual physical deployment process. The procedures; getting stuff on the plane.
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. First of all, when the operation or the Group, the command, was first notified I feel as though that the S-4 OIC [officer in charge] should have been in on the initial inbriefing. And the S-4, the group S-4, basically coordinate with the battalion [S]-4s to make sure that they have everything that they need. That group S-4's main responsibility is not to get out and get things for the particular companies and battalions. He's there to coordinate, advise and assist. But if at any time the battalions are really hurting and can't do these things, then if that group has the personnel and the time, then they get out and assist as need be; obtain those items that will help them accomplish the mission.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe to me the procedures whereby you and your section were briefed as to your job function within the parameters of JUST CAUSE?
SFC HOPKINS: I myself (SFC Hopkins), 2LT Harvell, other members other than the OIC ... we were never, ever briefed on operation JUST CAUSE. We basically heard through either media attention or through other soldiers (E-5 and below) exactly what was happening when, where, how as far as Operation JUST CAUSE was concerned. I think this is one real bad problem that we had being the command. People that had a need to know, if no more than small portions, should know because of the fact that when we tried many times to obtain things by opening [XVIII Airborne] Corps G-4 on the weekends, late at night, they wanted to know why were we doing this. Were we actually involved in Operation JUST CAUSE. And we couldn't tell them to what extent or say anything else because we weren't briefed and we didn't know.
SSG ALBIN: Can you elaborate on ... can you elaborate on any scenarios for opportunities for improvement that may have developed within the scope of your job function here at Fort Bragg?
SFC HOPKINS: Any improvements?
SSG ALBIN: Opportunities for improvement.
SFC HOPKINS: Opportunities would be to basically extend the Group [S]-4s responsibilities. What I mean, there's ... to give them a broader base of, I guess, power so to speak. Maybe it's there, but there's no one that I see really really stand behind the [S]-4. It seems as though a lot of battalions has more of that ... that last word or last final approval on things versus the [S]-4, the Group [S]-4, which is the last word ... should be the last word prior to the commander's approval. If this is changed or modified somewhat, and things would improve and give ... really improve working conditions within the [S]-4 shop, anyway.
SSG ALBIN: As within the scope of your mission or rather job function here at Fort Bragg in support of Operation JUST CAUSE, can you describe any time line of logistical support that you were given or that you followed in connection with JUST CAUSE? For instance, after two days this should occur and we do this; after four days this should occur, and then we do this can you elaborate?
SFC HOPKINS: Yeah. Is there any or there should have been?
SSG ALBIN: Was there any and can you describe any that should have been?
SFC HOPKINS: Yes. As I remember, there were basically no guidelines on what should have happened--when and where and at what time. Guidelines as I said earlier should have been initiated when the staff was first notified that there was a remote possibility of PSYOPS supporting anyone. The group S-4 OIC should have been ready, as much as possible, so he would know how to direct his support personnel on what to do, when and where. Without that happening initially, he just couldn't make those determinations. We basically had to fight to be read on to anything. We had to just try and feel our way and volunteer support. What I picked up from some of the battalions is that battalion S-4s that is, is that they basically had some of the same difficulties that we were. They weren't read in initially of when, where, how, what and why. So they could actually ... if this was done they would know exactly how to go about how to set these things up. If this wasn't done we lost that speed that we would gained if we would have know what the mission, when, where, how and why. What time things are going to leave and returning.
SSG ALBIN: During the operation can you describe the status of Class I?
SFC HOPKINS: That part of the class of supplies the [S]-4 shop ... a lot of things ... didn't get that involved in because of when we actually got involved, the majority of those things were already taken care of by the battalions. Basically of all classes the real only class of supply that we really got involved in basically in depth was the ammunition.
SSG ALBIN: Can you elaborate on the status of Class V?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. That particular class there the [S]-4 shop ... yes, we accomplished that mission. But I feel as though that mission should not have been initially, should not have been given to the [S]-4 shop. Why? Because the [S]-4 shop, the group [S]-4 shop ... at this level they're not ... don't have the manpower and soldiers to actually go to the ASP [Ammunition Supply Point], request and pick up and issue. [That] is basically a company-level ... at the highest is ... would be a battalion-level. We had some problems but we worked it out and accomplished that mission.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe in your words the mission of your [S]-4 shop as you believe it should have been?
SFC HOPKINS: The mission of the [S]-4 shop on any type of operation such as one I already mentioned is that once the group command has been notified, the OIC read on, he would make that determination on exactly what our mission is. Once we define our mission, and the battalions and the supporting units already know their mission, we'll be there on-call at all times to assist. Irregardless of what that amount of assistance is. Period. Being on ... our assistance would be irregardless of how low it is. We would be there to help accomplish that mission and if this is set up in that particular structure, I think the system could really work real smooth.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the interaction of the personnel within your section as related to the job function which was performed?
SFC HOPKINS: Now the personnel with inside the section itself were together. I would say ... I would give them a commendable on it. Other than receiving a commendable from the S-4 officer itself, I think that's basically the only person that we were recognized by. The people that worked many late hours, that came in, accomplished what we had to do, and what were requested by the battalions or command group. And that was basically that.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe any unusual circumstances or occurrences within your section as related to Operation JUST CAUSE?
SFC HOPKINS: When you say unusual ... ?
SSG ALBIN: For instance, long hours. How did people perform under stress, long hours? Were there things that could have been improved ultimately, etc.?
SFC HOPKINS: As far as the long hours, there's no problem with this. The people worked good under those conditions, stress-wise, whatever. The only thing that has hurt people, for lack of the right word, would be that just setting around and waiting and waiting and waiting. You know there's something that can be done or should have been done, but no one tells you and you can basically sit and wait as many as twelve hours; and the 15th or 18th hour someone finally says something. And you knew they knew it twelve hours ago and it could have been accomplished.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe how your supported yourself logistically here at Fort Bragg under the conditions of JUST CAUSE--full alert status.
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. Now the way we accomplished that is that we ran basically a "hey you" roster. Or something like a schedule on when people were given basically time to shower, bath, get a few hours sleep here and there, to pick up any kind of lunch, chow, what else whatever. As far as any extended period of time off, there may have been as much as a day and a half, two days. But at all times someone was manned--either the S-3 office or at the S-4 office itself. And everyone was basically on call throughout. As far as being on alert, there's no basic anything; there was just the [S]-4 shop. It's just the idea of not knowing initially; and when we really find out something we would find out.
SSG ALBIN: Tell me where your office was located.
SFC HOPKINS: Our office was located on Son Tay Street; the building number is HT-2229.
SSG ALBIN: And during operation JUST CAUSE. Can you describe the staff that was maintained on a constant basis at that office?
SFC HOPKINS: The majority of time it would either be myself or 2LT Harvell or SPC Bennett at that particular time. If I myself (SFC Hopkins) wasn't there, the lieutenant would be there; and if at such time I was there or he wasn't, we were on call at home. And I lived basically on post less than ten minutes away, so in essence we stayed staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the nature of the incoming traffic that you received which enabled you to perform you job function within the unit.
SFC HOPKINS: The phone basically stayed constantly ringing whenever we hung up. A lot of things that were verbatim ... basically a lot of things people wanted, two or three people would call from the same section wanting the same thing instead of getting together one person call wanting one thing. A lot of things that was requested the unit should have had on-hand already but didn't. Hopefully this, or in the out- [correction] in-brief, we'll correct this in a future deployments of any type.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the notification procedure within your section for personnel who were off duty.
SFC HOPKINS: No problem with that. What we have set up is an alert roster. Once the OIC or the NCOIC (myself) is notified, I automatically call each and every individual by phone--be it at the barracks or their residence--and notify them that they should, bag and baggage, proceed coming in to or work in headquarters.
SSG ALBIN: Okay. Describe to me how the how you received word of JUST CAUSE and what was happening in Panama.
SFC HOPKINS: Again, as I've said twice before, our--being myself and the 2LT Harvell and SPC Bennett and SFC Harmon (who's in Hawaii at the moment)--we found out basically by soldiers from throughout our battalions (E-4 and below; Spec 4s, PFCs), in the strategic dissemination company (SDC); any other way other than the way we should have been notified by or briefed on. Irregardless of how small or short that briefing is, I feel as though we should have been the [S]-4 shop needs NCOIC, OIC and assistant should have been briefed by the command. Let them know something other than have to hear it through the media out in the street.
SSG ALBIN: You mentioned that you were most directly connected with Class V. Can you tell me ... can you track for me from the time that you knew about the alert, until as far as you can, until the end of JUST CAUSE, how you and your section in your job function supplied Class V?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the circumstances surrounding that how much, when and where?
SFC HOPKINS: We should, and we were, told to obtain Class V from post to assist--to help--the battalions because of the fact that they either could not do it, didn't know how to do it, or didn't want to do it. One of those applied. Being at the group [S]-4 either we volunteered or someone volunteered us to do this because of reputation of we're never given a task we never fail to accomplish, and we accomplish that particular task in record time. That's been the forte of this particular section since I've been here. I can't think of no reason why to we'd do anything to even remotely change that, as far as picking up Class V. We've done this many a time. Last minute notice ... we have had to call post and have someone (a civilian or someone) get up out of his bed, come to post, issue Class V, and in turn we issued it to the battalions either at the arms room when they were issued weapons, or we issue it to them down at Green Ramp prior to debarkation. Or we obtain x amount of rounds for issue to Reserve officers, enlisted that ultimately went to Panama.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe how members of your section, either personally or to delegating on a detail, were involved in distribution of Class V? [For] example: locations, who distributed what, where, and how this was monitored?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. On that particular side of the house that was maintained and we had strict security of that at all times. Basically either myself issued that, or it was another SGT (E-5) Brown, who was in the SDC unit. One of the two of us either issued that, to cut down, or try to alleviate as much as possible, the chance of this particular class being lost or misplaced or whatever. Any time we were issued this particular class of supply, we further produced paperwork to make sure that we had the best audit trail possible and going by the reg[ulation] as much as possible at all times. We constantly maintained that audit trail to show from the issuing point (the ASP) all the way down to the lowest user (being that private, that sergeant or that officer) that actually expended that particular item.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the security procedures involved with this?
SFC HOPKINS: Security at all times were maintained. When we picked that particular class up we had appropriate warning devices, fire extinguishers; there was an armed guard: the one riding shotgun in the front of the vehicle, one in the rear of the vehicle at all times. If we issued at the arms room, the vehicle was guarded at all times, and items were issued at that time by the quantity that was requested by this particular unit. It's issued by the individual who was issuing it plus a guard was standing there at all times to try to prevent any type of theft or anything that may have happened or could have happened at that time. The same type of security was set up down at the ASP--the ASP at Green Ramp--and this was the same type of items were issued prior to debarkation on a C-130 [Hercules] or C-141s [Starlifters].
SSG ALBIN: Were members of your unit at PHA [Personnel Holding Area] issuing ammunition?
SFC HOPKINS: No. The only one that was actually issuing ammunition would be myself; and I mention again SGT Brown. Those are the only two. Now outside of the [S]-4 shop--what the battalions may have done, that I can't elaborate on; that I don't know because I don't know the details.
SSG ALBIN: So you weren't at PHA.
SFC HOPKINS: No, I wasn't. Now what we did was the individual soldier were issued a blank number of rounds per individual prior to departing. What may have been reissued at the other sites that I don't know.
SSG ALBIN: Were there any shortages of any class V items?
SFC HOPKINS: No shortages. 100% accountability was maintained and once we had any type of idea that no other bodies would be going or departing to go there, all unissued Class V items were turned in to the ASP to clear all outstanding vouchers.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe your ... can you describe the training that you received here at Fort Bragg in preparation for this type of an operation, and how it compared with what actually went down?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. Now, my training basically at Fort Bragg--you cannot say really just at Fort Bragg--throughout my career started from the company area throughout. I've learned how to run a supply room: what's necessary, what every individual should have, and that can prepare him or her for an alert or an operation of this kind. All classes of supply that can be obtained through normal channels, I've been thoroughly trained on how to obtain it, who to go to, and all point of contacts--be it at Fort Bragg, Germany, Korea, Japan, ROTC. All the different places I've been to, and I've been very successful in obtaining almost whatever what was requested. Whether they needed a METL [Mission-Essential Task List] justification, it was accomplished. I also think that in the future, that things be coordinated more in depth than what they were.
SSG ALBIN: Okay. Can you elaborate on ... in your words can you elaborate on how this coordination might better be achieved?
SFC HOPKINS: The word coordination--that's the focal point of this whole operation. Just to my point of view, is that there just wasn't enough. When you know very little about something and then you been asked to do something it's hard to do it when you have no idea of what's needed. If you had just a small idea then you can basically judge by your experience of what's needed. If the coordination is done right, people are briefed on as much as possible. I'm not saying that you need to know everything about everything, but there's certain things that a logistician must know. So if he knows this ... these things and it can be a very small amount, then he can set up exactly what the individuals need, once their desired. Like on the far end in Panama, if all the [S]-4s were ready and briefed in such a way, then our [S]-4 could have been down in Panama, could have made the right coordinations, and have things set up a lot better than what they were, ultimately.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the interaction of staff personnel with you and your section during the operation? Commanders and key staff personnel.
SFC HOPKINS: At the time I ... as I remember, I think there it was very little. There may have been some but not as much as should have been.
SSG ALBIN: Tell me how the stand-down went in connection with your job function here at Fort Bragg? Time line, when you heard, how?
SFC HOPKINS: Beginning or end?
SSG ALBIN: From the time that you ... when did you start hearing rumors of when it would end or when people would come back; when it would be over; supplies that you would have to provide, Class V, etc.
SFC HOPKINS: Oh, my goodness.
SSG ALBIN: Can you elaborate?
SFC HOPKINS: It's kind of hard to put a date and time on that. The days and times and hours constantly change all the time. A lot of people kept saying things would happen this date and that time. They very seldom happened that date and time. Many times we expected people to arrive at "daylight 30" this morning; they didn't arrive until "nighttime 30" that day or the next day.
SSG ALBIN: How did you receive your information?
SFC HOPKINS: A lot of times it would come from ... a lot of information came from the OIC of the S-4 shop. A lot of other information came from, basically, hearsay--walking out on the street or around a mess hall or through different companies. The small clerks and stuff knew more than a lot of us did.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the function of your section when troops began redeployment from Panama? Your troops, 4th PSYOPS Group.
SFC HOPKINS: Okay, now. The group headquarters in all actuality did not send a large amount. We sent a very few, even though a lot of people ... other people end up going. Basically the only thing that we did was, basically, coordinate returning of arms and any other type of supplies that they brought with them--within their own mission issue that they basically handled themselves. Different sections are notified to pick up their personnel whenever they arrived, and a lot of times when they did arrive they would call from the air base itself to that particular section to have them pick up.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the role of your section and their ... as related to their job function, with regards to arms, small arms?
SFC HOPKINS: When you say as far as in regards what are you asking?
SSG ALBIN: Were you connected in any way with the arms room? Did you check arms in and out?
SFC HOPKINS: No. Our function there is [that] we have no function as far as the issue or receiving in of arms itself.
SSG ALBIN: All right. How did you wind down your mission back here, your job function back here in connection with JUST CAUSE? How did you handle it?
SFC HOPKINS: In all actuality our section has not wound down as yet. We are still ongoing because of the many, many surveys that are still ongoing. It's just not ... it may be over before FY-91 ... it may or may not.
SSG ALBIN: Can you elaborate on what you mean by the word survey?
SFC HOPKINS: A survey is a means of accountability of property that may or may not have been lost due to Operation JUST CAUSE. A lot of things happened during Operation JUST CAUSE--be it personnel who were attached to the 1st, 2d, or 3d Battalion[s, 75th Ranger Regiment]--Ranger Battalion, the SEAL [US Navy Sea-Land-Air] team, SF [Special Forces] units. Individuals were ... while jumping lost items. Items may or may not have been taken away or they were told to leave items on the airplane by the OIC, NCOIC of that particular ... or the jumpmaster of that particular plane. Once under fire, they may had to discard some items to be able to save themselves. Individuals that were wounded in action or suffered some type of injury had to discard items that have not been recovered as of yet. But the purpose of the survey ... they had those initiated so the surveying officer can make all possible attempts to retrieve these items. And a lot of surveys are still open, and these duties are continuing trying to recoup these things. That seems to be impossible because I've made a lot of phone calls myself.
SSG ALBIN: Did you have any Class V items come back from Panama that you had to take care of?
SFC HOPKINS: No Class V came back from Panama itself, but I must say that some that was issued at the airport--not airport but at Pope Air Force Base--Green Ramp--were turned back into myself because these people were bumped off the airplane or they were told they couldn't go. So I received those back and turned those back in to the ASP.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe your section's job function right now, as it is happening right now, in connection with Operation JUST CAUSE? You mentioned the reports of survey; can you elaborate beyond that?
SFC HOPKINS: Other than surveys, our ongoing things is trying to ... still continuing trying to assist the battalion that's down in Panama at present. Be it any type of assistance that they need. We're still making telephonic communications back and forth to Panama to try to coordinate with anyone who may have any knowledge of any type of equipment that they can't identify or may know where anything is at.
SSG ALBIN: Are you running at this time--knowing that your mission is an ongoing one--can you describe the shifts? How you are running your section?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay, at present time we are basically down to a normal day. What I mean by normal day--from 6:30 in the morning 'till at least (minimum) would be 6:30 in the afternoon. That's five days a week. That's the shift everyone's on. At this stage of the process we don't maintain anything beyond that, because there's basically no need for it. All of the majority of the initial legwork has been accomplished; it's just a lot of follow-up being done to everything that's been initiated.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the lines of communication that you received from Panama to assist you in your job function now?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. Ongoing thing. I would say initially it was on a daily basis. We would get telephonic communication from Panama briefing us on vehicles and other needs that were down there that we had to supply in small quantities because of the fact that Panama is ... stocks were just depleted, exhausted. And until such time that they can plus back up with these items, we try to maintain those to the best of our ability. Communications at this is maybe one phone call a week, just with the ongoing battalion that's down there. That we may have to ... that the group [S]-4 that is have to try to obtain some items or that they made need that it's impossible to get there. We try to obtain here and have it shipped there.
SSG ALBIN: During Operation JUST CAUSE can you describe the basic load of weapons and equipment that members of your section
--you and your OIC--carried with you? What did you have there with you?
SFC HOPKINS: The time that we were involved in any type of issue of Class V, I myself either carried a 9mm pistol or a M-16A2. The driver ... whoever the driver was didn't, but that shotgun be it one in the cab and one in the rear carried an M-16A2.
SSG ALBIN: At your office here at Fort Bragg were there any weapons?
SFC HOPKINS: No weapons at the office itself, because of the fact that there was ammunition stored inside the office. If there was any ammunition stored in the arms room at any time there was an armed guard there at the time. If any time anything was stored in the arms room a maximum time that we would let it store in there was no more than maximum of six hours. We would always try once upon notification and there was verifiable ... to be verified that those people would be leaving at such and such a time, we made all lengths to try to accomplish this at least six to twelve hours prior to them being issued weapons. And we issued ammunition to them then.
SSG ALBIN: Did your section or unit rehearse their job functions as they would perform them during an operation of this type, or did it have any previous experience with this type operation?
SFC HOPKINS: No, we didn't rehearse anything. I feel from my experience--the CPT, LT, the warrant officer--that was there that being in the 82d or SF, we had more than enough experience to be able to accomplish whatever was really needed. In other words there really wasn't no time to rehearse anything.
SSG ALBIN: Meaning previous to this, during an exercise.
SFC HOPKINS: Oh. Yes, many other exercises, field trips, FTXs [field training exercises], alerts, etc.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the equipment that you had in your S-4 center?
SFC HOPKINS: Okay. Any type of equipment that we would have had would have been basically our initial issue TA-50 [individual clothing and organizational equipment under Common Table of Allowances 50-909] already packed in duffel bags just in case that one of us would had to leave or depart with some of the personnel that were going. [It] is that web gear and other TA-50; anything else other than that we would had to request to issue to us.
SSG ALBIN: By equipment, also, what did you have in your office to help you perform your mission, your job function? Office equipment what did you have there?
SFC HOPKINS: Well we had basically general equipment, like desk, chairs. We have two computers. One is not compatible with the other. Basic telephonic communications. We also requested and received the body armor issued to some of the staff that went to Panama. That's about all the equipment that we have there in the [S]-4 shop at any time.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe to me any equipment that you thought would have been helpful to you had you had available to you during JUST CAUSE? Perhaps could have increased the efficiency of your mission?
SFC HOPKINS: It's a lot of other equipment that would have ... but to really mention them now it escapes my memory. It's very hard to say, because I just can't remember.
SSG ALBIN: Okay. Evaluate your unit's morale at the start of the operation and any changes that may have taken place during it?
SFC HOPKINS: The morale was high and everybody was ready to go. Everybody--I mean everyone--was ready to go; like real gung-ho, ready to do their part, whatever it may have been. When the morale started to drop was during the time that people did not know just the bare minimum or the basics. I myself was real frustrated throughout, even though I continued to do my mission. I was frustrated because of not knowing. And when you have to go and request things, and try to get them with only a moment's notice. The people ask you what you need these things for. There's nothing that you could really tell them because you didn't know.
SSG ALBIN: Do you personally feel any specific individuals were important to the success of your operation? Meaning, who stood out, who really stood out.
SFC HOPKINS: Yes I really think that my OIC, he really shined, given the limited amount of information that he had initially. For him to find out anything he had to really ... he had to go places maybe that he doesn't ... didn't really had to go or was authorized to go to. He went places that normally only a different other section of this command would normally go. He went there to be ready you know and get the things because he wanted to know so he could be able to help these battalions and personnel that were involved. He really just ... he just outdid hisself. He really tried, but if he was read on initially he would not have to do all of this. There's a lot of other things that I can't comment on, but that's what I can remember at the time.
SSG ALBIN: Sort of as a final question--we always like to end an interview this way--were there any incidents or anecdotes: moving, patriotic, humorous--that you can describe in connection with your job function and the function of your section during Operation JUST CAUSE?
SFC HOPKINS: There's a lot of that going on throughout. We had to do these things because of the way we were not read on, the way we had to find out about things, some of the things we had to assume because we just didn't know. Really, we felt left out. But at the same time being left out, we had to do so much. So many individuals had to do so many different things that I wondered many times how did we ... [how we] was able to maintain and accomplish all of this. It's a small wonder. And after the fact, now that I see it all of these people that remained behind are getting so many different awards for ... from what I see they didn't do anything. But my particular section really didn't get anything. It was like you made it happen but when they issued out slices of the pie at the end of it, the [S]-4 shop didn't even get crumbs. That's it.
SSG ALBIN: Thank you SFC Hopkins. This is SSG Albin concluding the JUST CAUSE interview of 6 April 1990.
[END OF INTERVIEW]