DEPARTMENTOF 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 Naven J. Knutson
4th Psychological Operations Group
Interview Conducted 9 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 063
SSG ALBIN: This [is] SSG [Gerry] Albin of the 326th Military History Detachment with a[n Operation] JUST CAUSE interview. CPT Knutson can you please state your name, rank, service number, unit, and duty assignment?
CPT KNUTSON: I am CPT Naven John Knutson; my Social Security Number is ***-**-****; I'm with the 4th PSYOPS [Psychological Operations] Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and I am the group Communications-Electronic [C-E] officer.
SSG ALBIN: CPT Knutson, can you please describe to me the circumstances around which you first were notified of the alert for Operation JUST CAUSE?
CPT KNUTSON: It was on ... I believe it was the morning of the 17th [of December, 1989]; Sunday morning prior to the ... . Well there's a lot of things in the news and this, that and the other, but I was notified on the morning of the 17th to come in. And we started discussing the contingency op[eration] or contingency planning for Operation JUST CAUSE.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe for me the structure or organization of your C-E within the 4th POG?
CPT KNUTSON: Within the 4th PSYOPS Group we have myself as the C-E officer. Within the section I have an NCOIC [noncommissioned officer in charge] and our sections are broken down into a radio section, message center and a COMSEC [communications security]. We provide COMSEC support to the entire group.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the personnel within these sections?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay my NCOIC is an E-8. He's a ... [Military Occupational Specialty] 31Z50 is what is called for; an E-7 (promotable) is in the position right now. He's responsible for all the administrative and logistical requirements and day-to-day operations of the section. Within the section itself we have the message center which is responsible to ensure passing of hard copy traffic to and from ... it takes it receives and sends, and it receives hard traffic hard copy traffic for the command. And we also have a radio section which is responsible for the ... basically setting up single channel radio nets for the command. In addition to that we have a COMSEC account which supports the entire PSYOPS group.
SSG ALBIN: CPT Knutson, can you describe the activities that your section--the C-E section within the Group--went through to prepare for deployment to Operation JUST CAUSE.
CPT KNUTSON: Well within the unit we have standard command inspection programs. And along those lines, from the time I had gotten there, we had continually gone through more aligning ourselves with rapid deployment capability. In other words, ensuring the maintenance of the equipment and things along those lines; training of our operators within the section; and basically the support of subordinate units to show that they are capable of performing their mission in time of war or contingency as such.
Up to that point what we had done is we had--within the section, internal--rehearsed different types of contingencies as far as pulling certain packets. The PSYOPS group is unique in its organization as to what support it will send to various units; and basically what we try to do is we try to tailor a package for each subordinate unit.
And basically once this thing came about I was able to ... the next day I called in or my section came in it was still pretty close hold. We started tailoring things towards what the subordinate units needs would be. As far as ... well, let me just ... you probably have more questions. We have ... the primary focus was, once we were notified on this, the primary focus was towards the 1st [Psychological Operations] Battalion in supporting them. Because the 1st Battalion was the contingency battalion for that region of the world. And that's what we started ... that's what we tried to concentrate all of our planning towards, okay?
And once we got into that we were able we put together a com[munications] architecture that was supposed to support them for their unique mission requirements. One thing that should be noted is that our com architecture is rather unique. It is not similar to ... it is not the same as that of what you consider a regular brigade or battalion. We have an awful a lot ... an awful lot of our support goes to infantry brigades and with LNOs and loudspeakers and things like that. So a lot of our structure is supported ... our com architecture is supported by the supported unit; whoever we're supporting, we utilize their ... well, not their equipment, but their channels for communicating.
SSG ALBIN: In a non-technical--safe--language, non-classified safe language, can you describe the equipment that you use to accomplish your various missions for the units?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. What ... maybe what I'll do is, I'll focus on the battalion level, because that is really where the "rubber meets the road"-type of thing. Within the battalion their primary means of communication will be along the lines of HF [high frequency]. Or their command net will be HF because of the how dispersed the unit would be across ... you know, you're talking about a battalion supporting an entire corps area, or even larger depending upon whatever the scenario may be. So you're talking about a unit that's very spread very thin and long lines of communications are needed. In addition to that (that would be the PSYOPS net), in addition to that, you're going to have people located at various command cells throughout the area--you know, the tactical area--which will be able to communicate through established multi-channels or telephone links that the supported command provides. In other words, you're talking about [the fact that] we staff elements with "PSYOP-ers."
Our loud speaker teams are authorized both HF and FM [frequency modulated] communications. The FM is to maintain contact with the supported unit, the unit that they're supporting ... they're working technically for that commander. In other words you don't want to send these guys out there and them get lost or miss a movement or something like that, so they stay in close contact with whoever they're supporting. And then the HF would be to stay in touch with the PSYOPS side.
SSG ALBIN: Can you tell me the elements of the C-E section (do you call it a section?) ...
CPT KNUTSON: Section.
SSG ALBIN: ... section that deployed to Panama and the ones that remained behind and give a description of them?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. As far as ... pretty much you had 1st Battalion go down in whole, and they took their entire C-E staff. For the most part they got everyone, their entire section down there. As for my section, the only ones that went down was myself and an E-5, SGT Kidd. We went down and ... we went down to support the [group] commander and ... as far as what he saw as being critical on the communications side, as to what and how things were going. In addition to the PSYOPS we are very closely related to the civil affairs. So we went down ... we assisted PSYOPS and civil affairs, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, while we were down there.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the way in which the parts of your section that did not go supported 1st Battalion which did deploy?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. Well, I can help with that because when 1st Battalion deployed I was still here. Okay? Once JUST CAUSE kicked off on the 20th [of December], we started ... we continued preparation as far as at the group level. Once 1st Battalion got their deployment order, so to speak, as to when they're going to go, we brought in and gave up the equipment and advised ... because technically it was still a 1st Battalion mission. The 1st Battalion task force was to run the thing. So we gave them the guidance and assistance; basically pushed them out. I got with CPT Yaught, who is the C-E officer down there, and we went over and we basically we pulled ... we had gotten the necessary CEOIs [Communications-Electronics Operating Instructions] and cryptographic material and everything prepared and packaged for them to take down. Along with some guidance as to com architectures and things like that: what they could do and what they couldn't do. That type of thing.
SSG ALBIN: The equipment that you deployed to Panama ... can you describe the equipment that you took for instance did you use did you have fax [facsimile] equipment, did you have equipment to interface with records management, or anything like this?
CPT KNUTSON: Well, on the communications side, your loud speaker teams, as I stated before, are authorized a HF radio and an FM. The only thing they have currently are FM radios. So they--the loud speaker teams--went down with just FM radios. The battalion took HF and some TACSAT [tactical satellite] some TACSAT assets with them to get in touch ... because they were supposed to be in JTF [Joint Task Force] SOUTH Command net, TACSAT net. They took HF down with them and facsimile ... well they didn't take the facsimile device (tactical facsimile), they took a telephone commercial fax that was securable.
SSG ALBIN: Okay. CPT Knutson, can you describe what happened after you received your notification of the alert for JUST CAUSE? How did you deploy, what did your unit do physically, how did you get ready, and where did you go?
CPT KNUTSON: Well, basically the staff was all called in that Sunday afternoon. We were notified that, you know, that there was certain things that were going to or about to happen. We were also told to keep it as close-hold as possible and it was, you know ... we were all cleared to the level that we were being given instructions. And to go about preparation of ... preparation for the execution. And at that time what we had done was [we] did a lot of basically went back to our office type of things, drafted the proposals, plans; and basically what types of things we can do. And then brought them back over to the S-3 for, you know, for him to go over and say "well, no, we don't need this" or "this, that, or the other." Basically it was a staff-oriented or group-think type of thing as to what and how we were going to go about doing it.
Next morning was a duty day, even though we were on half day schedules, we tried to only bring in essential personnel to try to keep any type of undue attention being brought to the ... brought to the unit. So the only people that really were brought in were like key NCOs [noncommissioned officers] and--well, other than those that were supposed to be there for duty--key NCOs and soldiers as far as our you know going about preparation. As far as ... it was still so close-hold that the only thing that we could do with our sections is speak in generalities; say "we need this prepared," "boom, boom, boom," you know, "pull this, pull that." Things along those lines.
We had just gone through the earlier part of the month where we had tested all of our equipment so we were, you know, all we did was just local PMCS [preventive maintenance checks and services]. In other words we didn't go and start broadcasting, checking all of our radios, giving off large signature type of thing. Just went through and did in-house checks and "peek-ups" of systems.
The ... additionally, I went to the Corps C-E over here on Main Post and I got with their personnel and discussed--asked--if there were going to be any changes to CEOIs or anything along those lines. Any type of thing. Just to ensure that we were on the right track for cryptographic material and CEOIs. In other words, if there had been any ... if there were any changes or anything along those lines we needed to validate with them prior to issuing.
As far as pushing elements out, those that went in with the initial assault, from Pope [Air Force Base, North Carolina], here. We really didn't have a whole lot to do with that. Those were the responsibilities of subordinate units. There was ... when the 1st Battalion and the 96th Civil Affairs [Battalion] got their deployment order then we really started putting together large communication ... well, what we would consider large communication packages in support of the units. As they were preparing to deploy, we were looking more along ... at the initial point you really you had a lot of tactical--real tactical--support going out.
'Cause when the 1st Battalion went down you started to get ... getting into a corps-area type of support, and different things that the PSYOPS can ... an operative command. So that requires more communication. 'Cause most of those folks going out initially were working directly with units that they were supporting. You understand, pretty much, where I'm coming from? As when ... so really we had a few ... after the initial invasion is really when things started to really pick up for us as far as communications support went. Because we started focusing on setting up an established battalion in country; actually two battalions with the 96th Civil Affairs as well.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe how these communications packages were deployed, and the organizational equipment that you and ... that you and members of the 1st Battalion took with you?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. Well, what had happened was you had the initial assault and then on D+2 or [D+]3, I believe, the 1st Battalion deployed. Within that time structure we sat down and got with the 1st Battalion folks as to what their needs were and what their net architectures should look like. Units have organic to themselves all the single channel assets other than Tactical Satellite, okay? So they had everything they needed. So it was just a matter of them putting their packages together. And they had ... once this thing really kicked off, they knew that they were "in the barrel"-type of thing, and they started organizing their unit to go down.
What their ... basically you have a standard package for whatever contingency ... per battalion. If you're going to deploy the entire battalion you've got a standard comms package that goes with it. And that's pretty much along the lines of what they had set up to go down with them when they went down. So it's just a matter of, at my level, checks and balances with them as to what they had, what they needed, and provide them COMSEC support. Any type of new updates for this, that or the other that's going on that I was getting at the group level that they may not be ... you know, may not have.
In other words, I was basically a communications channel between them and corps type of thing. If Corps called up they normally would call the group and say "look, this is what we need boom, boom, boom;" you know called the S-3, the S-3 would call me over and say "blah blah blah, so on, and so forth." And then, you know, we tried to filter it down as much as we could within the constraints of the classification. You know, what we were doing. Anything else we would do and package for them and prep it for them. We prepared the CEOIs, the cryptographic material necessary for what packet ... once the C-E officer brought up the package that he was taking down, we put together the COMSEC package, You know, all the COMSEC that was necessary for them to perform their mission for crypto security. That ...
SSG ALBIN: ... COMSEC packages ...
CPT KNUTSON: ... COMSEC packages. Basically with each different type of piece of equipment you're going to have different types of encryption and means to ...
SSG ALBIN: If you need a a safe, non-classified ...
CPT KNUTSON: This should be on ... unless I start talking about short titles and things along those lines that's where it starts getting classified. Basically I'm saying that we put classified cryptographic material with the systems and which nets they were going to be operating in. So we put the package together and issued them, since we hold the account.
SSG ALBIN: How did you physically go over? Where did you go? Here on Fort Bragg?
CPT KNUTSON: No, we have our own account. We maintain our own crypto facility for COMSEC. We have a tactical COMSEC account which maintains all the proper key material necessary.
SSG ALBIN: By go over, I mean how did you and your unit meaning you and your sergeant and 1st Battalion physically deploy to Panama. Can you relate to me where you went and what you did here on Fort Bragg to get on the plane? And how that worked?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. Well ... okay. What we had done is, we issued to 1st Battalion (to the C-E officer at 1st Battalion) ... he had all the cryptographic material. His unit deployed with their comms package. They deployed--it was either Thursday or Friday--they got down there and started emplacing their systems and they were having some difficulty because of terrain. Terrain and location really didn't afford them a certain opportunities for good communication, you know, good tactical communication. Basically they were behind hills and things like that. They're working, you know, they're working out of ... well, they're working out of built up areas.
SSG ALBIN: When you deployed to do your job function, where were you stationed?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay, when I came ... . I got the notification early Saturday morning that we would be deploying, basically, and at that time my orders were that myself and one radio-qualified NCO would deploy down with the staff, with the group staff element that was going down. From that point what we had done is, we had put together some ... we knew what the unit was supposed to have down in country. We brought along with us some additional items ("that-might-come-in-handy" type of things) and were prepared to set up communications with the group commander as necessary. The two of us deployed on Christmas Eve at about 1930 hours. And we arrived in Panama on a C-5 [Galaxy] at about 15 minutes after midnight Christmas morning. We arrived into Howard Air Force Base. We stayed there until daybreak. At that time the group staff element that was there ... we went out and got with the group commander.
The group commander basically gave us our orders, our additional instructions. He said he wanted me to basically go down and try to troubleshoot and fix whatever problems they may have been having with communications. So basically I dealt away from the group staff at that point and basically went out-on-my-own-type of thing to start putting in communications or getting communications assets out of other sources so that they would have communications where they were having some difficulty.
SSG ALBIN: When you arrived in country where did you land?
CPT KNUTSON: We landed at Howard Air Force Base.
SSG ALBIN: Where did you have your meeting?
CPT KNUTSON: We met with the group commander at Quarry Heights. And from there we went down, you know, the other staff--the other primary staff members--stayed with the group commander and worked with him throughout. That was what he wanted them to do. He wanted me to focus on the tactical communications; the problems that we were having in country. You must understand that the mission itself, with the large influx of personnel and equipment that came into country, that and the close proximity that everybody was working in, that the frequency management was very difficult. Through ... the entire spectrum was saturated with users within the tactical realm, which caused for a lot of problems and confusion. Where there may have been other-units-operating-on-your-net-type of thing. So basically what I had done was I went down and got a feel for 1st Battalion; moved over to where the 96th was (at Fort Clayton, Panama, which is where the [Joint] Task Force [SOUTH] headquarters was); and basically did an assessment. Saw what they needed; made some minor modifications; put in some of the equipment that I had brought down. We installed for the 96th, because we wanted to give them a little bit more power out. And then I went over to the J-6 at Fort Clayton.
SSG ALBIN: Can you tell me what the J-6 was?
CPT KNUTSON: It's the communications cell within the ... for JTF SOUTH.
SSG ALBIN: Where was 1st Battalion located?
CPT KNUTSON: They were located in Corozal.
So I went over ... I discussed with the C-E officer of 1st Battalion what he thought he needed to do, things along these lines: as to what, you know, what he could do. And they were having some real problems because of locations and what-and-how and this-that-and-the-other. So what we did was once I'd gotten over to Clayton I went over and, like I said, did an assessment of the 96th. Installed some different ... a different system for them. And went up to J-6 and started trying to get a retrans[mission] outfit out of them.
But the folks that were working at J-6 (and these were primarily those out of XVIII Corps) were very supportive of our needs and, you know, basically what ended up happening was ... we went up there and coordinated with the J-6 staff. I went up and coordinated with the J-6 staff; got a lot of support out of them as far as equipment, frequency support, and COMSEC support. Most notably Mr. Frison (the Corps COMSEC officer) was outstanding; did an outstanding job for us as far as support and those lines.
The J-6 was able to redistribute its assets and put together a retrans station for us--FM retrans. This was ... it took two days to get that retrans, but once we had that station up and running a lot of our communications problems went away and we were able to communicate effectively. Both the 96th and the 1st Battalion utilized that retrans asset for communications. We tried using HF and in and around the city, because HF, you know, does afford you certain things that FM doesn't, just by the nature. But because of a lot of power lines, transmission lines and things along those lines the signals got very distorted and very difficult to understand between stations. So the FM retrans became a very critical means of communication for us.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe the ... as you related to it within your job function the COMSEC operations during operations JUST CAUSE?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. Like I said, what we've done as the ... having the COMSEC account within group (or for the entire group), what we had done was we provided COMSEC support to the 1st Battalion and to the 96th Civil Affairs. Some of the key material they didn't have on-hand in their own accounts. The 96th has their own account but they didn't have [it] available to them, and we were able to issue to them on what they needed.
Basically the issue was an individual hand receipt to a responsible individual (i.e. the battalion C-E officer of 1st Battalion and the S-2 NCO, NCOIC from 96th Civil Affairs) with the understanding that they could sub-hand receipt one ... they could sub-hand receipt to the user from the hand receipt they had received from us but it cannot be sub-hand receipted anywhere below that. That followed the regulations.
The COMSEC itself was really not ... well basically what ended up happening was, you know, once they had the stuff they went ahead and utilized it properly. And then once, you know, once the mission was complete, the destruction certificates were turned in to us and canisters and all this-that-and-the-other that was issued was accounted for or brought back to us. And then their hand receipts were cleared after the operation was over.
SSG ALBIN: During your operations, CPT Knutson, were you able to communicate in real time or was it in relay time?
CPT KNUTSON: Well, like I said, we utilized a lot of the telephones ... the existing telephone network that was in country was a great asset and something you can never expect or plan for. It was something that really helped us. You know that was near-real time. Once we established the FM retrans, all stations that were up, that we had ... you need to know we had near-real time; we .... at no time did we pass the data over these circuits. Everything was voice communications up to, you know, at that point. We were capable of sending data/fax over encrypted telephone circuits, though.
SSG ALBIN: Describe to me the logistics and billeting support that you received while you were over there?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. When we had gotten down there ... basically we deployed with a 15-day PLL [Prescribed Load List] at the organizational level. We ... at that point ... when we got down there, those unit elements that were operating with or in support of another unit drew their PLL out of the support unit that they were supporting. The battalions themselves were far up in line with the ... I can't remember the exact ... I think it's the 154th ... well it's communications maintenance out of the 154th Signal Battalion. They provided DS [direct support]-level support for us. The S-4 was responsible for ordering and procuring batteries and things along those lines. COMSEC support was available as necessary for maintenance and repair. Cables and things along those lines were one for one DX [direct exchange] through the established COMSEC account or the CMDSA in country.
We ... you know, understandably, their capability to turn around things was not ... initially, you know, under the combat operations they were pumping everything out they could, as fast as they could, in support. But as things started to slow down so did their ability to support, because they had pushed so much stuff out so quickly. But they still supported us very well and what our needs were. The units basically down there were, you know, once they were in-country, all the logistical support came out of theater so (out of theater assets) ... or as much as we could get out of theater assets.
Anything else ... we would ... if we had something here--and somebody was coming down--that we needed and was not available, we would try to get that sent down to us from out own elements. But that was the exception, not the rule. We tried to get as much support as we could in-theater because, obviously, the turn around time would be a lot faster and more reliable.
SSG ALBIN: Describe to me the work shift arrangements of the elements that you had supporting the various units.
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. I really can't go into that because I ... you know, I'm not certain as to what and how the shift work was. Your ... the only people involved with shift work on the communications side were those that were working within the battalion headquarters that were supporting that. The communications [INTERRUPTION] the C-E personnel within the 1st Battalion worked on 24-hours radio op[eration]s and they ran switch ... tactical switchboard and, like I said, they ran the FM net for their battalion. The 96th Civil Affairs [Battalion], which does not really have what you'd call a C-E section in itself, they ran everything they needed out of their ops--their Tactical Operations Center or their Ops Cell. And everything was wired into there, and so their's was a 24-hour operation. They had a shift NCOIC who would basically monitor and run the radio nets for them.
SSG ALBIN: How did your real world operations compare with your training missions that you performed here at Fort Bragg or other places?
CPT KNUTSON: Well, for the battalions it was very realistic. They set up basically on the same configuration during training as they did here, except for the fact that they had, like I said, the established telephone system in country which enhanced their communications capability; that they normally don't have here in training. Additionally the establishment of that retrans system; it's not something that we normally have or we don't have authorized. And we basically got that out of Corps. And, you know, Corps was more than willing--well they made it happen. They did an outstanding job, that's all I can say. The support we got out of XVIII Airborne Corps or the JTF SOUTH and the personnel that were down there was outstanding. There was ... hats off to them.
As for the group level. I myself had never been on a deployment with the unit as far as going to the field type of thing. Our ... for us, we run a 24-hour operation center here at Fort Bragg [in] which we're tied into TACSAT nets. When units go to the field we set up an HF net to talk to them. But we basically took what we have here and took it down to Panama.
As far as training: the training aspect of it, no, we did not train in a field environment. But we do this daily, anyway. This is a daily thing for us. We continually go over and ensure that the nets are operational here at Fort Bragg. So, you know, as far as operators knowing what to do and things along those lines, there was no question as to their--or actually his--ability to do that. And like I said, we did not establish communications from the group ... you know, we did not set up a group communications net. We set up two battalion communications nets because actually the group had no operations in the field other than the two battalion headquarters and their's was set up to do secure telephones.
SSG ALBIN: Can you say in your own words--your evaluation of how the operation went based on your section and 1st Battalion in JUST CAUSE?
CPT KNUTSON: I think everything ... all said and done the operation went very well. It was, you know, the people on loud speaker teams that went out and did what they did. They did that very well. That was some of the first things that came back over the news what an outstanding job. They had people talking people about this, that and the other. That was coming over CNN [Cable News Network] from the get-go.
The communications aspect: it would have been nicer to have had been able to go ahead and have communications installed earlier in the ... having something set up rather than going into an operation and setting up three days after the ... two or three days after the operation had already kicked off. Having something already in. Being able to go ahead and have the stuff all ready for people to walk into is really nice. Having to go and chase things around--this, that and the other--made things a little bit difficult. However, they were communicating in country and when they'd get there. And they were getting critical information as they needed it.
SSG ALBIN: Can you describe how and when you found out that you and your NCO and 1st Battalion would be returning to Fort Bragg?
CPT KNUTSON: Okay. When we went down there, myself and my NCO were a part of the group staff and we were attached to the 1st Battalion, as the 1st Battalion was the ... even though we were group staff we were attached to the 1st Battalion because they were the recognized, deployed unit, so to speak. Like I said, we came back--the group staff came back--in bits and pieces. You know, once their mission was pretty much complete, jobs started ... the folks started coming back. And basically when the ... I told, you know ... basically when I ... myself ... my NCO, SGT Kidd, had ... I was done with what I needed him to do we put him ... I sent him back over to 1st Battalion basically told them that when they don't ... when they can find him a way out, too go ahead and let him come back to the States. Because if, you know, they could utilize him within their com section ... and the C-E officer said "hey, I've got enough people here to do my job; go ahead and get him out." So he came back earlier than I did.
I still had other missions to do; other coordination to make for the sustainment of the 1st and the 96th. You know, I just wanted to make sure that, you know, the right people were linked up with the right people. So I was doing a lot of staff coordination at this time. And getting additional support for follow-on types of things that may or may not occur. So I left a little bit later. But once ... you know, basically the word was once you're done with your thing, go ahead let 1st Battalion know and then come on out.
SSG ALBIN: Can you tell me when he returned and when you returned?
CPT KNUTSON: SGT Kidd returned I believe on the 8th of January. He got back in country on the 8th. And I came back on the 11th.
SSG ALBIN: Thank you. Can you tell me when the 1st Battalion returned?
CPT KNUTSON: The 1st Battalion redeployed within a week or a week and a half of my return.
SSG ALBIN: When you and SGT Kidd redeployed, did you fly in or did you jump in?
CPT KNUTSON: I flew in. I came in on ... we both flew in. I don't know exactly what he flew in on because, you know, I didn't see him go. I was still doing other things. All I knew was basically I called up to the S-1 and I asked them what the status was on SGT Kidd. And they said "okay; he's gone and he' on his way back to Bragg right now as we speak"-type of thing. That's all I needed. That was a relief.
When I came back I basically got my release ... it went through Corps, you know. And they said "okay, this guy can leave, blah blah, and so on and so forth." Took me over to Howard Air Force Base. I got manifested on a C-5. And we left about midnight on the 10th and got back here about 5:00 in the morning.
SSG ALBIN: And how soon after that did the 1st Battalion leave?
CPT KNUTSON: I can't remember the exact dates. Like I said it may have been a week, week and a half, maybe even up to two weeks after I had come back.
SSG ALBIN: Describe to me how you and your unit back here supported the 1st Battalion while they were still in country?
CPT KNUTSON: The unit ... I think the real heroes are the ones that stayed behind. Because there were, you know, a lot of issues that could not be answered in-country that these folks up here were getting the information for our folks. And basically they were getting, you know, phone calls, you know, from out of Panama that ... they'd call out of Panama and say "hey, we need to know this, that and the other" over a secure telephone. And these guys up here were reacting, you know, great.
I know what they were going through because the first three or four days, before I had left, was, you know, you get calls basically ... . Like CPT Henderson: he lived in the operations center for almost the entire operation, you know, in answering questions from the unit that it had about this, that and the other. And things along the lines of movements and personnel, equipment you know all these other things. Additional taskings and all that other stuff. We ... I can't ... I guess I can't really begin to describe the amount of effort that these folks had put in up here.
One of the things that was really pleasing to me was when I did get back was that the group XO [Executive Officer] (then XO, now the deputy commander) told me that my NCOIC, SFC Bragg, had done an outstanding job. That's where ... that's really what you want to hear is that nothing fell. And that under the amount of pressure these folks were under, they did an outstanding job in pushing equipment and personnel out as needed. As what would be required.
You know, one of the things that really surprised--well I shouldn't say surprised me but--that really made me feel proud was the fact that SFC Bragg was he was given all kinds of odd situations and taskings do this, make this out of that and this, that and the other. And he'd sit down and he'd do it. You know, things that you wouldn't normally ... these are things that you don't find in textbooks or manuals and field manuals or training manuals or anything like this. It's ... these are things that a man has to you know has to rely on his wit or his wisdom and ingenuity and that ... he did an outstanding job back here. These folks--I don't think there can be enough praises for the work that was done back here.
SSG ALBIN: It's interesting. We usually conclude an interview like this with asking if there's something outstanding that stood out in your mind or humorous anecdote or something serious or touching or whatever stood out in your mind. But ... .
CPT KNUTSON: I'll tell you what really stood out in my mind, on a personal side, was that when I got down there and I was told what my mission was by the commander. Or what you want ... basically going by his intent as to what he saw as being important. How here I am in a 'combat zone' and going to and from all these ... I felt more pressure as a platoon leader, you know, during an ARTEP [Army Training Evaluation Program] or during a regular training exercise than I did during ... . Well I shouldn't say I felt less pressure, because I felt a lot of pressure ... but everything seemed to click. And because I knew what I had to do type of thing, and I didn't focus on there being anything happening outside. I just focused on what my mission was and how everything seemed to just flow and click.
And, you know, everybody talks about how everything gets so confused. I'm sure that things did get confused for a lot of people, but from my perspective, from when I had gone up there and started dealing with the J-6 folks or the communications folks for Corps or the Task Force, everything was just ... hey, I knew exactly what I needed. I knew who I needed to talk to. I knew this, this and this; what to do about this; what to do about that. And how things really clicked and how well I feel that I have been trained by my branch or through my experiences in the Army for a situation like this. And how basically calm I was instead of "oh my goodness", you know, and things along those lines.
SSG ALBIN: That would have been my next question, what do you attribute this to?
CPT KNUTSON: I would say my training and background and things like ... . You know, I could never do this as a second lieutenant because I wouldn't even know who to talk to and I probably wouldn't have been able to do it as a first lieutenant. But having worked in the staff that I worked with, understanding the levels that we work at, really helped me. Like what you wear on your collar is not important, but what you do with your position is important. And I was ... even though I was a captain walking in amongst all these generals and colonels and things like that, I knew who I needed to talk to, what I needed to talk to about. And they reciprocated that, you know, this guy has an idea what he's doing, you know, and we're going to we're going to help him. It was a dialogue type of thing and not "hey, I'll get back to you"-type of thing. And that was one thing that one is the professionalism of the Corps staff element that was down there for the J-6. And, too, I think a lot of it has to do with my background and training that I've received. I ... you know, a lot of folks, you know, would probably not go up into that cell just for the fact that there's just too much rank in there, you know. But I felt that even though I was out of my environment, so to speak, I felt comfortable in there doing my job.
SSG ALBIN: Very good. Thank you CPT Knutson. This is SSG Albin of the 326th Military History Detachment concluding this JUST CAUSE interview on 9 April 1990.
[END OF INTERVIEW]