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C/3-504th PIR was given the mission to seize Renacer Prison and secure the prisoners. The plan called for a simultaneous air assault and amphibious landing at H-Hour. At 0100, 2 Hueys with 11 paratroopers each landed in the cramped prison yard. The troopers off-loaded and began to search and secure the two major buildings within the fenced enclosure. SGT Schleben of C Co and his team moved into the dark headquarters building and were met with a cloud of CS gas. They donned protective masks and reentered to press the attack. SGT Schleben spotted a blood trail and followed it outside where he was met by two PDF soldiers. As they swung their weapons towards him, Schleben fired first and killed both. At the same time, SGT Wilson and his squad were clearing the final buildings. Hearing a woman cry "Don't shoot!," the squad held fire and discovered a PDF lieutenant, his wife and child inside. None were injured. At 0600 the prison was secured with all prisoners accounted for and unharmed. Five PDF were killed and 22 captured while only four U.S. soldiers were wounded.


Soldier performance, training and conduct were commendable throughout the operation. The generosity, caring nature, and respect shown by the American soldier gained the respect of the Panamanian people. U.S. soldiers were very disciplined. They deliberately avoided unnecessary damage during combat operations. As the rules of engagement became more restrictive on the use of force, soldier discipline was demonstrated by their ability to quickly adapt to these changes. Critical training prior to deployment, such as battle drills and live fire exercises (LFXs), had developed a solid trust and confidence between soldiers, which bred an aggressive spirit, especially at night. When brought under fire, U.S. troops habitually executed aggressive battle drills and returned fire, and the PDF withdrew.



  • Every soldier must know the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and have the discipline and training to apply these rules in the absence of supervision.

  • Training and discipline are key when the ROE change, becoming more restrictive on the use of force and leaders are unable to direct the actions of individual soldiers.

  • Support and assistance of the local population is gained by a disciplined force adhering to the ROE, limiting collateral damage and showing respect for the people.

  • U.S. soldier conduct must be of the highest standard. It will influence how the world and U.S. public view the operation.

  • Leaders should enforce safety standards in combat, preventing accidents and needless casualties.


  • JUST CAUSE was won by small unit leaders. Decentralized operations demand disciplined and highly trained junior NCOs.

  • Unit training in battle drills and individual movement techniques results in organized and aggressive units.

  • Live-fire exercises at crew, team, squad, section and platoon level build skill and confidence to perform combat tasks under stress.

Table of Contents, Volume I
Combat Service Support
Lessons Learned - Soldiers & Leadership: Physical Considerations

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias