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The D-Day mission of 1-504th PIR was to conduct a parachute assault, then immediately air assault into Tinajitas to neutralize the PDF's 1st Infantry Company. At Ft. Bragg, the temperature had dropped and an ice storm set in as the unit boarded the aircraft. Troopers tried to sleep en route but were too keyed up. Three minutes out, the loadmasters opened the doors and each trooper felt the drastic change from the cold of Ft. Bragg to the heat of Panama. The battalion jumped, assembled, and went into pickup zone (PZ) posture. Tinajitas was a difficult objective--straight up a 500-meter hill with approaches limited by civilians in close proximity. The LZ was hot and the helicopters received intensive ground fire on final approach. Once on the LZ, the battalion encountered heavy mortar and small arms fire. The troopers immediately began their assault, often falling to their hands and knees to negotiate the steep incline. Heat, lack of water and fatigue took their toll, yet the troopers continued to maneuver. The unit's physical conditioning and aggressiveness won out, and the objective was secured.


The physical conditioning of the soldiers of JUST CAUSE permitted aggressive battle frills and individual movement techniques that saved lives. Medical personnel stated that the top physical condition of many soldiers either saved their lives or reduced the severity of their wounds. Body armor significantly reduced casualties from enemy weapons, but many units do not routinely train with body armor and the heat build-up caused by wearing body armor physically taxed the soldiers.


  • Good physical conditioning speeded acclimatization, reduced the severity of wounds and susceptibility to disease.

  • Institute and enforce a hydration plan as soon as unit is alerted for a contingency.

  • Develop and enforce rest plans for contingency operations; lack of sleep will adversely affect unit performance.

  • Wearing body armor in tropical heat while clearing multiple story buildings, conducting an assault, or extended dismounted movement is physically demanding.

  • Use METT-T analysis in enforcing the wear of body armor. Protection gained is off-set by the risk of heat injuries. Use body armor for static positions and while riding in vehicles. Remove body armor for assaults and extended dismounted movements.

Table of Contents, Volume I
Soldier Discipline and Training
Lessons Learned - Soldiers & Leadership: Dark Side of Command

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