OPERATIONS FORCES (SOF) -
The majority of the initial combat operations were conducted in, and immediately adjacent to, the Old Canal Zone. Several large PDF garrisons remained throughout the country on D + 5. A specially organized special forces (SF) company, reinforced by an infantry battalion, began the task of taking over these garrisons. A meeting was arranged between the PDF Garrison Commander and a small SF element to discuss the terms of the garrison's surrender. Often as the meeting was taking place, the remainder of the SF Co could air mobile into the area and an AC-130 would appear overhead. The conventional unit would have a reaction force loaded in UH60s on standby. The Panama Defense Forces (PDF) Garrison Commanders, faced with this overwhelming firepower, always surrendered. As the SF Co cleared the garrison of weapons, a conventional infantry company would land and take over the garrison and local area police functions with a stay-behind SF element for liaison. The rest of the SF Co would continue to the next garrison.
SOF/Conventional coordination and operations were common during JUST CAUSE. Command relationships were not always precise, yet elements understood the intent and worked as a team to accomplish the mission. Following initial combat operations, the language capabilities and regional expertise of SF, civil affairs (CA) and psychological operations (PSYOP) units were critical to stability operations. Conventional forces were short of language assets and personnel knowledgeable about civil military operations (CMO) and local culture. SOF elements provided the specialty skills and interface with the local population, while conventional forces provided security and reaction forces.
- Intelligence sharing between SOF and conventional forces is absolutely critical. Exchange Intel LOs.
- SOF units often formed the nucleus of the operational element which was reinforced with conventional infantry acting in direct support or on stand-by as a quick reaction force.
- Use SF A Detachments broken down into two- and three-man liaison teams to work as interface between conventional force area commanders and the local civilian government and police officials.
- Establish command relationships early to avoid confusion.
- Use the SF to conduct preliminary medical and engineer assessments and surveys for use in establishing the baseline CMO plan.
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