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Just prior to, and at H-Hour, numerous blocking positions, security positions, checkpoints, and defensive positions were established throughout the Old Canal Zone and Panama City. Civilians were everywhere, even when the firing started. Positions were established to protect Panamanian civilians, preventing them from straying into an area of heavy fighting. The Panamanian people were our friends and it was the U.S. forces job to protect them. A detailed yet understandable set of ROE were established and briefed to every soldier involved in JUST CAUSE. Units were given in-depth briefings on how to handle civilians and how not to fire indiscriminately. The planning and time spent on preparation resulted in a successful operation where the U.S. forces immediately gained the support and respect of the Panamanian people.


Clearly stated ROE must be published before U.S. forces are committed. ROE must be written to support the political and military objectives of the operation and give latitude to commanders to provide security to the force. The highest military authority will continually evaluate the ROE and modify them as appropriate. The ROE provided guidelines to prevent civilian casualties and limit collateral damage. Commanders developed training and operational techniques that supported the ROE. Situational Training Exercises (STXs) were conducted in Panama and at home station requiring soldiers to identify a target as friendly or enemy before engaging. Operationally, commanders established no fire areas and designated very small sectors of fire for the M551s and Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs). In the city, the M16 was used to gain a precise hit as opposed to spraying the target with medium/heavy machinegun fire.



  • Explain the intent of the ROE in terms soldiers can understand and illustrate with examples. Develop STXs as a priority to rehearse the ROE. Soldiers must understand and visualize the meaning of the ROE.

  • Think through changes to the ROE in terms of effects on force protection. Leaders must communicate changes quickly and effectively down to the lowest levels. Establish a system of checks to ensure soldiers have the latest changes and understand the intent.

  • Include noncombatants in training exercises and Combat Training Centers (CTCs) for use in developing ROE and procedures to control refugees.


  • Use precision weapons such as small arms, light antitank weapons (LAWs) and the AC-130 over mortars and field artillery in situations where civilians are in close proximity to combatants and damage to existing structures must be minimized.

  • Restrict use of some munitions such as tracer and armor- piercing incendiary rounds, especially in urban areas, to reduce the chances of fire and penetration of secondary walls.

  • Establish no-fire areas especially for large caliber fire support weapons.

  • Use fire power demonstration techniques to convince the enemy to abandon his defensive positions and surrender, eliminating weapons exchanges and collateral damage.

  • Practice fire control techniques during training to reduce collateral damage.

  • Reduce collateral damage and over-reaction in MOUT by having squad leaders control the chambering of rounds for automatic weapons.


  • Use snipers to suppress enemy snipers and positions when there is a dense civilian population in the area of operations (AO) and collateral damage is a concern.

  • Use snipers during MOUT to perform an effective economy-of-force role. They can secure key positions and screen flanks, freeing other troops to clear buildings and conduct patrols.

Table of Contents, Volume II
Planning and Preparation
Air/Ground Operations

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