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Marines In Panama: 1988 - 1990
AUTHOR Major Robert B. Neller, USMC
CSC 1991
                      EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
                    MARINES IN PANAMA  1988-1990
    Little has been written about the experiences of Marines
who served as part of Marine Forces Panama during the Panama
crisis.  Numbering approximately 650 personnel during the
course of their deployment, MARFOR, as it was known, was
organized as a contingency Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The performance of MARFOR Panama displayed the utility and
flexibility of Marine forces in low intensity conflict
    The initial mission of MARFOR was to protect American
lives and property.  This remained their constant
operational focus throughout the deployment.  However, the
tactical evolutions of MARFOR took many forms.  Initially
positioned in the Navy's Arraijan Tank Farm, MARFOR provided
point security for this and other key facilities on the West
Bank of the Panama Canal.  In the jungle surrounding the
tank farm, MARFOR Marines engaged in night time
confrontations with members of the Panamanian Defense Forces
    After the first year of the deployment the tactical
focus for MARFOR changed.  The United States policy took a
harder line toward Panamanian violations of American rights
protected under the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty. Exercises
known as "Sand Fleas," were conducted under the treaty's
freedom of movement provisions.  MARFOR elements,
particularly the Light Armored Infantry Company,
participated successfully in numerous operations of this
type.  Moving forces on land, water, and air, MARFOR helped
display American resolve to assert treaty rights and
confront the Panamanian regime of General Noriega.
Additionally, MARFOR gained invaluable information about the
PDF, and the surrounding countryside that they would use
effectively in the next phase, Operation JUST CAUSE.
    MARFOR participation in JUST CAUSE highlighted the
flexibility of Marine forces.  Modifying established and
rehearsed contingency plans at the last minute, MARFOR
quickly and efficiently accomplished their mission.  Given
responsibility for an area of operations much larger than
had been envisioned, MARFOR made maximum use of their assets
to detain at-large PDF elements, and reestablish order in
the civilian community.  Finally, MARFOR Marines worked to
develop credibility for the newly formed Panamanian Police
Force (PPF).
    As a small part of the total force that served in
Panama, MARFOR Panama made a large contribution to the
success of American policy.  The Marine Corps, through its
involvement, gained a wealth of experience in low-intensity
                  MARINES IN PANAMA: 1988-1990
Thesis Statement.  The performance of Marine Forces Panama
during the Panama Crisis, displayed the utility and
flexibility of Marine forces in low intensity conflict.
  I. General Situation
     A.   Americans in Panama
     B.   Noriega Regime
     C.   Marine Deployment to Panama
 II. METT analysis
     A.   Mission-Protect American Lives and Property
     B.   Enemy-Panamanian Defense Force
     C.   Terrain-area of Operations
     D.   Troops-Force Structure of Marine Forces Panama
III. Phases of MARFOR Panama Deployment/Operations
     A.   Jungle Phase
          1.  Arraijan Tank Farm
          2.  FirefIghts with intruders
          3.  Effect of SouthComm Policies
     B.   Election Phase
          1.  Decreased activity in Tank Farm
          2.  Attempt at Election Fraud
     C.   Freedom of Movement Phase
          1.  Reinforcement by Light armored Infantry
          2.  "Sand Flea" Operations Outside Old Canal
          3.  Coup Attempt by PDF
          4.  Bomb deception plan by PDF
    D.    Operation JUST CAUSE
          1.   Original Plan
          2.   Actual Execution
          3.   Aftermath
              MARINES IN PANAMA:  1955-1990
           by Major Robert B. Neller, USMC
    When Marines from the 6th Marine Expeditionary Brigade
deployed to Panama in April of 1988 in response to an
unstable political situation in the country, they followed in
the historical footsteps of Marines spanning over 100 years.
Marines had come to Panama before, in 1856, 1885, and in
1903.  Although the specific circumstances varied in each
case, the missions they were called upon to accomplish were
very similar to the mission given the Marines representing
their Corps near the end of the twentieth century.  Like
those who had preceded them, the modern day Marines found
themselves in what is now called low-intensity conflict, a
confrontation where the political and the military objectives
often become confused, where force can only be used
selectively under strict criteria, or where a victory may be
measured by what action is not taken, as opposed to what
action is. Throughout the two year deployment, the thousands
of Marines who comprised Marine Forces Panama (MARFOR)
learned this and more.  Their performance throughout the
Panama Crisis displayed the utility and flexibility of Marine
forces in low intensity conflict.
    Panama, although an independent and sovereign nation, is
not a foreign land to Americans.  From the construction of
the trans-isthmian railroad in the 1850's, through the
completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, and up to the present
day, Americans have been involved economically and
politically in Panamanian affairs.  Thousands of American
citizens have been born, lived, and died in Panama, due
mostly to the American involvement with the Panama Canal.
Relations with the Panamanian government have always remained
strong.  American-Panamanian cooperation reached its peak
with the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977, handing
over to the Panamanian government control of the canal in the
year 2000.  It was only when the conduct of the regime of
Manuel Antonio Noriega became  politically unacceptable to
the United States that relations between the two countries
began a downturn that ended in military conflict.
    General Noriega came to power in August 1983 after the
death of the Panamanian populist leader Omar Torrijos.  A
Torrijos protege, Noriega quickly outmaneuvered his
opponents and seized de facto control of the country.  A
favorite U.S. intelligence source, his own drug trafficking
behavior eventually made him too great a political liability
for the Reagan/Bush administration after he was publicly
indicted for drug related activities by a U.S. federal grand
jury in January 1988. When Panamanian President Arturo
Delvalle, a Noriega crony, unsuccessfully attempted to fire
Noriega in February 1988, the country suffered violent civil
unrest.  It was in response to this unrest, and the
increasing threat to American citizens and property, that
Marines were sent to Panama.
    The original mission assigned to the Marines who arrived
in Panama in early April 1988 was to protect American lives
and property.  This continued to be the primary function of
MARFOR, and of other American forces eventually deployed to
Panama in response to the situation as it developed over the
next two years.  Such a mission was very generic and open
ended, allowing the command to interpret the implied tasks in
a variety of ways.  For the Marines, particularly in the
early phase of their deployment, their more aggressive
interpretation of the mission, coupled with the existing
rules of engagement, put them at odds with their higher
headquarters, Joint Task Force (JTF) Panama.  When a more
aggressive approach toward the Panamanian Defense Force (PDF)
was taken by the JTF in May 1989, many of these differences
disappeared.  As the situation in Panama became more volatile
the "protection" mission became part of a list of other
missions, but it always remained the fundamental focus of
    The enemy force faced by MARFOR during the Panama crisis
was the Panamanian Defense Force (PDF).  Though the media and
the U.S. government made Noriega out to be the arch villain,
it was the PDF, which Noriega headed, that held the real
power in the country.    Numbering approximately 13,000, the
PDF had only about 3,000 combat capable troops spread
throughout Panama. The PDF was comprised of ground, air, and
naval components, but the latter two were both small, poorly
funded and ill-equipped.  Some of the ground units, such as
the Special Forces UESAT and the 7th Company "Macho de
Montes," were highly trained and well equipped.  Others like
the 1st Public Order Company, known as the "Dobermans," were
organized to provide the Noriega government with the means to
suppress public unrest.  The combat support portion of the
PDF was comprised of the national police force, customs
personnel, and a very capable intelligence and internal
security force.  Due to its limited military capability, the
PDF generally avoided direct confrontation with U.S. military
forces.  The PDF relied on an indirect approach to attack
American interests. With American installations concentrated
at both ends of the old canal zone it was a simple matter for
the PDF to mount small unit operations to harass fixed
American security forces, and U.S. citizens who lived or
traveled in the local community.  The PDF was very good at
these low-level operations.  When the U.S. forces became more
aggressive in confronting the PDF, their inherent
weaknesses--dispersion of forces, limited mobility, and lack
of firepower--became apparent.
    The area of operations (AO) for the majority of MARFOR's
activities centered on the West Bank of the old Panama Canal
Zone (Figure 1).  The West Bank included important antenna
fields, pipe lines, pump stations, and the U.S. Naval
Station  with 3 deep water piers.  All these facilities
required protection, but three areas were of critial
importance. The first of these areas was the Arraijan Tank
Farm (ATF).
    Part of the Naval Station, the ATF was the storage area
for all the fuel used by American forces in Panama.  The ATF
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would become the focus of MARFOR operations, and the scene of
numerous nighttime confrontations between Marines and
unidentified intruders over the next two years.  Carved out
of heavily wooded terrain, the ATF was an area of
approximately two square kilometers of rolling grassland,
which held the underground fuel storage tanks. Surrounding
the tanks was a heavily wooded area covered with trails and
numerous streams which provided any intruders with easily
accessible avenues of approach.  Located adjacent to the
Pan-American highway, the ATF was neither surrounded with a
security fence, nor equipped with any security lighting.
    The second area was Howard AFB.  Howard was the most
significant strategic terrain feature within the AO.  In all
the contingency plans for the country, reinforcements and
resupply flowed through Howard. Its protection was critical.
In order to protect Howard, control of the high ground to the
west--Cerra Cabra, Cerra Galera, and Sierra Minion--was
necessary.  From these terrain features an aggressor could
mortar the airfield or fire hand held surface to air missiles
at U.S. transports.  In addition, the main trails leading
into the AO from the West crossed these hills.
    The third critical area within the MARFOR AO was the
Bridge of the Americas.  The only permanent structure
spanning the Panama Canal, control of the bridge gave the
side which possessed it the ability to control  all movement
in and out of Panama City from the West. With American
installations located on both banks of the canal, control of
the bridge allowed the reinforcement and resupply of each
side using ground transport.  Security and control of the
three critical areas were the focus of MARFOR operations
throughout the deployment.
    The force structure of MARFOR was that of a contingency
Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF).  MARFOR possessed three
of the four components of a normal MAGTF:  a command element,
a ground combat element, and a combat service element (figure
2), but lacked an air combat element.  The initial force
deployed to Panama was centered around a reinforced rifle
company supported by a detachment from Brigade Service
Support Group-6, with the command element provided by advance
elements of the 6th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB).
MARFOR also assumed operational control of the Marine forces
already in country, Marine Corps Security Force (MCSF:)
Company Panama and a Fleet Anti-Terrorist Security Team
(FAST) which had deployed to Panama in March 1988 to
reinforce the MCSF Company.  This structure remained intact
until May 1989 when MARFOR was reinforced by a company from
the 2d Light Armored Infantry Battalion.  This remained the
basic organization for the remainder of deployment with the
exception of a one month period during Operation Just Cause
when two rifle companies were deployed simultaneously.
    Due to the open ended commitment of Marines to Panama the
decision was made early to have deploying units rotate on a
90 day cycle.  Members of the command element also served a
90 day tour, but rotated as individuals. Initially, the only
exceptions to this policy were the MARFOR commander,
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executive officer and sergeant major who served a 6 month
tour.  The 6 month tour was later extended to most of the S-2
shop, and other principal staff officers.  Overall, the force
structure proved to be adequate to the missions assigned
MARFOR. The personnel rotation policy created a great deal of
turnover, especially with the staff, and made continuity a
constant concern of the MARFOR leadership.
    The experiences of Marines deployed as members of MARFOR
varied greatly based upon the time period of their service.
To discuss the key events that took place during  the
deployment this paper will break the experience down into
phases: the jungle phase, the election phase, the freedom of
movement phase, and the JUST CAUSE phase.  The final phase of
the MARFOR experience, participation in Operation PROMOTE
LIBERTY, which followed JUST CAUSE, will not be covered.
    The jungle phase began prior to the arrival of the 6th
MEB advance party.  Soon after Noriega's indictment in the
States, Marines from MCSF Company came in contact with
intruders at the Arraijan Tank Farm.  It was these contacts
and the violent civil unrest within Panama that led first to
the reinforcement of the company by a FAST platoon, and then
the deployment of what was to become MARFOR.  Although
intruder activities against American installations throughout
Panama were becoming more frequent, the greatest number
occurred at the ATF.
    Immediately upon arrival in country the ground element of
MARFOR, India Company 3/4, moved into and and occupied
defensive positions in the ATF.  The were immediately probed
by intruders on the nights of 9 and 10 April, as was to
become the pattern every time a new unit entered the tank
farm.  On the night of 11 April a patrol from the company
split up in an attempt to catch an intruder.  One patrol
element ended up firing on the other in the darkness, and in
the process killed one Marine.  The next night, 12 April, the
company was probed by a 30 to 40 man unit.  The intruders
were picked up by seismic sensors and a listening post
positioned along a stream the intruders used as an avenue of
approach.  The Marines exchanged fire with this force,
engaging them with small arms, mortar, and automatic grenade
launcher fire for close to 2 hours. The engagement ceased
upon direction of the Joint Task Force (JTF:) Panama
commander, who arrived on the scene accompanied by a PDF
officer.  This general officer directed the Marines to remain
in their positions until daybreak, and ordered them not to
search the engagement area until daybreak.  This order was
complied with as the Marines watched ambulances pull up to
the ATF on the adjacent highway, and saw personnel with
flashlights move around the area where the contact had taken
place.  The next day, all Marines involved in the firefight
were directed to submit to a urinalysis.  The event was
reported in the international media, with the Panamanians
claiming the Marines were shooting at palm trees.
Surprisingly, the SOUTHCOM public affairs officer did not
dispute the Noriega regime's interpretation of events.
    The 12 April firefight set the tone for the rest of the
jungle phase for MARFOR.  The ATF became the focus of
operations as Marines patrolled by day and established
listening and night suyveillance posts after dark. The
intrusions were not imaginary, as the Noriega regime
attempted to portray.  Between 11 April and 17 September
1988, on the West Bank area (Howard AFB, the ATF, and the
Army Ammunition Supply Point), there were 14 weapons
engagements, 43 sightings of uniformed intruders, and 296
sensor activations.  Though some of these sightings were
probably inaccurate, especially when a new unit pulled its
first few nights of duty in the ATF, the number of shooting
engagements, sightings, and sensor activations provided ample
proof that someone was probing the Marines.
    MARFOR never experienced another night like the one of 12
April; however, intruder sightings continued to take place on
a weekly basis.  Other major shooting incidents occurred in
late July and on 31 October when there were 5 separate
shooting engagements in one evening.  It was clear to all
concerned that the intrusions were not directed toward the
sabotage of fuel stored within the ATF, but at the Marines.
In November 1988, at the direction of CINCSOUTH, the Marines
were ordered to raze the fixed defensive  positions they had
erected following the April events, and to restrict their
¨operations.  In an effort to see how far into the tank farm
the intruders would venture, and to determine whether their
real target was fuel tank or Marine, MARFOR was restricted to
day patrols no further than 300 meters outside the outer
perimeter of the ATF.  Additionally, they were not allowed to
conduct any night operations outside the same outer
perimeter.  Finally, the size of the force positioned within
the ATF was reduced to a platoon sized element.  This change
in method of operation concerned the MARFOR commander, as he
felt the Marines on duty in the ATF were being put in a
vulnerable position in order to prove what he already knew to
be true--the Marines were being targeted in order to
discredit the U.S. government.
    After these changes were implemented the intrusions
continued, but at a slower pace. In early 1989, a request
from CINCSOUTH to redeploy the Marines was rejected by the
National Command Authorities.  With action in the ATF almost
nonexistent, MARFOR moved into the next phase of its
deployment, the election phase.
    The slowing of activity in the ATF was primarily due to
the change in the focus of PDF operations.  The new year,
1989, was an election year in Panama, and Noriega had to
permit the election to take place in order to reduce domestic
tensions and counter international criticism.  However, he
did not have to allow an honest or fair election.  In order
to achieve the result he desired, he reoriented the PDF
toward  fixing  the election and harassing the political
    For MARFOR the near termination of activity in the ATF
provided an opportunity to spend much needed time working out
the details of several contingency plans to deal with the
Panama situation.  When the election phase was over, these
plans were exercised, modified, and eventually became the
basis for MARFOR operations during Operation JUST CAUSE.
Time was also spent doing a great deal of training,
especially live fire evolutions, which would pay great
dividends in the future.
    Noriega's effort to fix the election was a critical
mistake.  He greatly underestimated the hatred and disdain
felt for him, not only by the Panamanian people, but his own
PDF.  When the election was held on the 7th of May under the
watchful eyes of numerous international observers and the
media, the Noriega party ticket was soundly beaten, even
though Noriega had attempted to assure victory with massive
fraud.   In response, Noriega annulled the election.  The day
after the election, Noriega sent his paramilitary "Dignity
Battalion" to viciously attack the publicly acclaimed winners
of the election.  These events gave the U.S. government the
moral basis to pursue a more aggressive policy which became
known as "Freedom of Movement."
    Soon after the elections, the U.S. forces in Panama were
reinforced.  Two army infantry battalions, one mechanized and
one light, were in country by the end of May.  For MARFOR,
the reinforcement came in the form of a Light Armored
Infantry (LAI) Company with its organic LAV-25 vehicles.
During the "Freedom of Movement" phase, and for the remainder
of the deployment, the LAI Company would become the focus of
of MARFOR's operations.
    With Noriega suffering significant national and
international criticism, the previously passive U.S. response
to PDF illegalities changed.  Rather than administratively
protest the harassment and detention of Americans by the PDF,
it was decided to actively exert American rights under the
Canal Treaty.  This was done for several reasons.  It was
believed that confronting Noriega would discredit and
humiliate him in the eyes of the PDF leadership, and further
erode his support.  Secondly, the maneuver of American forces
under the guise of freedom of movement and canal defense,
would allow U.S. forces in country to make reconnaissance
and rehearse the contingency plans that were being prepared.
    For MARFOR the freedom of movement exercises, known as
"Sand Flea" operations, took many forms.  MARFOR elements
reinforced the American Embassy in downtown Panama City,
conducted helicopter and amphibious landings, and ran
riverine operations on the Panama Canal   The most effective
"Sand Fleas" were conducted by the LAI Company.  Using their
speed and mobility to good advantage, LAI traveled within and
outside the old canal zone.  When LAI Company went outside
U.S. areas of jurisdiction it always drew a strong response
from the PDF.  Lacking the ability to stop the LAI movements,
the PDF would attempt to trap the LAI Company with
roadblocks.  With the vehicles stopped, PDF supporters would
harass the Marines, and attempt to bait them into harming
Panamanian civilians or damaging property. The actions of the
"colonialist" Marines and the "patriotic" Panamanians would
then be reported by the government controlled media.
    The PDF attempted to set such a trap on 8 August 1989,
when a number of PDF vehicles and personnel who were
attempting to stop an LAI patrol followed the patrol into an
area of U.S. jurisdiction and were themselves apprehended,
disarmed, and photographed. The detention of this group of 29
PDF and civilian Noriega supporters, which included Noriega's
brother-in-law, greatly discredited the regime.  The PDF's
inability to stop the LAI movements, and the strong support
shown to the Marines by the majority of the local people
during the operations, gave the Marines confidence in their
ability to execute the contingency plans.   They would soon
have their chance.
    On the morning of 3 October 1989, a group of PDF
officers, led by Major Moises Giroldi, attempted a coup
against Noriega.  Supported by American forces who blocked
the movement of one PDF company out of their garrison, and
covered the western approaches to Panama City, the rebels
took custody of Noriega and asked him to resign and retire
from the PDF.  Leaving him alone to make his decision,
Noriega used an unmonitored phone in his room to call forces
still loyal to him.  Within hours, these forces flew to
Panama City, counterattacked, and freed Noriega.  The
mutineers were arrested and the leaders killed.  This coup
attempt, the second in 18 months, was significant in that it
showed the increasing dissatisfaction with Noriega within his
own organization.  Due to the large numbers of personnel
involved in the plot against him he was forced to cashier
several of the PDF companies involved in the coup, and keep a
stronger security force close by for personal protection.
As a result, U.S. forces had a less capable PDF to face in
the future, led by a man focused more and more on his own
isolation within the organization he lead.  In a desperate
situation, Noriega took measures which would give him time to
reconsolidate his position.
    For MARFOR, the coup provided a real situation in which
to test its contingency plan.  On the day of the coup, MARFOR
elements moved to assembly areas just short of their planned
blocking positions.  The FAST platoon actually occupied their
position, blocking traffic for 1 1/2 hours on the
Pan-American highway leading into the city from the West.
although not confronted by the PDF, the Marines gained
valuable experience and confidence in their plan, and their
ability to execute it rapidly.
    After the coup attempt, MARFOR and other U.S. elements
continued to exercise their treaty rights with freedom of
movement operations.  The much slower and weaker response of
the PDF to these operations was evidence of the
disorganization and lack of morale in the post-coup PDF.  In
order to remove those PDF members who had plotted against
him, Noriega needed a respite from the pressure of increased
U.S. activities.  He achieved this, during November 1989, by
using a deception plan which centered upon a car bombing
campaign against U.S. installations.  Unable to ignore the
intelligence concerning the bomb threat, the American forces
focused on their own internal security long enough to allow
Noriega to reorganize his own forces, and begin the
recruiting and training of replacement personnel.  After
several weeks of heavy security, without any sign of a bomb,
the deception was acknowledged by U.S  intelligence. Plans
for continued pressure on Noriega were implemented.
    As the month of December began tensions remained high
between U.S. and PDF forces.  Rumors about future coups
against Noriega circulated in and around Panama City.  The
consensus seemed to be that his time was running out.  No
one, however, could have predicted the events that led to his
    On the night of 16 December 1989 two events took place
which set in motion the operation now known as JUST CAUSE.
First, a Marine assigned to U.S. Southern Command, 1/LT
Robert Paz, was shot by PDF troops when the private vehicle
he was riding in drove through a PDF check point.  He died of
his wounds that night.  Second, a U.S. Navy officer and his
wife were detained at the same check point where LT Paz was
killed. They were taken to a PDF headquarters and beaten and
physically abused during interrogation.  When these events
became public the Bush administration decided to execute the
contingency plan that had been developed and refined since
the failed 3 October coup.
    MARFOR had been planning and rehearsing a number of
different contingency plans for several months.  The mission
of MARFOR was basically the same in each plan:  to isolate
Panama City from the west by seizing the Bridge of the
Americas, occupy other blocking positions, and secure Howard
AFB as the airhead for reinforcements. Individual units
within MARFOR had been assigned specific tasks within the
overall mission, and had made extensive reconnaissance and
rehearsed their movement to and occupation of these
positions.  On 19 December all but one of these units had
their mission and/or blocking position changed.  All the
units also found out the upcoming operation would take place
at night, something which had not been rehearsed.
Nevertheless, at 1800 on 19 December all were ready to go.
    MARFOR was fortunate. All the components of the force had
been in country for at least one month and were familiar with
the plan and the entire area of operations.  The experience
level of the units allowed for quick adjustments to these
last minute changes.
    When MARFOR crossed the line of departure at 0100 hours
on 20 December 1989, the individual unit missions were as
    LAI Company- Attack and seize the PDF traffic police
station on Pan-American highway, continue west, attack and
seize the PDF station in Arraijan. Screen to the west of
Arraijan. Be prepared to attack other targets as directed.
    India 3/6-Establish a roadblock south of Howard AFB.
attack and seize PDF station in Vera Cruz.  Maintain security
in ATF.  When relieved by MCSF Company in ATF, occupy high
ground to the west of Howard, and screen the jungle
approaches to the airfield.
    BSSG-Form a provisional platoon, reinforced with army
MP's.  Seize Bridge of the America's.  Provide CSS to MARFOR.
MCSF Company-Relieve India Company in the ATF.  Follow in
trace of LAI Company and establish a roadblock west of the
ATF on Pan-American Highway.  Continue to man designated
security positions.
    FAST Platoon-MARFOR reserve.  Be prepared to reinforce
U.S. Embassy.  Be prepared to provide Close Quarters Battle
(CQB) element to LAI for offensive operations.
    Commencing their movement at 0100 on 20 December 1989,
MARFOR forces quickly quickly seized their initial
objectives, against light resistance.  The West Bank was
secured, and PDF forces within the city isolated.
    The ability of MARFOR units to adjust their plan at the
last minute, and execute at night, was a credit to the months
and months of training that preceded the operation. All units
benefited from the reconnaissance of the objectives they were
able to accomplish during freedom of movement operations.
Even with their initial success, MARFOR would be forced
continually to adapt, and have their resources stretched, in
the the following weeks.
    During tie period 20 through 23 December, MARFOR elements
attacked and cleared PDF installations in Arraijan, Vera
Cruz, Vista Allegre, La Chorrera, and Vaca Monte.  Using
primarily the LAI Company reinforced with the CQB Team from
the FAST Platoon, MARFOR pushed their area of influence
farther and farther to the west.  The MARFOR AO eventually
exceeded 400 square kilometers, a much larger AO than had
been anticipated in any of the contingency plans.  In
order to maintain some coverage/security over this terrain,
MARFOR was given operational control of an army light
infantry battalion.  They were also reinforced by another
Marine rifle company, Kilo Company 3/6, which was scheduled
to relieve India Company in early January 1990.
    With the PDF was eliminated as an organized military
threat, the mission for MARFOR became twofold.  First,
continue to search for and apprehend at-large PDF members and
supporters.  Second, provide to the local populace a security
force until the new Panamanian government could organize and
establish its own new national police force.
    To accomplish these missions MARFOR units operated
directly within civilian population areas. By establishing
small unit outposts in several villages and towns, the
Marines were able to gain the confidence of the people, and
use them as a source of intelligence regarding the identity
and location of the PDF members.  By developing this
intelligence and acting rapidly on it, MARFOR units were able
to capture hundreds of PDF/Noriega government officials.  By
actively patrolling to establish a presence within the local
community, MARFOR units were able to reduce looting and other
crimes against property, and a certain level of normalcy was
brought back to the lives of Panamanians.  In addition to the
military actions of MARFOR, Marine Reserve Civic Action Group
personnel made successful efforts to reestablish public
utilities and assist the newly appointed government in
providing needed services to the populace.
    Two weeks after the initiation of JUST CAUSE the new
Panamanian government established their own national police
force.  Due to international pressure to withdraw American
troops rapidly, and without the time to train from the ground
up its own personnel, the Panamanian government was forced to
use repatriated PDF personnel to form the bulk of the force.
Known initially as the Panama Public Force (PPF), it was sent
back to the areas now controlled by U.S. forces to conduct
combined patrols. With extremely limited arms and equipment,
the PPF's task was to reestablish a local police force.
    The Marines were now faced with an ironic situation.
Their mission required them to work with the same people they
had confronted only a few weeks earlier.   However,
cooperation and mutual support were quickly established, due
to the lack of combat between the two forces and  the
Marines' sense of mission accomplishment. The Marines
adjustment was minor to that of the Panamanian people.  To
them, the new PPF was comprised of the same people who had
oppressed and violated them for years.  The Panamanian
people's acceptance of their new police force is still
incomplete.  Full acceptance will undoubtedly take many years
to achieve.
    As the new Panamanian government became operational, and
the PPF assumed responsibility for law enforcement, MARFOR
scaled back their presence west of the old canal zone.  Still
tasked to follow up intelligence leads, MARFOR conducted
mobile operations, again emphasizing the use of the LAI
Company, to track down at-large PDF forces.  Several of these
operations took MARFOR elements several hundred mile west to
the Costa Rican border.   However, by spring 1990 the
situation in Panama was stabilized enough to warrant ending
the MARFOR deployment.
    In retrospect, it can clearly be said MARFOR Panama
accomplished their mission.  Like their brethren of the 19th
and early 20th century, they were successful in protecting
American lives and property.  Their noteworthy performance
during Operation JUST CAUSE is proof of this.  In addition,
MARFOR achieved much more.  Operating as a contingency MAGTF,
they displayed the utility and flexibility inherent in Marine
Corps forces performing a contingency mission.  Throughout
the varied phases of the Panama crisis they were able to
adjust, adapt and contribute positively to the desired end.
Participating in a joint environment, MARFOR conducted
operations in the jungle, on water, in urban and rural areas,
and over extended land distances.  Making maximum use of
their force structure, MARFOR Panma were able to rapidly
adjust the focus of their operations in line with the
changing political/military situation in the country.
Finally, the experience and training in low-intensity
conflict gained by over two thousand Marines who served in
MARFOR Panama created an invaluable resource for the Marine
Corps.  The Corps and the Nation will be able to draw on this
experience to insure sucess in future conflicts of this kind.
1.  Commander Marine Forces Panama, Weekly Situation Reports,
       1988-l990.  Marine Corp: Historical Center,
       Washington, D.C.
2.  LtGen Cook, Jr., E.T., Col Hayes, J.M., Col Richardson,
       C.E., Col Roberts, T.W., Transcripts of interview
       by Oral History Unit, Historical Division, HQMC.
       Oral History Collection, Marine Corps Historical
       Center, Washington, D.C.
3.  Jones, Kenneth.  The Enemy Within:  Casting Out Panama's
       Demon.  Carvajal, S.A. Cali, Colombia, 1990.
4.  Kempe, Frederick.  Divorcing the Dictator.  New York:
       G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1990.
5.  Col Mauskapf, R.P. et al.  "Focus on Panama."  Marine
       Corps Gazette, September 1990.
6.  McCullough, David.  The Path Between the Seas:  The
       Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914.  New York:
       Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1977.
7.  Musicant, Ivan.  The Banana Wars. New York:  MacMillan
       Publishing Company, 1990.
8.  U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Forces Panama Command
       Chronology, 1988-1990.  Unit Command Chronology
       File.  Marine Corps historical Center,
       Washington, D.C.

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