DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
Oral History Interview
MG William A. Roosma
Deputy Commanding General
XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg
Interview Conducted 15 March 1990 at Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Note: Interview was interrupted and never completed.
Interviewer: Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., XVIII Airborne Corps Historian
JOINT TASK FORCE SOUTH IN OPERATION JUST CAUSE
20 December 1989 - 12 January 1990
Oral History Interview JCIT 025
DR. WRIGHT: This is an Operation JUST CAUSE interview being conducted in the Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The date is 15 March 1990 and the interviewing official is Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., the XVIII Airborne Corps Historian. And, sir, if I could get you to start off by giving me your name, rank and serial number.
MG ROOSMA: William A. Roosma, Major General, ***-**-****.
DR. WRIGHT: And you are the Deputy Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps?
MG ROOSMA: I am.
DR. WRIGHT: Sir, how long have you had that position?
MG ROOSMA: For about a year and a half--or a little over that.
DR. WRIGHT: In the planning process for the development of OPLAN 90-2,1 LTG [Carl W.] Stiner has indicated that in some of the early iterations after GEN [Maxwell R.] Thurman took over--as we were refining the plan--he had you represent him in some of the planning meetings, particularly the one over at JSOC.2 Do you remember much about those meetings, sir, and the Corps' input into them?
MG ROOSMA: Yes, I do. Actually, if I can go back on the planning process. The basis of the plan was an OPLAN that had been floating around for some time since we had started having problems in Panama--the early part--called BLUE SPOON. BLUE SPOON was kind of a gradual build-up of forces until you got this overwhelming combat power after a period of time--quite a considerable period of time. Worked through something like five phases. I had a preliminary look at that when I was the J-3 of Forces Command [FORSCOM].
Then when I came to the XVIII Airborne Corps, that plan was still on the books, but no one had really done anything to ferret out the pieces and really, you know, make it a workable plan. And it floated it in and out. No one had grabbed hold of it to really put it in concrete and looked at it as to what kind of campaign objectives we want to obtain there. So we floated along there, and I don't have to recant [recount] the history of what happened politically in Panama vis-a-vis GEN [Frederick F.] Woerner, [Jr.], and the replacement of him by GEN Thurman.
But on the eve prior to him (GEN Thurman) going to Panama; I say eve, it's probably a month prior to that, he came to Fort Bragg, [North Carolina]. He had a classified briefing on ... at JSOC.3 Principally (my understanding was) on the JSOC role in BLUE SPOON. Which was a separate ... almost separate vignette, if you will, exclusive of all the others. That's how joint--or JSOC--habitually operated, almost exclusive of that. Years before, through SAND EAGLE Exercises and others, we had worked out a relationship with them where we would complement one another on the battlefield. And so I say this as kind of history--we're going to have to wade through this a little bit--because I really went over there to listen to the JSOC plan, if you will, with GEN Thurman, representing the XVIII Airborne Corps and LTG Stiner, who just happened to be out of town at that particular time. When we went in there (and I've known GEN Thurman before) the JSOC briefing was preceded by a briefing on BLUE SPOON--XVIII Airborne Corps' role in BLUE SPOON--which I had never been briefed on per se. I mean I really didn't have a good feel for it. I knew what it was, but I really ... I knew it in a conceptual ... but never to the degree as it was given by this USARSO4 staff officer (he was a plans officer for USARSO).
DR. WRIGHT: Do you remember who that was, sir?
MG ROOSMA: No, I don't. He gave an excellent briefing, but it was not the way we would have conducted the war. And I made that perfectly clear to GEN Thurman. I said that is not our plan and that is not how we would want to fight it. He said "I understand." And I reiterated it a couple of times and he finally came back and he said "tell LTG Stiner I want him to understand he is going to be my war fighter." I said "I understand, sir." And that's what I passed on to LTG Stiner.
DR. WRIGHT: Thereby kicking off our basic planning process in terms of emergency?
MG ROOSMA: No, not yet. So when I came back and told LTG Stiner that, he said "I understand." And I also conveyed to him that GEN Thurman, when he gets on board, wants us ready to go execute whatever the BLUE SPOON is going to do. And I told him that we're behind the power curve, so to speak, because this is so ... we have never gotten anything out of CINCSOUTH,5 really--a concrete, detailed BLUE SPOON plan. So we were kind of waffling in that whole area again. But that I was concerned because, knowing GEN Thurman, he was going down there and he was asking details of this particular individual there and he ... there was no answer to them. So it was obvious from GEN Thurman's point of view no one had done their homework; no one had looked at, you know we asked about the SA-76 threat. Was there one or not? If there was, what kind of defensive measures would we take?
No one in that room could answer it; no one ... understandably so, because no one had taken the plan and really worked it down to the point that we should be expect[ed], if we were called to go tomorrow, we would be able to execute it. And that was a deep concern of GEN Thurman's--underlying concern. I told LTG Stiner that. LTG Stiner shared my concerns that we need to get into the planning process right away; but, you know, we need to find out where the pieces are. I told him we better show some energy also; get energized. That ... he told me that and I told him that. We both ... this was a kind of a ... we all looked at each other and said "we've got to get going." Because we can't wait for CINCSOUTH and USARSO (and this is going to hurt) to flail through it. 'Cause that's what they've been doing for two years. I mean, absolutely ... it's kind of ... it's very unstructured kind of a plan. Because if we were, after GEN Thurman would look at us and ask us those questions; to look at us on a professional basis, we wouldn't be able to answer him.
So I went down with a group from J-3 Plans ...
DR. WRIGHT: LTC [Tim] McMahon?
MG ROOSMA: LTC McMahon. COL [Thomas H.] Needham. Maybe two or three others. We went down right away.
DR. WRIGHT: This is about when, sir?
MG ROOSMA: About ... maybe three weeks or so before GEN Thurman went there.7 No more. Our idea was, first off, was to energize them down there. And to get the pieces of the puzzle so we could get back and do our planning ... do our planning adequately. And I went down there ... went down there (and this is the point that is going to be very interesting, I think, because this is when they first started talking about the command and control).
DR. WRIGHT: Who's in charge?
MG ROOSMA: Yeah. Prior to this, in my J ... DCSOPS J-38 when we were trying to tell ... we were always trying to tell USARSO that they did not have the wherewithal to be able to play as a tactical headquarters. This was under MG [Bernard] Loeffke.9 When he had it, they wanted to fight JTF PANAMA10 as a full-up JTF a la XVIII Airborne Corps. They don't have the asset. They don't have the training. And they're not ... they're just not capable of doing that. Now they made sounds like they could handle it, but there's no way that ... they had trouble starting it ... everything from functional areas to capabilities to equipment. I don't ... I don't ... it's absolutely absurd to think that they could be able to handle it--something on the magnitude of JUST CAUSE or even BLUE SPOON. It didn't matter. Now, they were more suited to handle it, perhaps, than he was (GEN Thurman). So when I went down this time, I went down with what I knew was GEN Thurman's idea, which was consistent with ours. And I might add, even consistent with the J-3 of JCS,11 who felt the same way. And I, again, have shared some of this with him when I was the J-3 of DCSOPS.
DR. WRIGHT: Who was the J-3 at JCS?
MG ROOSMA: LTG [Tom] Kelly.
DR. WRIGHT: So he was still in position?
MG ROOSMA: He was still in position. And even when I was in FORSCOM, he was there. And this had been discussed before. By putting a JTF together, a full-up JTF, a permanent JTF if you will, with [BG] Marc Cisneros (Marc Cisneros was the J-3 at ... of SOUTHCOM12). I was the J-3 at ... of Forces Command (FORSCOM); and Kelly was the J-3 at JCS. We had met at the world-wide J-3 conference and on an aside we had talked about it. We also talked about (all the J-3s) the need of a permanent JTF rather than this ad hoc arrangement we always do in crisis which never works out.
DR. WRIGHT: And this would be the permanent JTF to execute the contingency missions globally?
MG ROOSMA: That's right. Globally. That ... it was all ... it was a great discussion. And LTG Kelly had conveyed that further to general--ADM [William J.] Crowe.13 ADM Crowe came back and said well we can reduce "ad hoc-ism" in our crisis action (if we were a JTF, something like that) we were ... probably that would be the greatest thing we could do ... greatest legacy we could leave behind. That's ... that's the concern he had. With dealing with a JTF headquarters, not "hey you, hey you, hey you" like the last one, because in the middle of a crisis, that's not the time to be doing extra training, see? So I give this as backdrop because I had all of that with me when I went down to Panama. And here I am, looking at how JTF PANAMA was operating. And it was ... it was adequate for what they were doing: the little forays and controlling the forces down there, but it was no where near the kind of operation that was needed if we built our forces.
DR. WRIGHT: To the 25,000-man level? Because it was my understanding [that] BLUE SPOON envisioned a force of thousands--the same size as ...
MG ROOSMA: Same size, but then following on into up-phases and all of that. And, of course, they said well, bring the XVIII Airborne Corps later. We said well, no, you've got to get it in mind ... and that's, by the way ... you just took that right out. Because we talked about that. And I said well, with XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters should come in as the JTF, and it needs to come in early; it doesn't come in later, it comes in at the very beginning because it's an orchestrated substitute.
This is still BLUE SPOON, now; we had not looked at the other. And then it needs to come in at the very beginning and be on the ground and have the kind of command and control that needs to orchestrate whatever is added into combat ... it has to be in control. Because there are pieces that grow with that: communication grows; your ... your logistics tail grows; all of these things as you introduce more forces. And that can only be orchestrated with a headquarters that's designed and trained to do that. And then with the right rank structure, because you have a lieutenant general automatically ... he's already in there. And you can train them to do just that. [Exercises] BRAVE SHIELDs, SOLID SHIELDs--we could go on and on with a long laundry list of what we had. In essence, that's the curve of the ...
DR. WRIGHT: Now as I understand it, also in BLUE SPOON the primary means of introducing forces into country would be by sealift, correct?
MG ROOSMA: It was air ... a combination of air and sea, but no parachute ... it was a build-up.
DR. WRIGHT: And ... and the Marines (2d MarDiv14) were very heavy players?
MG ROOSMA: They were players in the latter phases. It builds up to an enormous force that was going to go throughout Panama, restore order, and all of that. And by the way it was set up as a gradual response, you would have to have that because you obviously ... resistance (their resistance) would grow with it.
DR. WRIGHT: Incrementally?
MG ROOSMA: Until you had a full insurgency, if you will. So it's an incremental level of ... the short side of this effort was [that] it was built on a political ... "only do so much and don't aggravate any of the people." The big ...
DR. WRIGHT: Parallel to the, say, the Vietnam build-up in your mind, sir?
MG ROOSMA: Unfortunately, and that's an unfair parallel for me to make right now, a parallel to that. In other words, if they ... if this didn't do it, add more on; if this didn't do it, add more on; if this didn't do it, add more on to it. It just kept building up until you had a ... you know, the whole country. And we were, you know, were running out into the woods and chasing after the bad guys. And that ... that was based primarily on political ... and unfair to GEN Woerner. But I must confess that, you know, his idea was a lot different than the way we would have done it. He wanted ... he would prefer that if we can solve it at this level, keep it there; if we can solve it at this level, keep it there. So there's two schools of thought.
DR. WRIGHT: Is this ... yeah, I ... I recognize the distinction between two ways of approaching the problem. The escalation to try to hold it at a minimalized level versus the philosophy of overwhelming power initially minimizes casualties and terminates the thing quickly.
MG ROOSMA: Yeah.
DR. WRIGHT: Is this possibly a reflection of experience? That one part of the Army does tend to spend most of its time in troop program sequence units, versus (I'd say) GEN Woerner's background and others like that that come up more through the FAO15 sort of approach of being involved in MAAGs16 and ... ?
MG ROOSMA: Well, I think it had a bearing ... it really does. I don't think there's anybody that can possibly challenge GEN Woerner, as I said, on his knowledge and understanding of the region. The big problem would be I don't think he could conceive of fighting with them. He was very ...
DR. WRIGHT: And as I understand it, MG Loeffke also had come from a strong background of that working on liaison missions and that.
MG ROOSMA: Yes. And minimal in the overall operational aspects of the larger operations. And especially ... especially really had come to me in the joint operations. And I say that (I've got to be careful now, because I don't mean that in a pejorative sense) ... I think they were driven also by some political realities that came from Washington and ... but I'm not familiar with that, frankly. Even when I was J-3 I know that they generated there and I must confess that that plan (BLUE SPOON) was known by JCS--everybody--you know, I can't just turn to GEN Woerner, because I ...
DR. WRIGHT: It's a legacy of twenty, thirty years of less involvement in Latin America?
MG ROOSMA: It is. And it's also a legacy of the old way we did our planning: that the JCS and J-5s and those developing the kind of war-fighting plans at their level, and then we were kind of saying execute. And it's important, because, as you know, later the Congress--and why we were able to change it from a war-fighter type of perspective, the way we wanted to go versus what was kind of generated in the political arena, if you will, up there--I think it's an important distinction because I think this proves we can do it. I think it's a better way to do it. Give us the strategic objective, the campaign objectives, and then let us develop the plan and task it down. Don't you develop the strategic and campaign objectives, develop the plan and give it to us.
DR. WRIGHT: And, again, that carries through, then, in the subsequent planning process. That you assign an objective to a brigade or battalion and allow them ... ?
MG ROOSMA: Like we normally do. Like you and I were raised by ... you know, ever since I've been raised. Normally as a ... when I was a battalion commander, I had my company commanders; I'd give them their objectives, let them do their planning, come back and brief back on it, tell me how they were going to do it. When I was a brigade commander, I had my ... I gave my missions to--the objectives--to the battalion commanders, they did all their planning, they figured out how they were going to do it, and came back and said sir, here's how I'm going to do it. I said great, looks good to me.
DR. WRIGHT: And so, again, this is sort of a thrust of an approach that comes to you from spending a lot of time in the troop units. That this is the normal way of conducting business. And all we did was raise it, now, to a much higher level?
MG ROOSMA: Exactly. To a higher level. And with fairness to the CINC, this is the point that GEN Thurman ... that's what he allowed happening by a very key note--by saying "you are my war fighter; you are the man I'm turning to to fight the war; I'll take care of all this other stuff and I'll be there; I'll run interference for you, but here is what you've got to do, here's what I want you to do; I want you to get [Manuel] Noriega, I want to feel certain ... ." There were strategic objectives he laid out.
Now, in our building--I'm getting ahead of myself, because what happened at this meeting ... we were asking ... I was asking certain questions. Now there's one advantage: I had been stationed there.
DR. WRIGHT: When was that, sir?
MG ROOSMA: That was back in 1973-1976. I was a battalion commander there, so I had trained there.
DR. WRIGHT: Which battalion, sir?
MG ROOSMA: I had 4th Battalion, 25th crew [?] at Fort Davis. I was commander at Fort Davis for most of it. Trained all through that area; really knew the other areas too. One of the first American battalions to do exercises at Rio Hato--you where Rio Hato is? Right down from where the B-17 strip is [INAUDIBLE]. I'd done things like that there. And then I was also the commandant of the Jungle Warfare Center. So with those ... with that background I had a feel for what the old missions were, because I thought backwards and took things to the ... . And I mentioned them there to BG [Joseph G.] Hurteau,17 who reviewed them. And I had a chance to tell him what I had observed during my brief stay down there.
And I went and got briefed back by the 7th Infantry Division commander; and the 5th Mech[anized Infantry Division] ... 5th battalion commander,18 you know. I said give me brief-backs because I ... and then I went in and I know there were ... just noticed that there were inconsistencies in the coordination, in the timing, in how things would work.
I was absolutely appalled at the lack of HUMINT,19 and I made that clear all the way around. Because I could not understand why we did not have better human intelligence. I was absurd. We had been living there ... we'd been there since the early 1900's. I knew that. I mean, I knew the people. In my three years there (and I don't even speak Spanish) ... Panamanians who were friends of mine. I know Panamanians in the Panama Defense Force [PDF] who were part of the old Guardia Nacional, I knew there. But, you know, we'd been interfacing for years; we have many Panamanians in our army. The maids, the gardeners there ... for heaven's sakes, you know, we really absolutely have an entree there. We have three and four generations of U.S. citizens that live in Panama--part of the Pan[ama] Canal ... whole Pan Canal action; many retired there because they were born there, they grew up there, they went to school there, and they retire there. A lot of them die there. So it was almost absurd that we didn't have better HUMINT.
DR. WRIGHT: And that was just strictly a focus that had never been placed on it? I mean, nobody had ever said this is a priority thing?
MG ROOSMA: Well, there are legal constraints, and there's others. But there ... it bothered me that there wasn't a better ... just like the old classic send out your patrols. You know, how many people do that today? Send your patrols out front; recon[naissance]. Obviously it's a matter of performance. They all want to have big recon elements and all that.
That's all I was saying: where's the fall-through deadlock. I couldn't get that. Couldn't get a feel for it. They ... they'd say things like "well, in the [Colon] Free Zone there's a ... you know that this is being guarded; there's guards all around it, and we don't know what's in that big crate." Well, find out if that's good.
And then you'd go over to the Treaty organization. It's been in being ever since the [Panama Canal] Treaty was written, and it's made up and they'd go and inspect certain things to make sure we were doing right under the Treaty. And one of our officers asked that: what's going on in there--can you see--please go in there? These are American officers.
DR. WRIGHT: And nobody just ... ?
MG ROOSMA: Nobody would go in and go look at it. It's that kind of ... there was no organized ... gee, I'm not sure how I can go into this ... [OMITTED MATERIAL20]. And this is a systemic problem. It's not demeaning to ... it was not restricted to ... restricted just to Panama, but it is germane to the overall issue of HUMINT. Because you really didn't ... legally we have some strengths that we can't use as far as where is Noriega and what's going on and so on. But I ... frankly, I ... that disturbed me.
The other was ... is that it was obvious to me that JTF PANAMA was not capable of even running the initial start of the war.
DR. WRIGHT: It was just too undermanned; too inexperienced?
MG ROOSMA: Too inexperienced, too undermanned, not trained in those ... they could handle what was happening right then but a crisis would strike that they would just be dysfunctional; they would not be able to handle it--any pile-on that we would have to ... they just couldn't absorb it. Just the magnitude would be difficult for us, and I think we were professionally trained to do that. They're not.
And they were also putting--thinking--all their eggs in one basket. I said what about Torrijos-Tocumen [International Airport]; have you thought of using that? Can't just have it all at Howard [Air Base]; something could break at Howard. You have to have alternatives to bring in rapidly resupply and reinforcements, or whatever.
Then we talked about other things that we, like I said, I had found immediately that there was no consideration for the defensive. They were all trying to go after the PDF. That became ... and I said well who's going to defend that. And these things I brought back with me from the conference and told LTG Stiner about. And he agreed. My point was that we had been in there ... our whole reason for being there ...
DR. WRIGHT: .. is defense of the Canal.
MG ROOSMA: Defense of the Canal. And that's been the legitimacy of their ... even through the Treaty in 1999 there's a commitment that if the Canal is in jeopardy for whatever reason, we can just come back in and defend it. So it would seem ludicrous for us to go out of here and [have] somebody, for example, come from them and destroy a ... really the system. Or have a lock damaged or whatever the case may be--sabotage the mechanism. Really that's the kind of thought we were familiar with.
DR. WRIGHT: Generating up the issues relating to things they hadn't thought about. One of the questions I had was what about the ... the ability of the services to work together: how joint was the thinking at this point? Was it piecemealed or ... ?
MG ROOSMA: No, it was more ... it was very parochial. The Army was just as bad as everybody else. Everybody had their sliver of it, although conceivably under JTF-PANAMA, you know, the various elements in Panama worked together. But outside of that there was nothing that drew them in at SOUTHCOM or even, you know, into the JTF arena. It was more of what was in being right there. But SOUTHCOM was kind of working its overall plan with 12th Air Force and all the things it had to do. Because actually 12th Air Force was the AFFOR21 of SOUTHCOM. But nothing really ... nothing concrete. No airspace management worked out; none of those things had been really worked out at all. And, again, primarily because (as I said) they kind of ... they were operating under the status quo. This is where we are; this is where we are going. Run up to a road block ... SAND FLEAs22 and (I forget the name of them) ... . And they're all good; they're excellent.
DR. WRIGHT: PURPLE STORMs?
MG ROOSMA: Yeah. You know, those all were good; they kind of show them [that] "hey, we're ... don't fool around with us; we're bad guys." That kind of thing. Didn't fool Noriega. Noriega went home and made himself the "El Supremo" of "El Presidente," you know. It did help us later, of course, in the event of an OPSEC23 action because actually the majority of the Panamanians thought this was another PURPLE STORM or whatever. So I think in the long run it helped ... it helped desensitized them. But frankly, if you want my candid opinion (I shared that with MG Cisneros), I said just running up and running around and doing this and having live-fire exercises and all that kind of thing--demonstrations if you will--it'll get old after a while.
And I said I'm not sensing anything where their ... all this firing at the [Arrijan] tank farm (you know, the so-called probes), and all these things. I said even if they are probing, we have to go find a body, and we haven't even found any blood shed. So, you know, I didn't want to ... I had to be careful of what I said there. But when I was stationed there, poachers used to go in there all the time. Gave away a lot of things, the poachers. They had that area as an [INAUDIBLE] for three or four people, who were ... spent a lot of time poaching. You know, its a good place to go in the tank farm because no one hunts there. So they go in there at night and take the animals that kind of feel like a sanctuary. I've never told anybody that, because I didn't want them to think they're stealing, but I'm just saying that I ... .
Noriega, I think, was comfortable with the arrangement. He would have liked that to have stayed like that. He could have lasted forever and we never would have gotten him. We would never have gotten Noriega. The sanctions really weren't working that well. And all the other country was going the opposite way to convince Noriega that the drug deals ... and he was buying things to support himself well with that. And other things.
And so really you almost see the situation building where this is why [GEN] Thurman [was sent in]. And I don't place this is any one person, I just think it's a combination of political and other ... other things that happened. I mean, with all fairness to SOUTHCOM and USARSO, they're not staffed adequately. SOUTHCOM headquarters are very, very, very small. [Staffed] mainly in the political and military assistance areas, almost like a big MAAG, if you will. But not in an operating sense. That's a legacy. Even the 193d [Infantry Brigade] had lost it's edge like it used to be. It used to train all the time, and have all the [INAUDIBLE]. All that. You had ... you had ... you need to bring in the forces that had the luxury, if you will, of doing full-time training.
Well, I think I talked enough about the [INAUDIBLE] visits. Because there's a lot more that we discussed. But mainly, then, we started talking about ... I had a closed session with BG [William W.] Hartzog.24 I said there's no way we can go, except very early on getting intimately involved. If we do anything, we need as a minimum ... we need a cell that ... it can grow very quickly so within a six-hour planning window provided we could have the whole command structure in operation, putting equipment on the ground and so on. If we see a heightening of the tensions which is prudent, and if we start putting the screws on Noriega and his henchmen, if you will ... if we start putting that on there and the tensions start rising very quickly then you have to bring in the war plan and be right on the ground so that if it goes up then, right there, and you start to apply the pressure ... all of it or whatever we are going to need.
The other thing. I talked to MG [Wayne] Downing and we discussed ... we discussed it in detail. We need to bring in combat power on the ground. However you do it, you have to; at whatever level. Whatever we need to win, bring in. Don't fool around. That was understood. And that was a given. Now whether that was in BLUE SPOON ... you know, rather than ... my point was rather than rewrite BLUE SPOON, I just said Phase I and Phase II and Phase III all are happening at once. Phase V you may bring some more in, because if you get into that mood rather than the restoration of combat attack, then you may need more forces to go through the BLUE SPOON and all the other things. I was not sure at the time.
The other part, then, that I talked about that they had not considered (and this is terribly easy to criticize; I'm very embarrassed about putting it this way; it would be much easier to wash all this out, I guess, than to write it up) is that no one had made any consideration toward the fact that all I heard down there is that we take down the PDF, we go in and destroy the PDF. We all get the PDF, destroy them right there. And from my previous experience down there, I knew that the Guardia Nacional, which it was (it was a National Guard), was a police force essentially. Very little infantry combat so to speak; policemen. I mean, what do they get? And when the defense of the Canal came in in the Treaty they changed it to the Panama Defense Force so that they could share in the defense of the Canal. So they had a few battalions that were organizing. Doing what I call platoon (maybe company), I'm not sure how high they had attained. But a good portion of the Panama Defense Force were police. Law and order, plain and simple. And if you understand Panama, there are ... there's a criminal element in Panama that is second to none. Go to Colon. If you want to go in there ... you know, even the PDF go in pairs. I mean, there those guys in Colon are fighting their own wars. It's a tough ... they're a toughie.
DR. WRIGHT: Chicago in the 1920's?
MG ROOSMA: It sure is. And discipline: they're in tight on them. They're mean as hell because they've got to be, otherwise that element would take over. And if you went (for all the rhetoric I was hearing), this "take down," "destroy," "annihilate." All kinds of terms. Once you've done that, you've "okay," stand on top of the file and say "done and finished, now what happens?" Food. Justice. Law and order. Because that criminal element, once there's no law forcing them, moves to the top and become the hoodlums and boys take over. They'll riot, they'll loot, they'll rob, they'll steal, they'll do anything. Because they feel that "hah, there's no one here to stop them." You taken the brakes off.
And they had not ... that had not been in the (really) planing part of the process per se. It was, probably, the thought had occurred and was satisfied by saying "restore law and order." It comes in under the words "restore law and order." I said that's easier said than done. How are you going to repatriate them? How are you going to bring people back in to the fold? Who's the good guy and who's the bad guy? Who's going to know all that stuff? You've got to have somebody lined up early on to be able to determine that with accuracy. And then repatriate them and put them back into the government. Because who's the government at that time? At that time we were talking ...
DR. WRIGHT: That's before the election?
MG ROOSMA: Oh, yeah. Well, no, wait a minute. No. It's after the election.
DR. WRIGHT: Because in essence its the election that gives us the alternative government?
MG ROOSMA: Yeah, but we didn't talk it from that perspective. All I was looking ... who were we going to put in power, more or less. I didn't even go to the beyond trying to see who is the one we have to have back, and are we willing to accept the authority? And so ... I mean, we talked about those on the grand scale, and a little bit above my head. But the point was ... (to them) was that these are all considerations under force structure that determine what you need. You've first got to come and take ... you have to stabilize the situation. First, you've got to get Noriega, and stabilize ... take charge. You've got him. Now, when you're in charge, you're in charge of the ball game. Now its your obligation (since it's your game now, it's your football), you've got to do ... have the wherewithall to do all the things you said. You're going to turn the power on if it should go off. You know, you've got to pick up services; do all those things that need to be done to make life go on as usual. Or a part of that, a subset of that is to reform a new police force, whatever you call it, whatever ... so that's kind of where I left it.
I didn't see GEN Woerner there. I talked to ... the Chief of Staff25 was new; he had no idea. They were all more worried about this guy Thurman, you know, because of his reputation and everything. So they were asking me about that. The Chief of Staff was a Navy admiral, a really nice guy. A little ... you know, this is not his baliwick, area--talking about terrorist maneuvers, okay. New. Very new. And really a very ... virtually new staff.
The guy that ... BG Hartzog, of course, was very important there because he brought me in, told me about the new plan, the genesis of it. And really it was a new plan in the sense of coming out of JCS with clear thoughts on how we were going to do it. And that was the kernel, the germ of the way we started it. It was not ... it didn't end up to be the JUST CAUSE version exactly, but the ideas were there, you know. Take Noriega and put the other things in the hamper.
Now this is going to be important, because it comes up later. At that time I made the commitment of saying you've got to have all the pieces under one command, to include SOF.26 Boy, that's not ... .
DR. WRIGHT: That is not business as usual?
MG ROOSMA: Well, in here fortunately (and I'll tell you fortunately) I was the ARFOR27 commander (XVIII Airborne Corps commander) in [Exercise] SAND EAGLE. And I look at SAND EAGLE, if you want, the SAND EAGLE exercise where LTG Stiner was the JTF Commander. We had a full JTF headquarters. Underneath that we had an ARFOR and an AFFOR. AFFOR was LTG [Peter] Kempf. Sound familiar? Of 12th Air Force. ARFOR was MG Roosma, XVIII Airborne Corps. The JSOTF28 played up ... played with us. A guy named LTG [Gary E.] Luck. Now LTG Luck and LTG Stiner and all that really worked this out well. And what we did was carve out a JOA29 where JSOC would go in and do its mission; put all of its forces into this area. It was an outstanding exercise; impressive for JSOC to do its ... . And that's the first one I started working the command and control in that area.
DR. WRIGHT: So what you're saying ... ?
MG ROOSMA: So what I'm saying is, I guess I just drifted off, what happened there, though, my experience there showed me some things and I learned a great deal about how JSOC has to operate. Their exclusivity, if you will. But also the combination of how we would come in and take over from them and how ... in other words, how conventional and unconventional meet and blend together.
DR. WRIGHT: And do ... execute the handoffs, which is the trickiest part of the operation?
MG ROOSMA: Exactly. Well, it did, and we did that. Worked it; rehearsed it. And I did that with LTG Luck. Okay, they took down the airfield. I landed. It was total darkness. We exchanged it. They offered to leave their equipment, their operators. We had our people there, working in his shop, and went in with them on the JACKPOT30 and all the things ... I mean, it was a totally integrated exercise. The 82d [Airborne Division] jumped outside, came in to the Rangers (sound familiar?). The Rangers had taken the airfield; the 82d jumped in and came through. MG [James H.] Johnson, [Jr.], took over from us; I took over from LTG Luck and said "MG Johnson, you're in charge;" got in my plane and flew out of there (because, again, I was XVIII Airborne commander). Sound familiar?
DR. WRIGHT: And this ... this exercise took place when, sir?
MG ROOSMA: I'll swim for the date because we've had so many. But that to me was a very important exercise. I'll look the date up for that.
DR. WRIGHT: I can check it out.
MG ROOSMA: But why I'm getting to this is because what happened looking at that, I realized that this is a different ball game than ... the SAND EAGLE was all the same, and all that. But where we had a large AO to operate in and they were going in surgically to do something with the Embassy and make it happen and pull out. This was different. We were all going to be operating in the same JOA. And you cannot have forces operating under there under different commanders, stovepiped. So the JSOTF which would have come under (really) the SOC, if you will, or under GEN Thurman ... alright, that's when I first started talking about "that all has to be under one commander." Because you can't ... this will be operating in the same ...
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. We're talking ... in Panama we're talking a distance of maybe blocks from each other.
MG ROOSMA: Blocks. In other words, its got to be orchestrated by ... one, you can't carve out a JOA and look at it from a window. LTG Stiner when I ... when we all ... but that's a very, very touchy subject. Tough ... no one wanted to hear this, for one. Okay. Now I'll take a ... we'll go on out and then the plans started and we started working all this. And the next ... and we really started the planning sequence and all the things together: we were going to have rehearsals, and get ready to go, and work with JSOC working things out. And again this came up.
A guy we'll remember is [COL] Ray[mond J.] Dolan.31 Experienced. He knows ... he's worked with JSOC. And I think we talked to him about the ABCCC32 and the control of it and all of that. And I'm talking about you've got to have it; you've got to have the JSOTF, you've got to have SOF assets out there to get things, you've got to control all that. I said that's got to come under ... you ... you guys can't be working separately. The officer (the S-3 or whatever it was who had been over there for four years), he didn't want to hear that. No way would they be under the control of ... "LTG Stiner doesn't get me; I remember when he was in charge--we don't quite do it that way." I said you don't understand, you can't run it that way. And Ray Dolan whipped it on him; I was going to be more diplomatic. Ray Dolan said "hey, there's no other way to do that, major." You know. And he said you'd better take that back. And that's when we first started thinking on the plan, and when we first started having to piece all this together, because you just can't operate.
That's what I say the beauty of it is, now, in that interim, is that you've got really main objective which was given by GEN Thurman: the germ of kind of go get Noriega and all that. Now the plan started coming together. You see the advantage of what we had is when GEN Thurman would go to the time of execution on 20 December , we really in essence had formed the JTF. Because LTG Stiner was the anointed JTF. There was a permanent JTF and all the pieces started coming together. All the hammering and all the molding.
DR. WRIGHT: All those little turf issues and clues and everything ...
MG ROOSMA: Turf issues, parochialisms, all ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... we had a chance to resolve before we had to execute it?
MG ROOSMA: ... resolved not during the battle, but before the battle. I mean, we had our 'knock-down drag-outs' and everyone understood when everyone walked out. Some compromises were made. And some full commitments to not re-fight. Very, very ... I have great admiration for LTG Stiner for putting together a fantastic organization that LTG Luck had. Incredible. In all of that planning. They've got one of the most tough ... some of the toughest missions, obviously. And they need to have ... you can't have people with a number of size twenty boots coming through there when really the [its] a ballerina exercise. So that all worked out well--between LTG Stiner and LTG Luck worked that out. We worked the details out.
I actually worked that out with GEN Thurman. Because GEN Thurman said you're all under me ... he made that "you're my warfighter" [statement to LTG Stiner]. You go and say "but I work for the CinC" and he says "I know, I am the CinC; you're working for LTG Stiner, do you understand?" [LAUGHTER] Even LTG Kempf--all of them come under LTG Stiner. LTG Stiner, you work for the CinC. That gave us the so-called opportunity to pull all the strings together--the strings--and tie them all into the same cylinder together.33
The plan was important and the plan was developed right upstairs.34 It was the actual ... JSOC did their planning on what they wanted to do and all that that involved, everything was done in tandem. Because ...
DR. WRIGHT: And we had a very good opportunity there in the sense that both players (in that sense) are here at Fort Bragg. It's a situation where you don't have to go crazy.
MG ROOSMA: No doubt about it. No doubt about it. The ground war was really taken care of here. Now we had many liaisons. We had a team down there. We had a cell down there working, planning, talking and all. We had trips, you know. We went down [and] worked with GEN Thurman; got things done. And a lot of really good, hard, great planning went on. I guess "do this and don't do that," "what's the timing for that here" and so forth. We went and labeled the adjective out of it.
They were banking a lot on the professionalism, and obviously, our ability to do something. And it worked. It was feasible because we knew the state of readiness of our soldiers--of all of them. And we knew what we are capable of doing. That's what a professional army us about. We have standards. And we train to those standards. We say I want to do this--you know you can do it, its not a thing of "well, let's give it a try." It wasn't that. We knew we could do it. That's something that you can contribute by bringing out. So ...
DR. WRIGHT: We have the opportunity, then, to carry on through and get in that one rehearsal here at Bragg?35
MG ROOSMA: Yes, which was ... at that rehearsal, that's the day when we were JSOC, because I was up. And that all happened right in the EOC.36 That's the day when we were operating jointly. During that rehearsal is when we were talking about command and control platforms, because we didn't ... we didn't have any. We wanted the ABCCC.
DR. WRIGHT: As opposed to JACKPOT?
MG ROOSMA: Yes. And that's another ... that's Ray Dolan again, I guarantee that one. And that's ... those were the members that we were going to have working on the staff in the EOC that we were going to be up in the bird. That's where the idea came from. And if JSOC was going to work things, that's where I said it's going to work. After Ray Dolan, it kind of ... these guys were coming on so strong that it wouldn't work that way that Ray Dolan gave it right back to them and said its got to work.
So that ... again, that was the command and control we were working out. We were going to ... [another thing] that I had wanted [for] the ABCCC which I had learned from JSOC is the execution checklist that we had used in SAND EAGLE. I wanted one for every operation so everybody was integrated. That there was one--there wasn't a JSOC one, a 193d [Infantry Brigade], a 7th [Infantry Division], an 82d [Airborne Division]. It was all under one so we had the total command and control for the ABCCC. Different than we would have done for some operations where we had no one on the ground. This way LTG Stiner gets what he commands. But I was the Tac[tical] C[ommand] P[ost] if you will; I was deputy commander. You couldn't be effective if this ever happens again ...
DR. WRIGHT: A commo [communications] breakdown; any one of a hundred things.
MG ROOSMA: That's understood. I was his commander. And in some cases I made decisions by virtue of the fact [that] he couldn't hear. And I knew what his plan was; I know what his guidance is. I mean, I've been working for LTG Stiner for some time and I know him well, so there's no ... . And of course we were all planned as well with the thought in our minds, so that we knew what to do.
But there are a lot of little vignettes that I find out later that I didn't know about. Like we were wandering around just talking to some of the other players like the Rangers. The LNO37 for JSOC said don't you remember talking; I said no, I said who are you? He said "I was the LNO to JSOC; you were BOOKSHELF." I said yes, but I don't remember you. He said "well, you remember our phones went dead and we couldn't phone our reports in." I said yeah, I remember the reports going in. Then we got talking some other things that happened. Its important how amazed I was the when we were in the ABCCC ... but that's where we ... that's how we got up to the ...
[END OF SIDE ONE]
DR. WRIGHT: Alright, resuming on Side Two. If you'd continue, sir.
MG ROOSMA: It's the important part ... it's now is the .... what I call is the JTF elongated, if you will. From Fort Bragg to the crisis area, which was Panama. And that how ... who was in command and control, who was where, who was at the telephones and radios at each point. And, interestingly enough, because I was in on the initial assault, I assigned BG [Richard W.] Tragemann38 the mission of being ...
DR. WRIGHT: Who is the DIVARTY ... Corps Artillery ...
MG ROOSMA: Corps Artillery commander. But I had [COL] Larry Cousins for the [G]-3 back here and I had my own staff. I created my own staff. Brought [COL] Freddy McFarren39 up, who was the brigade artillery commander--artillery brigade commander, corps artillery brigade commander--and became the chief of staff; made him the chief of staff. I knew I had to do that. I also had him as the fire support coordinator on the ABCCC because of his experience in airborne operations and all.
And essentially we formed another staff--from the deputies and assistants--of professional staff officers who were now in charge back here. I might say very, very competent. I had absolutely ... amazingly professionalism. They just took over beautifully, but ...
DR. WRIGHT: This is essentially a contingency corps requirement ...
MG ROOSMA: Requirement.
DR. WRIGHT: ... that we be capable of executing a second one while the first one is going on?
MG ROOSMA: Well, that's ... I'm getting to that. This is first off to be able to execute everything back here because we've got to continue pushing supplies and all the logistics and all the things that happen back here. Plus this post still operates. So you have all the other things with it, and you have family support groups and all them. And they need repair parts. So certain things started to happen back here which really needed a first team. And they became the first team. There's no doubt in my mind. Because, you recall, the staff and the CG left two days early to get themselves in position for the assault that was going down at H-Hour.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes, sir.
MG ROOSMA: So then we had to prepare the invasion force, essentially. And that's what it became. With the 82d; be sure the 7th was squared away; and a platoon of tanks laid on down at Fort Stewart40 (the Bravo package for them). All these things were what we did here while they were in Panama getting themselves ready. Essentially we became the invasion force headquarters. And we would turn them all over to the JTF SOUTH when they arrived in country. So all the air equasion and all that ... although it worked down there and all of that, it really had to be worked here. This is ...
DR. WRIGHT: And ... and in another sense, then, that freed up the principals down there to concentrate on the operational side without having to worry about ...
MG ROOSMA: Exactly. All the other things in there. Obviously they were worried about the invasion force because that's a key part of the overall plan. But they were also getting their comms in and everything, and getting themselves squared away--kind of in position and "okay, let me have the controls." And they'd call back and we'd say "we're on schedule, we're ready to go." And I'd talk constantly with LTG Stiner here on the phone. But no one else bothered us because, believe me, no one knew it was happening. I mean, it didn't. It was close hold. It was great ... no one from the Pentagon knew about it. The only one I know in the Army Staff was GEN [Carl E.] Vuono;41 I can't think of anyone else that knew about it. In fact, the DCSOPS42 of the Army I don't believe knew about it per se. So ...
DR. WRIGHT: He was buying the EDRE story like everybody else was?
MG ROOSMA: Well, I don't think he paid much attention to it. I mean, we have EDREs going on here all the time and they never call down and say "hey, what are you guys doing?" I never hear all that. They read something in the paper, and you know we have EDREs and stuff like that. But in any event, it also allowed us to get ourselves in position and ready to go and do our thing.
Then we had the so-called operation. It went off, as you well know--many different parts of it. Back here we had the storm which was very interesting, because the storm worked for us and against us. The shortfall we had was ... you can't blame a weatherman because he's a victim of things, but we ... our whole forecast was absolutely, totally, totally bad. It wasn't in error because the ice storm finally came, but it was so inaccurate as to when it was going to come that we did things based on that that in my opinion set us up for almost a ... a really a ... worse than it could have been. The ice storm was going to come the night before, the night of the 19th. That's when it was predicted to come. Somewhere early in that evening. We decided ... and we all participated in this--Panama, the CG--because we knew this was coming--it had been forecast. We all decided that the best way to go (the CG was the one who said this) is let's get our heavy equipment down to ...
DR. WRIGHT: Charleston Air Force Base.
MG ROOSMA: ... Charleston, and then we'll preposition twenty aircraft. You can't put them all on the ramp [at Pope Air Force Base]; you couldn't have all of them--the heavy drop and all of them prepared, so let's get it done at Charleston. And then let the ice storm pass through and, you know, we'll get the aircraft off the ground imperfectly and they'll rendezvous in the air. And I may ... I'm not sure exactly, but in any event, then they're down in Panama and we're waiting for this to happen.
We were slow in getting our equipment [loaded]; we did not do well in the so-called EDRE, which we should have been. There was a lot of business, and you probably need to pick that up. The brigade that rehearsed it was not the brigade in the DRB cycle,43 and there are a lot of other things happening. Frankly, it was not a very good outload. MAC44 was there with planes on the ground and we were not ready to fill them.
DR. WRIGHT: Yes, sir.
MG ROOSMA: Like I said, it was not a very good outload. We were gaining all kinds of things going on here, and there were a lot of changes. Is this an EDRE or ... if this is an EDRE then we should do this. And oh, no, it's real; we've got to do a draw of ammo (usually that's not done during an EDRE). Those things were going on and we were working on them. But in any event, there was a lot of confusion. We were late. In fact, I heard from LTG Stiner that we were into the factor of time. Fortunately, though, the ice storm didn't come through. So we worked on through and got them all down to Charleston. The ice storm still didn't come. Now we're into the end state.
But that evening, because the ice storm was supposed to come that evening, it worked to our advantage there. The newspapers ... the news were ... "hey, what are you guys doing? EDRE and we're having trouble down in Panama and, you know, we have the shooting and all that. But National Command Authority says hey, guys, you know we don't do that ... you can get a little sensing. You don't have to deal with a reporter; his antenna's up and "ahah! What's going on; you guys are on an EDRE."
Well, what worked for us is prior to that [on] NIMROD DANCER45 when we enhanced what we put down there, we ... outside here we had all kinds of satellite dishes. I mean, there were reporters everywhere: "when are you guys going, we know you're going down." But we didn't. We said the Marines are sending someone down, but we're not. We're going to sit right here. They didn't believe it. Fine. They'd think we were going to sneak out the back door. So we told them this time "hey, it's an EDRE." Well, where's the EDRE going. We don't ever discuss these things. You know, we have an EDRE about once or twice a month--often. We have EDREs all over the place. Oh. Are you sure now? You know, some of the 82d is down at Green Ramp.46 I'm just telling you it's an EDRE. Well, why are you having it on a half-day schedule? Well, this is when we could get the aircraft. There are aircraft available, and every time we can get aircraft, we call an EDRE. And that's good training for all of us. They had a little ... a couple things in there that, you know, the 82d, an EDRE. Finally it just started dying down. We started getting ... we had queries coming up, you know, and we had news guys coming in.
Our news people were a little bit worried telling them that it was an EDRE when we knew that it wasn't. We said hey, that's our policy--you've got to stick with it. In fact, before we went down the PAO47 said, you know, I really don't like doing this--telling them ...
DR. WRIGHT: This is LTC Longsworth?
MG ROOSMA: LTC Longsworth. Because, you know, this is bad. Because then if you do it and you've told them this is the alternate, that's the whole policy, that's the whole reason for EDREs. Not only to train us for Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises, but it also gives us the kind of OPSEC we need. So if you do it all the time, you don't know--and you shouldn't ... the soldiers shouldn't know, really, until he gets on the plane if he's going to war or not. Besides if he's drawing live ammo or blank ammo. He shouldn't know. And that's the way its supposed to be; that's the way you protect OPSEC. That's the way you also, with the soldier, is ... he's not running home to his family saying this if for real. If he's just going to go jump into Sicily [Drop Zone], what the hell. So that took some convincing to get them on board.
But then schools closed for the next day, okay. All the schools; the businesses. Because of the ice storm. That was perfect; we just closed the post. And I will tell you that the news guys tell me that when we saw you closing the post, we knew then that you're not going to war. Closing the post, all the civilians stay home; everybody--all the military stay home. That's ridiculous. And then we knew then that it was just a training exercise. And it worked out perfect because then we really didn't have to worry about OPSEC with the post closed down.
So it worked to our advantage, but the ice storm didn't come then that morning. That afternoon it started coming. So it's almost 24 hours late.
DR. WRIGHT: And catches you right as we're trying to load out our personnel?
MG ROOSMA: Right as ... it was there earlier, and we got our de-icers in. And they thought they had enough, but they didn't have sufficient for the frequency they needed. And I know they de-iced my plane twice, which was the frequency. We were ready to take off and I had to get it done. The plane that I got on ... and it became worse after we left. And it was really brutal--ice on the aircraft and on our soldiers. But we took off and we got in the air ...
DR. WRIGHT: About what time is it that you lift off, sir?
MG ROOSMA: Oh, gosh. Maybe 1800, somewhere around there. I'd have to ... somebody'd have to go out and look it up.48
DR. WRIGHT: And the ABCCC, just for the record, is a modified C-130 [Hercules] with extra communications equipment?
MG ROOSMA: It has a pod with modular ... consoles rolled in there. You can do anything on it. Yes, a C-130.
DR. WRIGHT: H-model C-130?
MG ROOSMA: Yeah, I guess. But it's got a command and control module in it that you roll in and secure down. And ... now what's interesting about this, because we used ABCCC before and we did JACKPOT before. Both of them. My role ... I was the ... and I was again doing the same role as the airborne ... as a command and control platform. I liked the JACKPOT better because I used it ... I was the, for example, command and control for the SOLID SHIELD. Really used it there, because the CG jumped in. But we had all the comms--we were really fighting the war, because he just was trying to find himself, getting himself hooked up. And that's the way we probably would go to war. Panama was unique in the sense that that's ...
DR. WRIGHT: You could prepo[sition].
MG ROOSMA: ... prepo where we had forces on the ground and so forth. I used the ABCCC on SAND EAGLE. Two operations. And I didn't like it because I didn't think the crews were well trained, or we didn't have good commo--it was jury rigged and all. You see, the ABCCC is really designed to be an airborne ASAT or ASOC49 if you will for the Air Force. Its an ASOC or whatever. But that's what its designed for. And that's what they want to use it for, and that's what its bought for. It's been in the inventory for a long time. So I was convinced that the JACKPOT would ... although the first operation that we had in SOLID SHIELD went really well, the second one got all fouled up. We had pretty good comms then.
Its not configured like an ABCCC. COL Ray Dolan upstairs who had been in an ABCCC in JSOC said hey ABCCC is far and away the way to go. That will give you even communications, the kind you really want. Its totally reliable. I said hey, Ray, I know, but I don't really like getting involved in that. The CG liked the ABCCC also, but ...
DR. WRIGHT: Again from his JSOC background?
MG ROOSMA: All from ... both made a case like that. But, you know, I'm the guy who said not to go with the ABCCC. The CG said okay. But then Ray Dolan convinced me. He said "sir you've just got to use that ABCCC, that's the way it is." Well, Ray made ... things started happening, we got ready to get going, and we finally worked out who was taking control, and all the plans and so on, and then they said yeah we're going to use an ABCCC; we wanted ABCCC and they didn't have enough. There's only so many to go around. JSOC had three. JSOC gave us one. And I would have the overall [command and control]; I would be the forward overall airborne guy with the whole center and have all the pieces up there. So JSOC, this was a JSOC bird, you know, rehearsed the JSOC and they were different. And we went to load and all the pre-wired ... JSOC put in a whole console full of special signal equipment with a operator on there. Plus they had a liaison officer with us who was a lieutenant commander, I guess, who was an expert with this equipment. But we had all these assets. And I will tell you that that Air Force crew was absolutely fantastic.
DR. WRIGHT: Do you know where they came from, sir?
MG ROOSMA: Yes. Keesler [Air Force Base]. In fact, the commander came to visit me the day after--the director of their air battle staff. Sits next to me and everything. The beauty of this is that we're all in a row. I'm sitting here, and I've got all this equipment, plus the intercoms and the mikes. He's right next to me. The operations officer, MAJ ...
DR. WRIGHT: LTC Burgdorff?
MG ROOSMA: Chuck Burgdorff, LTC Burgdorff. COL McFerran was one down there. And so on. They were all on a line so you could look at each other. In front of all the maps and everything going. But they had a really magnificent crew. We started with the maps of the United States and frontals of all the aircraft, how they were going to come in. You know, how CINCLANT50 which no one hears about. But CINCLANT had the responsibility for security for all that.
DR. WRIGHT: Provide the air cover and all that?
MG ROOSMA: The air cover. How that was working; where it was; what's going to go on; and how its going to be. How do we get down there? We come up and pick straws. It looks like a big funnel; a big wide funnel. You come into that and drop down to an altitude ...
DR. WRIGHT: To a low altitude? Under enemy radar?
MG ROOSMA: To a low altitude. Come back up again. Had all the routes on it--every route. All the aircraft. Amazing. And then as we got closer to our ... where we were going to orbit and our objective, and all. And we stayed out of the area initially so we wouldn't, you know, be overhead and all. And then we started putting targets up. They had absolutely magnificent photographs (because of JSOC again) of all the objectives and all. We had all the OPLANS. We had ... they had all the execution check lists all set. And they were put up there ... because that's all done in sequence by timing. The beauty of it is, as you know, if you're familiar with those, is ... what it is is it's already written out for you, you know.
DR. WRIGHT: You can just sit there?
MG ROOSMA: "Pilgrim 6, this is Pilgrim 7 ..." (it could be cars with their names) "Buick." That's it. You don't need to the time, you've got your own time. That's all the communication it takes. You know exactly what that is. It means that Cimarron has been taken, or that you've landed, or we're now at such-and-such. All that's there. It tells you what it is. Right in front of you, as you go down, all this unfolds. But they don't call. It's by exception. You know that its been done. And its really a ... because you see ... then the whole battlefield is mentally in front of you. We have pictures of everything.
And the beauty of it is you have total, 100% communications. In thirty-one years of service I have never, ever had that. Total: FM, any net, from everything. It was incredible. I could listen on FM and I could hear the 7th fooling around with that ... knocking out that ... the patrol boats ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... up at Coco Solo?
MG ROOSMA: ... up at Coco Solo. You could hear them taking the prison.
You know ... I ... we're talking to the Ranger liaison officer at Torrijos. And we're talking to them with, you know ... we have ... because they couldn't get back to their headquarters, so we became their headquarters, if you will. When they got the hostages, they called us--you know, "what do we do?" "Try to resolve the situation." They did it beautifully. They called it in "situation resolved." We reported back, "Okay, fine."
They would call us when the 82d guys would wander in: "where am I?" "Lost!" The Rangers would ask us; we'd get MG Johnson on the phone and say "I think ... ."
DR. WRIGHT: So you were also in communication with the air flow coming down?
MG ROOSMA: Let me tell you, we had ... we talked to MG Johnson on the ground here, we talked to MG Johnson in the air (constantly), and his [G]-3. Constantly. Total. From the time he got into the door and jumped. And it wasn't too long after he got on the ground [that] we were talking to him on FM. So then we ... when the Rangers got ... when a [para]trooper would come to the Ranger and say "I'm a part of the task force" he'd call so-and-so. Well, you know, even with misdirection it would be all right. [LAUGHTER] "You go that way."
DR. WRIGHT: So, in a lot of ways, then, that capability (in contrast to say the tradition of the airborne drops of World War II), with this enhanced communication we were able to sort out the normal darkness jump chaos, and get our people concentrated in P[ickup] Z[one] posture?
MG ROOSMA: Because we could talk; because we could talk.
Not only that, but we couldn't get ahold of the pilots--we had never done that before. It was a lesson-learned for us. But we knew we had to get all the pilots, because the Rangers told us that the 82d was jumping long. I mean, they told us that they were jumping at Objective TIGER, okay? Objective TIGER on the 82d OPLAN is Cimarron, okay? This was Objective TIGER for the Rangers. Where is that? I'm talking to who?--the JSOC LNO? "Here's where it is." It's a long way. [LAUGHTER] We wanted to move--tell them to drop them early. Because we couldn't ... no one had heard from the CCT [Combat Control Team]; even the Rangers on the ground hadn't heard.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you ever find out where the CCT was?
MG ROOSMA: No, I never explored it after that. They were there. But we never did get commo with them.
DR. WRIGHT: They jumped long, or they just had commo problems?
MG ROOSMA: I don't know. I have no idea. They went in with the Rangers, and I never did pursue it to find out. Because what we then had to do was get in to the pilots. Well, to do that ... I said "How are we going to do that?" The director of the Army air-ground liaison, this lieutenant colonel ...
DR. WRIGHT: A member of the air staff?
MG ROOSMA: Incredible; absolutely incredible. And he just said "I'll do that." And he worked his way all the way to MAC headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, and they would give him a hard time. He got up and said "all right, I'm speaking for MG Roosma, now give me the answers; give me a parallel." And they said "okay, what do you need? ... you need to get ... okay, you have permission to get ahold of him."
We got ahold of him, on the lead flight, and what had happened was because, you know, there was some confusion coming in here. MG Johnson when I left said we were good to go, and I told the CG we were good to go: looks like everything is all set; the heavy drop is good to go, looks like the pax [personnel] is good to go. They had enough de-icer to do everything. Had not anticipated the storm would interfere. When he called me again (this is on the ground), he said "I've got a problem; it looks like I'm going to have to ... you know, I can get them all there, with a two-hour--with a one-hour ... within one hour. All right?"
I said do what you can do. That to me seemed better to bring them all in. And it wasn't critical, okay, 'cause the Rangers were going to take down Torrijos-Tocumen. What the airborne to go in for was due to ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... the airmobiles?
MG ROOSMA: And Tinajitas, you know, and that didn't ... one hour didn't seem like it would be that much disruption there. We passed that on down to LTG Stiner and company. LTG Stiner weighed it and thought, no, it would be better if we send what we can. MG Johnson ...
DR. WRIGHT: Do it incrementally, rather than ... ?
MG ROOSMA: Yeah. And it was a good decision. I mean, we could probably ... you know, you could say, well, should we have waited until we get them all in one [lift] or, you know, or done it incrementally. If I looked at it now, I think the best decision was to go ahead as we did. Because in that seven birds that we could get up ...
DR. WRIGHT: The lead seven [C-141s]?
MG ROOSMA: The lead seven were the majority of the command and control.
DR. WRIGHT: Which is, again, the way the 82d combat loads with the cross-loading, and then front-loading ...
MG ROOSMA: Yeah, the command and control. So you have them on the ground and they can do their planning and then get the helicopters in and so on. So that it the way it went.
But in any event, what happened was (in my opinion) the twenty that rehearsed it and had to rehearse it in formation flying ... it was a different formation (there were seven here and thirteen back here that were going in increments of three, three, two) and lagging behind. Most of them had not practiced doing flight lead, just because they couldn't. We do know ... we found out a lot of things from them that they're not used to doing. Train at 500 feet. The speed is not like the AWACS or the C-130;51 the speed doesn't do well over the water. Plus it was almost like flying into a black hole: no lights on, black hole, 500 feet. Very affecting. And only about a minute and a half over land.
DR. WRIGHT: And they are also intensely concerned about the SA-7 [GRAIL surface-to-air missile] threat?
MG ROOSMA: Well, I don't think they really--they shouldn't have been. Because the threat really wasn't there. It was ... it could be there ... .
DR. WRIGHT: That's sort of pounded into MAC pilots' heads.
MG ROOSMA: Well, yeah, but I still think it's 500 feet--your chances are good. And, you know, you're pretty good.
But the flying on the deck--to them it was like flying into a black hole: they had no idea what was there. You're on navigation, but ... so ... but in any event ... .
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, and like you say, a minute and a half max[imum] ...
MG ROOSMA: ... over land ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... over land to try and find yourself?
MG ROOSMA: It's not a hell of a long time. You're doing one of these things, where you're trying to ... you get a little worried.
But in any event, we got ahold of the lead [pilot]s. Communication was absolutely flawless. We're talking back to the EOC back here as you and I are talking right now. As clear as a bell. There was no one we could not talk to. In fact, FORSCOM headquarters and two-way with DA.52 People were monitoring the nets. In fact, the only one I know that recognized who I was was general [INAUDIBLE], because I recognized his voice right off. He wondered what I was doing down there. "Where was that?" He said "where were you?" I said in the Airborne Triple-C.
But in any event, we contacted the flight and the pilot wouldn't change the drop zone (where he was going to drop) unless you could authenticate. He didn't have the Joint CEOI either. We had it. We couldn't ... every time we'd it the authentication wouldn't jive--"no way, Jack." Finally we called back to MAC and said "what's going on?" And they said "hmm, I bet he doesn't have the JCEOI, he had the MAC CEOI." So we went forward and got the [INAUDIBLE].
DR. WRIGHT: And the shifting of the D[rop] Z[one] was in what direction, sir?
MG ROOSMA: It was south.
DR. WRIGHT: Trying to pull them back down more towards the south end of the runway?
MG ROOSMA: Yeah. We saw where they were dropping--where the Rangers said they were dropping was TIGER as I recall. It was the forward end.
DR. WRIGHT: You wanted to drop it back down, and then ...
MG ROOSMA: Yeah, so they would hit right parallel to the runway.
DR. WRIGHT: To the main terminal?
MG ROOSMA: The runway, yeah. Where they would have to go.
DR. WRIGHT: And then the heavy drop had gone in?
MG ROOSMA: The heavy drop had already gone in, of course. That went in right on schedule, and where the Air Force thinks they were supposed to go. It was really too far [southeast].
DR. WRIGHT: The margin of error ... the margin of error on the heavy drop (to get into the trouble) is 50 meters. It's a very small ...
MG ROOSMA: Well, we didn't want ... you could argue that. This is Monday [morning] quarterbacking, but I think somebody should have gone and stomped through that [Kuna] grass.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah.
MG ROOSMA: They should have done a better recon. It was poorly reconned as a DZ.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. From your experience from your years down in Panama ... I know MG Johnson made the comment to me that eyeballing it from the air, you look at that grass and whatnot, but you know that grass is elephant grass. It's viewed. And then what's underneath it is the concern.
MG ROOSMA: Well, I know it was, because it's tidal [marshes]. There's big tides there. In fact, we picked the time mainly so the [Special Operations Forces element] could get in because you had huge mud flats there. So we wanted the water to be in, which tells you [that] all those to be mud at low tide [INAUDIBLE]. I mean, I know that; I can tell you that right up front.
DR. WRIGHT: Did you get much ... ?
MG ROOSMA: Let me take a break.
DR. WRIGHT: Sure.
DR. WRIGHT: Okay, sir, just resuming after the ...
MG ROOSMA: Resuming. We're going to ... what I'll do now is just kind of [hit] topics which I think that Part II of the interview ... that I want to discuss. It is to finish up on the ABCCC and to really highlight why this is the command and control platform of choice in these kinds of small regional contingencies. Even if there was an air threat, it was very viable because we could ... we were 70 kilometers off the coast and no one could see us. We could have been closer if we'd wanted to, but we really didn't need it. Our FM was pure. We really had such positive communications that we were not only the command and control platform, but we did relay.
We could assume command. In some cases we did make command decisions because it was easier. If LTG Stiner wanted to override it, he could override it easily. But he did not. We were in communications with every element on the battlefield, and fed all of the pieces back to the rear. We had the capability to go in and talk to the National Command Center or wherever if needed. So that ... that ... .
The other part of this battle--very important, but not as glamorous (not glamorous at all)--was the rear area back here. Which is an absolutely fundamental issue. In your planning, you must plan your rear area--exactly how you're going to do it. And what I'll talk about the next time is how we reconstituted for another mission that we received. The Chief of Staff of the Army
asked us to be prepared to be ready to do, and we were already formed another battle staff for a JTF, which I would have commanded.
DR. WRIGHT: Okay, and then also, I guess, we can talk a little about Family Support [Groups].
MG ROOSMA: Yes. All of that.
DR. WRIGHT: And casualties being returned.
MG ROOSMA: The air flow manager--how we established that for the first time, and why its critical in future operations. We were JTF SOUTH air flow management right here at Bragg. And that's a very important part. I'll discuss all that.
DR. WRIGHT: Okay, sir. We'll resume as soon as I can get back on your schedule. And I appreciate it.53
[END OF INTERVIEW]