The Grenada Revolution Online

Bulletin - International Military Forces Conduct
Anti-Terrorist Exercises in Puerto Rico,
aka Ocean Venture '81

RCA AUGUST 18 [1981]


On August 9th, NATO forces jointly commanded by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, began Phase II of Ocean Venture 1981 with the participation of the U.S. Coast Guard and Puerto Rico National Guard. Heralded by the U.S. military as the largest maritime exercise since World War II, Ocean Venture 81 is taking place in the waters of the South Atlantic, Caribbean, Virginia Capes, North Atlantic, and Baltic Seas from August 1st to October 15th. More than 120,000 military personnel, 250 ships, and 1,000 aircraft from 4 countries are to participate.

According to Lieutenant Commander Michael D. Neuhart, of the Caribbean Contingency Joint Task Force (CCJTF) based in Key West, Florida, U.S.A., the purpose of the exercise is "to provide an Atlantic-wide projection of seapower which demonstrates the capability of the U.S. and Allied Forces to protect and maintain use of sea lanes and communication."

Commanded by Neuhart, Phase II is to take place August 9th through 21st, in Vieques and Salinas, Puerto Rico, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Key West, Florida. Rear Admiral Robert P. McKenzie, Commander of the CCJTF and Coordinator of Phase II, described the exercise as a show of military might. "We're here to reinforce in the eyes and minds of those watching, of our military commitment around the world - to give an example of the ability of one facet of the U.S. capabilities to respond in the Caribbean Basin" said the official.

For Phase II, military strategists have designed a scenario specifically to simulate a possible situation in the Caribbean. It includes anti-terrorist and anti-guerilla movement activities. The central concept of the exercise is U.S. military intervention.

Besides the U.S., three imaginary countries play roles in this scenario. "Country Amber" described as "influenced" by "Country Red", has "exported terrorism to various countries of the Caribbean Basin," and has engaged in "subversive action and anti-democratic revolutionary activities."

"Country Azure" is described as a "small island" with a police force of inadequate strength to defeat a guerilla army being supported by "Country Amber". The guerillas number 300-500 but will not be of sufficient strength to take over the government until 1982. U.S. military forces have been "invited" by the government of "Country Azure" to "neutralise" the guerilla movement.

Phase II activities began August 9th with a dawn parachute drop of over 350 troops of the 75th Ranger Battalion based in Port Lewis, Washington, U.S.A. The paratroopers flew during the night from Norton Air Force Base in California to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, where the drop was made. During the night, an unknown number of Green Berets landed in the Western Mountains of Vieques to prepare for the drop. According to the scenario, the purpose of the drop was to rescue 20 U.S. citizens held hostage by "Country Amber" after negotiations with the Amber government had broken down.

Army and Navy officials denied any similarity with the hostages scenario and the failed rescue attempt of the Iran hostages in April, 1980. "We have always had plans of this type to rescue Americans around the world" said Rear Admiral McKenzie. "This is just one of the contingency plans in our repertory."

In this scenario, the hostages are expendable in the case of concrete threats against the hostages lives following the parachute drop, U.S. Army Major Clark, Commander of the drop, said, "We are prepared for that, and we would move in." When asked if he was prepared to risk the hostages lives, he answered the real target of this part of Phase II appears to be the government of Amber. As McKenzie pointed out, following the hostage rescue if possible the "'unfriendly' government is to be replaced by one 'favourable' to the way of life we espouse."

On August 13th, Phase II continued with an amphibious landing on the southeastern shore of Vieques Island, now converted to "Country Azure" by the scenario. The HNLMS Overijssel (Netherlands), the USS Austin (U.S.A.) and an unidentified British destroyer participated in the disembarkation supported by four U.S. vessels in open seas. One thousand U.S. Marines landed in tactical landing vehicles, met by members of the Royal Netherland Marines Rifle Company, posing as the guerilla forces of Azure. The presumed outcome of the scenario was the defeat of the guerilla movement of Azure.

In another "Azure Scenario" held at Camp Santiago in Salinas, PR, Puerto Rico National Guard units were to combine with U.S. Army troops to hold a strategic runway against Azure's modest guerilla movement. A large part of this exercise was cancelled due to inclement weather conditions.

The PR National Guard participated in these joint manouevres for the first time in their history, although by their request, did not participate in any activities involving Vieques. Activities of Puerto Ricans of Vieques against the U.S. Navy's use of the island possibly played a role in this decision. No National Guard officers could be reached for comment.

Lt. Commander Neuhart (CCJTF) affirmed the vital importance of the Guard's participation describing that body as a "potential manpower pool for the U.S. military in the Caribbean."

In explaining the need for the Caribbean phase of "Ocean Venture 81", military leaders mixed economic facts with anti-communist rhetoric and military jargon. Rear Admiral McKenzie pointed to the importance of the Atlantic Sea lanes, along which travel 65 percent of the U.S.'s imported oil, 65 percent of the bauxite and other strategic and non-strategic imports. The Admiral went on to describe Nicaragua, Cuba and Grenada as "practically one country," alleging that no passports or visas are necessary to travel among these nations.

"What we have is a political-military problem here" the Admiral said. "When Carter created the Task Force, he did it for political reasons, but now we see that it fulfills one of the most valid military reasons." McKenzie cited one of these reasons as the need "to respond to the activities of Cuba and Castro."

"The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 was the last time we looked seriously at this part of the world. During the period in between Castro seized on the unemployment and unrest in the region to spread terrorism, revolution and communism."

Referring to the "strategic position of Cuba in relation to the Gulf of Mexico, and describing the straits of Florida and the Yucatan Channel as 'choke points'," the Admiral mentioned the "lesson learned by the USSR" in the postwar period. "The Soviets have set about modifying the Cuban military to give them an offensive interdictive capability," he said.

High-ranking military officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force met at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station and Salinas Training Camp, Puerto Rico, and agreed that they were "much happier" with the treatment of the military under the Reagan administration, and pointed out that the real impact of the Defense budget increased in terms of equipment and personnel, would not be seen until mid-1982.

Because of warnings of the Tropical Storm Dennis, a life-fire demonstration on the Eastern end of Vieques, and part of a manoeuvre at Camp Santiago were cancelled. Four thousand troops and over 19,100 tons of tactical equipment were re-deployed to the U.S. on August 11th. However this was not expected to affect the magnitude of the exercise scheduled to be continued in Guantanamo Bay August 17th through 21st.


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