CPT DiChairo called me into his office. “Adam, 4-87 is going to Haiti. They need Lieutenants.”
“Sir, I volunteer.”
The words might have been slightly different. It has been 12 years. It was an important moment in my life, so it has taken on a bit of it’s own weight. Memories like this that are often chewed over end up showing the teethmarks of selective memory. Still, the exchange left me tagged to move from a Platoon in C Company, 4th Battalion, 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) to fill a slot for the understrength unit tagged to deploy to Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy. This was early December, 1994.
The media had been showing images of Haitians arriving in Florida on makeshift rafts. Three months earlier, the Forces Armed D’Haiti (FADH, the Army of Haiti) had fled pending a United States lead invasion. The US was staged at Guantanamo Bay and on aircraft carriers in the Caribbean. The FADH had taken control of the country in a coup that prevented the elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristead, from taking office. Conditions in the impoverished country had deteriorated to the point that the haitians preferred to risk setting off in makeshift rafts to to try and reach the coast of the USA then stay in Haiti.
Haiti has had a rough history. After the Colonies shucked off English rule to establish ourselves as the United States of America, the small Island colony did the same, throwing off French rule. America still practiced slavery itself, and was unwilling to support a slave uprising so close to it’s own borders. Over the years America has intervened in Haiti with military force several times. I remember reading about the early career of Marine General Chesty Puller who first saw combat in Haiti early in the 20th Century.
J.P. Green, my friend and house-mate, as well as a fellow LT in the Wolfhounds, was also tagged, but for the task of Brigade S5, Public Affairs officer. We were both tab-less bastards, having failed to complete the Ranger course the previous winter. I suspect that the selection process took that into account. I still am not sure what he did to get that posting, if it was a good thing or a bad thing. As we had a compressed time-frame, we decided to take a compressed Christmas vacation. Along with Mike Pickett, the Battalion Assistant S-2 (Intelligence officer), JP and I headed over to Maui from Oahu for 5 day weekend. We partied in Lahaina, drove over to the Sacred Pools, flirted with mormon girls. One night, I fell asleep in the back of a night club after a long night. JP and Mike found me there.
With that out of my system, I settled in for the train up. Until this point, the majority of my military training had been for war. As a light infantry platoon leader, I was trained to lead a group of 35 soldiers to “Close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire an maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault by fire, close combat and counter attack.” as I memorized as a plebe. Now I was training for “Operations other than War” or OOW. We trained in convoy movements, crowd control, cordon and search, and defending food distribution. At the firing range we trained in “Quick Kill” exercises. We learned the graduated responses to riot, from issuing vocal commands, through pepper spray, helicopter down wash, and deadly force. We did a live fire exercise in a range on Schofield where certain targets wore civilian clothes. I donated a shirt of mine to the training, and recieved it back with a bullet hole.
We did a video conference with the folks from the 10th Mountain Division. The conference washeld at the USARPAC Headquarters on Oahu, Fort Shafter. On the way down, the Bde Commander asked what I was going to ask. I replied that I was going to listen and keep my mouth shut. He explained that this was the wrong attitude. I realized I didn’t know what we were doing this for, so I asked for more info. Not the first time I was unprepared for what the Army threw at me.
I started hanging around with Erik Anderson, on of the two other line platoon leaders in D Co, 4-87. We raced around Diamond Heights in our suits looking to find the secluded site that our Company First Sergent was getting married at. We showed up late, but still managed to with Top best of luck. I have a photo of us at the beach, on Christmas day.
Lots of the details have been lost. I know we did deployment prep at the stadium across from D quad on Schofield, took busses down to Hickam AFB and flew Tower Air to Port-Au-Prince (PAP in Milspeak), and then took smaller planes, probably C130s up to Cap Haitian Haiti. Due to the war powers resolution, we knew that the president only had 89 days before having to redeploy us. We shook hands with the outgoing 10th Mountain Division and settled in for the Haitian Vacation.