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Staff Sergeant Loyd Palmer, senior radioman, relaxes in the team “lounge” area.
Staff Sergeant Loyd Palmer, senior radioman, relaxes in the team “lounge” area.

San Miguel

The Attack on El Bosque

Continued from PAGE 1

Shortly before New Year’s 1984, MSG Dutton; SFCs Sena and Jorge M. Reyes; SSGs Moosey, Gary Davidson, and Loyd Palmer; and SGTs Beko and Dave Janicki boarded a U.S. Air Force C-130 “Hercules” transport aircraft at Howard Air Force Base, Panama, to fly into Ilopango Airbase in San Salvador. Sergeant Major Carlos Parker, 3/7th SFG operations sergeant, met the military aircraft when it arrived. He had made arrangements to secure the ODA-7 pallet of equipment before taking the team to the MILGP in the U.S. Embassy. The eight Special Forces soldiers, dressed in guayaberas (short-sleeved, open neck Panamanian dress shirts worn over trousers—a climate-driven equivalent to a sports jacket) and slacks, were carrying small gun “tote bags” to lower their profile as American soldiers. After several days in the Sheraton Hotel, ODA-7 boarded a U.S. Army UH-1D Huey (TDY from Panama to support the Defense Attaché) for the trip to San Miguel.

28 Reyes interview, 2 May 2007.

29 Garrett e-mail, 19 June 2007.

Tortillas served as the soldiers’ plates for beans and rice, the staples of the Salvadoran diet, whether in the cuartel messhall or in the field. ODA-7 soldiers ate the same thing, but were served on plates in the messhall.
Master Sergeant Rodney Dutton, ODA-7 team sergeant, uses the AN/FRC-93 shortwave radio to make a MARS call to his family in Panama at night.
Master Sergeant Rodney Dutton, ODA-7 team sergeant, uses the AN/FRC-93 shortwave radio to make a MARS call to his family in Panama at night.

CPT Leeker met them at the 3rd Brigade helipad and took them to the messhall for their first of hundreds of meals consisting of rice, beans, tortillas (mealy thick corn version), and soup. SSG Chuck Studley, the last member of the Mortar MTT, took the helicopter back to the capital en route home to Panama. “I thought that we’d be going to the jungle. Instead, it was dry, dusty, and flat terrain like central California. I really didn’t know what a coastal plain was like, but I was happy and excited to be there,” said SGT Beko, the team medic.

30 Per USMILGP policy, the “two-man rule” applied to Americans throughout El Salvador. To stay at San Miguel cuartel during the Christmas holidays. SSG Studley remained with CPT Leeker. Leeker interview, 21 June 2007.

31 Garrett interview, 19 May 2007.

“What wasn’t so good was discovering that we were going to live in the El Bosque area of the cuartel. In November, when the FMLN attacked, they drove a herd of cattle in front to conceal their movement and broke through the Bosque. It was a ‘huge attack’ that penetrated deep inside the cuartel. The FMLN controlled the camp for several hours. ESAF casualties were high . . . most were new conscripts that had not been issued weapons. There were twelve KIA [killed in action] in El Bosque alone. The cuartel ammo storage facility was destroyed as were numerous vehicles. Before they withdrew, the guerrillas killed several nurses and all the wounded in the hospital and set the building afire. The brigade was still doing clean up and rebuilding when we did the site survey. Security became my highest priority,” said SFC LeRoy Sena, the heavy weapons sergeant.

32 Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007; Leeker interview, 17 July 2003; Stringham interview, 29 May 2007.

The 3rd Brigade cuartel at San Miguel with the central area and El Bosque outlined.
The 3rd Brigade cuartel at San Miguel with the central area and El Bosque outlined.
Visiting ESAF nurses and nurse’s aides inoculate 3rd Brigade conscripts.
Visiting ESAF nurses and nurse’s aides inoculate 3rd Brigade conscripts.

SFC Sena got serious about security shortly after ODA-7 arrived. The third week in January 1984, the 3rd Brigade cuartel was attacked again just as intelligence had indicated they would. The previously coordinated plan for the Americans to move up inside the cuartel inner perimeter when under attack proved foolhardy. CPT Leeker alerted the brigade tactical operations center using the telephone in the Bosque guardhouse that the SF team was coming up to the cuartel. But halfway up the interior road to the cuartel center, the well-armed ODA “bumped into” a Cazador element returning from patrol. The Special Forces team froze when they heard the weapon safeties of the unknown group coming off as the individual soldiers, or guerrillas, fanned out into assault formation. Cazadores patrolled with weapons loaded and safeties on. There was a lot of gunfire and outgoing tracer fire visible when SSG Moosey calmly spoke, “Americanos. Fuerzas Especiales . . . ” and then repeated it in English. After a long pause, a Salvadoran lieutenant stepped forward and asked “what the hell they were doing.” CPT Leeker intervened and both groups proceeded into the upper cuartel perimeter.

33 Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

After that close encounter, the rest of the night was spent sitting in a defensive ring outside the headquarters, watching the ESAF response to the attack. “Salvadoran soldiers, dispatched to reinforce the perimeter, would stop to fire their weapons while others manning sand-bagged bunkers just blasted away. Fortunately, most ESAF fire was directed outside in response to the initial guerrilla firing. New conscripts, though armed, simply sought shelter. The soldados did explain afterwards how they knew the guerrillas were about to attack—dogs would be barking all around the cuartel,” said SGT Beko. To avoid being accidentally killed by the ESAF during an attack, ODA-7 reached the conclusion that it would be safer to simply protect themselves in El Bosque.

34 Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007.

The near fratricide with the Americans was not a major concern to Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, the former BIRI Atlacatl commander who had just recently been assigned to command the 3rd Brigade. Since the aggressive leader had already had all the vegetation in and around the cuartel burned off, it was not difficult for CPT Leeker to broker an agreement that the SF billeting area would be “off limits” to Salvadorans at night for “safety reasons.” In the meantime, SFC Sena and SSG Moosey put together an escape and evasion plan with contingencies, and started making range cards for two-man defensive positions adjacent to their quarters.

Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, former commander of BIRI Atlacatl (in the lead), took command of the 3rd Brigade in December 1983. The third soldier in line was Monterrosa’s body guard, Soldado Juan Antonio Gómez.
Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, former commander of BIRI Atlacatl (in the lead), took command of the 3rd Brigade in December 1983. The third soldier in line was Monterrosa’s body guard, Soldado Juan Antonio Gómez.

35 Professional Soldado Juan Antonio Gómez, interview by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe, 19 July 2007, San Salvador, El Salvador, personal notes, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC.

PHOTOS: Training

The ODA-7 “jeep” was made operational by cannibalizing several ESAF vehicles in the junk yard next to El Bosque. Sergeant Ken Beko and Staff Sergeant Gary Davidson.
The ODA-7 “jeep” was made operational by cannibalizing several ESAF vehicles in the junk yard next to El Bosque. Sergeant Ken Beko (left) and Staff Sergeant Gary Davidson (right).
3rd Brigade Cazadores en route to training practice typical vehicle security measures.
3rd Brigade Cazadores en route to training practice typical vehicle security measures.
Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena demonstrates how to “direct lay” a 60mm mortar to the Salvadoran Cazadores.
Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena demonstrates how to “direct lay” a 60mm mortar to the Salvadoran Cazadores.
Ft Benning OCS graduate, Cadete José Arturo Rodríguez Martínez, LIV (54), was one of the best assistant instructors.
Ft Benning OCS graduate, Cadete José Arturo Rodríguez Martínez, LIV (54), was one of the best assistant instructors.
ODA-7 trains Salvadoran 3rd Brigade soldiers on the M-1919A6 light machinegun outside San Miguel.
ODA-7 trains Salvadoran 3rd Brigade soldiers on the M-1919A6 light machinegun outside San Miguel.
Sergeant David Janicki and Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena checked the 3rd Brigade Security Battalion’s M-1919A6 machineguns nightly.
Sergeant David Janicki (left) and Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena (right) checked the 3rd Brigade Security Battalion’s M-1919A6 machineguns nightly.
Ponce Cazador Battalion passes in review after completing six-weeks of training by ODA-7.
Ponce Cazador Battalion passes in review after completing six-weeks of training by ODA-7.
3rd Brigade propaganda leaflet blaming the FMLN for destroying the Cessna C-172 that killed two and injured two passengers in February 1984.
3rd Brigade propaganda leaflet blaming the FMLN for destroying the Cessna C-172 that killed two and injured two passengers in February 1984.
ESAF C-123 Provider carrying ballot boxes for the 25 March 1984 election was ambushed using a commanddetonated mine on the same airstrip just weeks after the Cessna C-172 was wrecked.
ESAF C-123 Provider carrying ballot boxes for the 25 March 1984 election was ambushed using a commanddetonated mine on the same airstrip just weeks after the Cessna C-172 was wrecked.

41 The date of the C-123 ambush is cited erroneously in Montecinos, NO HAY GUERRA, 81; Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

Cuscatlán was the initial Cazador battalion trained by the Venezuelan Army MTT in 1982.
Cuscatlán patch
Ponce Battalion SSI
Ponce Battalion SSI

A few days after the January 1984 attack, the 3rd Brigade soldiers were busy improving defensive positions. They had already repaired the fence and blocked most of the escape holes. By then, the ODA-7 trainers, assisted by second enlistment veterans (chucas) from the original Cazador battalion Cuscatlán serving as cabos (corporals), had started the basic infantry training for the conscripts assigned to the 2nd Cazador battalion Ponce. In the middle of the six-week Venezuelan POI (program of instruction) for the Ponce, ODA-7 narrowly missed being ambushed.

37 Moosey interview, 3 April 2007; Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Dutton interview, 17 April 2007; Leeker interview, 21 June 2007.

38 Many of the chucas (second enlistment soldiers) were former Nicaraguan soldiers from Somoza’s Guardia Nacional, who had escaped automatic imprisonment by the Sandinistas. The 3rd Brigade Cazador was the first battalion trained by the Venezuelans in 1982, and the chucas were extremely proud of this. Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007.

In early February 1984, three members of the team were to return to San Salvador for the monthly MILGP meeting. Administrative activities did not merit the use of a helicopter, so flights were arranged with a commercial air carrier operating from the San Miguel dirt airstrip. Cessna C-172 aircraft were used to shuttle passengers to and from San Salvador daily. The MILGP suggested this service. It had been used before by previous SF MTTs. “Lady Luck” smiled on ODA-7 that morning. Transportation problems delayed the arrival of everyone and the agreed upon cross-loading plan prevented MSG Dutton and SGT Beko from getting aboard the first aircraft. Just as the five-seater plane started to lift off the airstrip, there was an explosion (a land mine). The small plane slammed nose-first into the ground. Covered by MSG Dutton and SSG Palmer from the dispatch shack, SSG Moosey and two Cazadores fanned out to search the airstrip for the guerrillas and more mines.

Having received a “thumbs up” from Moosey, CPT Leeker, who had accompanied the party to the airstrip, and SGT Beko—wearing his medical vest as usual—ran to the crash site. Though the two passengers in the rear were dead, the pilot’s son in the baggage area was only banged up. His father and the front right seat passenger were alive. Beko applied tourniquets to their crushed legs to keep them alive. They had the airplane engine in their laps. Both survived, but lost their legs. Going to San Salvador that day was no longer a priority. A helicopter that stopped to investigate agreed to carry the two worst casualties and a Volkswagen van was commandeered to take the rest of the injured to the San Miguel hospital. The disquieted SF team members returned to the cuartel to resume training Cazador Ponce. That ambush reinforced the need to keep force protection a high priority.

39 Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007. Despite the land mine incident (actually a series of pressure-detonated mines) on the San Miguel airstrip in mid-February 1984, the ESAF did not guard the site, “sweep” the runway daily for mines, nor patrol in its vicinity. Thus, about three weeks later, an ESAF C-123 Provider twin-engine transport delivering the national election ballot boxes was ambushed in the same way. That was a serious loss. Colonel (Retired) René Magaño, interview by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe, 22 July 2007, San Salvador, El Salvador, digital recording, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC; Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007; Moosey e-mail, 25 June 2007. Spencer, From Vietnam to El Salvador, 87–88.

The constant fight with the brigade logistics officer for sufficient training ammunition prompted SFC Sena and SSG Moosey to begin searching the cuartel area for long-hidden caches. The ESAF leadership, always unsure if and/or when the United States would reduce or cut-off military aid, tended to hoard ammunition. When the two NCOs finally got inside the padlocked and guarded ammo bunker, they discovered vast quantities of 5.56 and 7.62mm. But, the banded cases were all stenciled “Training Ammunition.” After a Salvadoran lieutenant opened all the boxes, sure that they were mislabeled, they discovered that they had been hoarding thousands of rounds of blank ammunition in their ammo bunker; additional outdated ammo was being stored in the S-4 (logistics) warehouse virtually unguarded. That incident gave Sena and Moosey the opportunity to rummage around the rooms of the warehouse.

40 Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena, Staff Sergeant Davidson, Staff Sergeant Moosey, and SGT David Janicki reconditioning the newly-found Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs) outside their billets in El Bosque.
Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena, Staff Sergeant Davidson, Staff Sergeant Moosey, and SGT David Janicki reconditioning the newly-found Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs) outside their billets in El Bosque.
In November 1983, a 3rd Brigade Cazador was badly mauled by a 600-man FMLN force in the mountains near Ciudad Barrios about 40 km NNW of San Miguel and 30 km WNW of San Francisco de Gotera. In February 1984, the Cuscatlán Cazador battalion that “collapsed” under heavy FMLN pressure was stopped by the physical intervention of LTC Domingo Monterrosa.
In November 1983, a 3rd Brigade Cazador was badly mauled by a 600-man FMLN force in the mountains near Ciudad Barrios about 40 km NNW of San Miguel and 30 km WNW of San Francisco de Gotera. In February 1984, the Cuscatlán Cazador battalion that “collapsed” under heavy FMLN pressure was stopped by the physical intervention of LTC Domingo Monterrosa.

In a back room they found a treasure trove of M-1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs), M-1919A6 Browning light machineguns, and innumerable cases of .30 cal ball, tracer, and armor-piercing ammunition. None of it was linked for machinegun usage, but there was an old hand-operated link-belt machine. After the Cazador training was complete, SFC Sena, SSG Moosey, and SGT Beko began inspecting, field-stripping, and cleaning all weapons—some thirty BARs and twenty A6s. When they were done “cannibalizing” them, they had about twenty BARs and fifteen A6 machineguns operable. The neighboring Sección Dos, the brigade S-2 intelligence reconnaissance element living in El Bosque, agreed to link the .30 cal ammunition into belts for the machineguns in return for two BARs and an A6. LTC Monterrosa was pleased with the new firepower because it enabled him to recoup 7.62 M-60 machineguns emplaced at static guard positions near strategic security sites. Since the Americans had found, reconditioned, and trained elements of his Security Battalion on the BAR and A6, Monterrosa gave ODA-7 one of the A6s and a BAR for security in El Bosque. CPT Leeker’s suggestion to temporarily place twelve A6s to defend the brigade’s mountaintop radio repeater site near Perquin in northern Morazán had already worked wonders. Their interlocking fires had devastated a large FMLN attack force; the A6 could fire 600 rounds per minute.

42 Leeker interview, 17 July 2003; Leeker interview, 19 June 2007; Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Garrett and Moosey interview, 20 May 2007. Each night Sergeant First Class Sena, Staff Sergeant Moosey, and Sergeants Beko and Janicki rotated the duty of checking the timing and barrel calibration of the ESAF A6s and BARs of the Security Battalion manning the perimeter.

Toward the end of February 1984, with the six-weeks tactical training of Cazador Ponce completed, LTC Monterrosa wanted to test his new unit in combat by launching an offensive in the Ciudad Barrios region with two Cazador battalions. His operation provided a welcome break for ODA-7. Everyone except SFC Sena and SGT Beko elected to return home to Panama for five days to visit their families and friends. Sena and Beko chose to stay at the Bosque. Two OPATT officers [Infantry Lieutenant Colonel (frocked Major) Lesley Smith and SF Captain Jae Hawksworth] had arrived and were billeted in the cuartel.

43 Ambassador Thomas Pickering insisted that Colonel Stringham get the Operations and Planning Assistance Training Teams (OPATT) identified, deployed, and in place for the March elections. Since it was impossible to cover all brigades in the time left, 3/7 SFG personnel were brought down TDY to serve as election observers. Stringham interview, 29 May 1985; Garrett interview, 19 May 2007.

It was quiet and peaceful until the fourth night (3 March) when “we were awakened by the ‘thump-thump’ sound of mortar rounds being dropped into the tubes, followed shortly thereafter by the exploding shells that were hitting in the upper part of the cuartel. I grabbed my weapons and LBE [load bearing equipment] and climbed up on the roof for better observation. Sergeant Beko, wearing his medical vest, took up a defensive position just below me in the inner courtyard of our building. When the mortar fire lifted, a ground assault began, supported by snipers in a building opposite the main gate. Though we weren’t receiving any fire in the Bosque, I was never able to reach Colonel Smith and Captain Hawksworth in the cuartel by telephone. For a few hours, we watched the small arms tracer fire going in and coming out of the cuartel. Here we were, four Americans, split-up, in a brigade-sized camp under attack [estimated 500-man force], being guarded by a reinforced platoon of ESAF. We were lucky. Repeated attempts to penetrate the cuartel failed, but that made me get serious about defensive measures,” said SFC Sena, the Vietnam SOG [Military Advisory Command, Vietnam (MACV)–Special Operations Group] veteran. “When Colonel Stringham arrived the next morning, he ordered Smith and Hawksworth into San Salvador until the rest of ODA-7 returned from Panama.”

44 Sena interview, 27 March 2007. Command Sergeant Major Sena served two tours in Vietnam. Both were classified special operations assignments. The second tour with Command and Control North, Military Advisory Command, Vietnam–Special Operations Group, he served on Reconnaissance Teams Cobra, Rhode Island, and Rattler.

Artist rendition of Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena engaging snipers on the rooftops of buildings along the Inter-American Highway to the west while Staff Sergeant Peter Moosey fires into the banana grove where the ESAF junk vehicles had been dumped.
Artist rendition of Sergeant First Class LeRoy Sena engaging snipers on the rooftops of buildings along the Inter-American Highway to the west while Staff Sergeant Peter Moosey fires into the banana grove where the ESAF junk vehicles had been dumped.
The Urbina Bridge in San Miguel was one of the last Lempa River bridges collapsed by the FMLN.
The Urbina Bridge in San Miguel was one of the last Lempa River bridges collapsed by the FMLN.
San Miguel as shown on 1/100,000 topographical map used by ODA-7 in El Salvador.
San Miguel as shown on 1/100,000 topographical map used by ODA-7 in El Salvador.

Unbeknownst to Sena and Beko, the FMLN attack on the cuartel was a blocking action while another element dropped the Urbina Bridge in San Miguel and their major assault force mauled LTC Monterrosa’s leading Cazador battalion, Cuscatlán. A well-armed, 600-man guerrilla force simply outgunned and then overwhelmed the lightly armed, widely dispersed, understrength 250-man ESAF battalion. Only Monterossa’s physical, armed intervention enabled him to regain control of the shattered units. An airborne company was dispatched to help disperse the enemy forces. After reorganizing the two Cazador battalions to fight as one element, doubling his firepower, Monterrosa was able to counterattack and achieve a measure of success. The valiant Salvadoran commander learned the hard way that the Cazador battalions were “a creation of expedience.” Afterward he always operated with combined Cazador battalions.

45 Hazelwood interview, 20 March 2007; Spencer, From Vietnam to El Salvador, 86; Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Magaño interview, 22 July 2007; Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) René Alcides Rodríguez Hurtado, interview by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe, 21 July 2007, San Salvador, El Salvador, digital recording, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC.

46 Master Sergeant (Retired) William Strobel, e-mail to Colonel (Retired) Cecil Bailey, 11 December 2003, subject: Cazadores in El Salvador, copy, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC; Colonel (Retired) Kevin Higgins, e-mail to Colonel (Retired) Cecil Bailey, 1 May 2003, subject: Monterrosa and Cazadores, copy, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC. Though moreCazador battalions were created than any other type infantry battalion to satisfy U.S. aid quotas, they were no match for the well-armed and equipped 600-man battalions being fielded by the FMLN in northern Morazán and Chalatenango in late 1982. Stringham interview, 29 May 1985.

The Cuscatlán Cazadores who had not performed well at Ciudad Barrios and the Cuscatlán iguaneros who had been AWOL (absent without leave) for the mission had their heads shaved and uniforms torn to ribbons. Then they were publicly humiliated by being put through a physical “hell week” and treated like “outcasts” (castigados). Weak officers were sent away in disgrace. “Captain Leeker and I read about the San Miguel attacks in the Miami News on our way back to El Salvador. The story was based on interviews with the guerrillas,” recalled SSG Moosey. Things were definitely heating up as the FMLN tried to disrupt the presidential election slated for 25 March.

47 Magaño interview, 22 July 2007; Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007.

48 Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007.

Sergeant Kenneth Beko, wearing ear protectors, during M-16 training for the Ponce Cazadores prior to the 25 March 1984 election.
Sergeant Kenneth Beko, wearing ear protectors, during M-16 training for the Ponce Cazadores prior to the 25 March 1984 election.
Sergeant David Janicki, Staff Sergeant Peter Moosey, and Sergeant Kenneth Beko at an FMLN campsite whose occupants received an early “wake up call” from a  Cazador range clearing patrol.
Left to right: Sergeant David Janicki, Staff Sergeant Peter Moosey, and Sergeant Kenneth Beko at an FMLN campsite whose occupants received an early “wake up call” from a Cazador range clearing patrol.

Instead of starting to train the newly-forming third Cazador battalion, Leon, when they returned from Panama, ODA-7 first dealt with a primary weapon rearmament for Ponce. M-16 rifles had arrived to replace the battalion’s old 7.62mm Heckler and Koch (H&K) G3 rifles. The Ponce Cazadores were already scheduled to guard election sites in the department. ODA-7 would ensure that the soldiers were proficient with their new weaponry before deployment. “During that train-up, we encountered so many booby traps and personnel mines on the Hato Nuevo range, clearing the range before training became a daily prerequisite. Guerrillas were actually spending the night in the arroyos surrounding the site. We found old campfires and actually surprised a few that overslept one morning. They abandoned everything. One day a group of four sat and watched us—out of small arms range, of course,” said SSG Moosey. In exchange for the M-16s, the Estado Mayor wanted all the H&K G3 rifles collected and carried back to San Salvador.

49 Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007.

DIAGRAM: Highway ambush
DIAGRAM: Highway ambush

By the time everything was arranged for the shipment of weapons, the operation was compromised. Less than ten miles from San Miguel, just after they entered the San Vicente department, the three-truck convoy encountered a highway repair team controlling traffic to a single lane area. Traffic controllers with flags limited vehicle access through the one-lane zone, alternating traffic flow from each side. The ambush was well coordinated and simply executed. The lead guard truck cleared the far road guard (over 100 meters) and pulled over to wait while traffic accumulated. The truck carrying the several hundred G3 rifles was waved into the one-lane construction area (the ambush “kill zone”). It was allowed to get halfway between the lead and trail guard trucks when guerrillas sprang out of hiding and began firing. ESAF LT Armando Nuñez Franco, the driver, and the rifle guards in the back of his truck were killed. That firing triggered simultaneous assaults on the lead and trail guard vehicles. Within minutes, thirty Cazadores were dead and the guerrilla force had fled in the truck carrying the G3 rifles. Truck and automobile drivers on both ends of the “road construction” watched in amazement. The “Semana Santa Ambuscade” was another black day for the 3rd Brigade. The FMLN was determined to discredit the American-trained ESAF and Salvadoran government before the election. Daily sniping and chance contacts became almost routine. The question was merely when they would attack the cuartel again.

50 Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007. The Estado Mayor did not have secure radio and telephone communications with either the ESAF brigade cuarteles or the DM (destacemento militares) cuarteles in each military district until 1987. A system of thirty-nine radio–telephone microwave relay towers to provide communications was completed in 1985. These relay towers, typically positioned on remote mountaintops like the one near Perquin in Morazán, were constantly attacked by the FMLN to disrupt communications. Their security was part of the National Campaign Plan. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Richard R. Pérez, telephone interview by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe, 9 February 2007, Tampa, FL, digital recording, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC.

51 Moosey and Garrett interview, 20 May 2007.

Two Salvadoran soldiers help Sergeant First Class Jorge Reyes and Sergeant Kenneth Beko carry sandbags up to the rooftop defensive position.
Two Salvadoran soldiers help Sergeant First Class Jorge Reyes (second from right) and Sergeant Kenneth Beko (far right) carry sandbags up to the rooftop defensive position.
The primary digging tool for the ground defensive positions was the U.S. Army folding entrenching tool. The rock-hard dirt was used to fill the sandbag barriers in front of each position.
The primary digging tool for the ground defensive positions was the U.S. Army folding entrenching tool. The rock-hard dirt was used to fill the sandbag barriers in front of each position.

Efforts to improve security around the SF billets in El Bosque were already underway. Being located in the lower, southerly section of the cuartel, it was imperative to have an elevated vantage point to observe the major avenues of approach and to adjust their defenses based on directions of attack. Previous attacks in January and March 1984 had made this obvious. To the rooftop they went. SFC Sena and SSG Moosey started construction of a two-man position, bringing sandbags up two at a time, until they had two small sausage-shaped walls about three sandbags high and four and a half feet wide. It was initially to be an OP (observation post) for CPT Leeker and a radioman. When COL Stringham came to explain that an OPATT team would replace ODA-7, he announced that the SF team would remain at San Miguel (in reduced numbers) through the election. The coming “election watch” would require the OPATT to be augmented for the mission. Sergeants Palmer, Davidson, and Janicki, though going back to Panama, would be returning to serve as election observers. And the increased FMLN threat dictated having “real infantry fighting positions around the Bosque billets of the Americans,” said Team Sergeant Rodney Dutton, a former Vietnam infantryman. “Hasty individual prone shelters were not going to cut it, despite the rock-hard ground.”

52 Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

53 Colonel Stringham realized that he was keeping ODA-7 in a highly contested zone, yet thought it necessary to strengthen the command in the east during the election period. Stringham interview, 29 May 1985; Dutton interview, 17 April 2007; Reyes interview, 2 May 2007.

Diagram of ODA-7 defensive positions within El Bosque.

    1 SF Team Quarters

    2 Soldier Insurance Office

    3 Humanitarian MTT

    4 ESAF Maintenance Yard

    5 Gas Pumps

    6 El Bosque Gate and Guard House

    7 To Base

    8 To Seccíon Dos

    9 To Banana Grove and Wrecked Vehicles

    10 To Open Field

    11 Inter-American Highway

    1 CPT Leeker and SSG Palmer

    2 MSG Dutton

    3 SGT Beko

    4 SFC Sena and SSG Moosey

    5 SFC Reyes

Diagram of ODA-7 defensive positions within El Bosque.

“I wanted infantry . . . Ranger fighting positions around the Bosque facility . . . ideally DePuy bunkers. The team had to have several positions in order to have a flexible defense. We also had a medical MTT (two NCO medics) working in the cuartel. There would be a lot of Americans on site during the election. I told Colonel Monterrosa that the SF team needed help ‘digging in’ and he sent half a platoon the next day. ESAF infantry platoons had two secciones of troops, where ours had three rifle squads. When the positions were done, I inspected them,” said Stringham.

54 Stringham interview, 29 May 2007; Stringham notes, 20 June 2007. The DePuy fighting position was designed by then Major General William DePuy, 1st Infantry Division commander in Vietnam, to prevent American Fire Bases from being overrun by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attackers. Adopted by the senior leadership, it was promulgated Army-wide in defense doctrine in the early 1980s.

“The positions were dug with U.S. Army folding entrenching tools. The Salvadorans had no picks or D-handle shovels in the cuartel. Between the rock-hard ground (dry season) and the tree roots, it was a chore getting down four plus feet. We used the dirt to fill sandbags to serve as berms,” said SFC Sena. He had already convinced CPT Leeker and MSG Dutton that the single M-1919A6 machinegun should be up on the roof with its primary fields of fire, the open field to the east and the dry streambed to the south (FMLN primary avenues of approach in November 1983 and on 3 March 1984, respectively). Leeker kept their BAR with a box of magazines on the ground. Another chance discovery in the brigade supply warehouse further enhanced the American defensive measures.

55 Sena interview, 27 March 2007; Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

56 Leeker interview, 19 June 2007; Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

“While I was in the brigade S-4 (logistics) shop, I spotted two U.S. Army AN/PVS-2s, Vietnam-era night observation devices (NODs) called ‘Starlight Scopes,’ gathering dust on a shelf. They were brand new and the batteries were good. None of the Salvadorans knew how to use them. They had no interest in them; the second-generation NODs were heavy, bulky, and had poor resolution. Captain Leeker got permission from Lieutenant Colonel Monterrosa to borrow them. Now, we were able to see what was going on at night,” said SSG Moosey. Since almost all 3rd Brigade elements were being dispatched to guard voting sites in Morazán and San Miguel departments, Cazador training was suspended. Nationwide, commercial businesses were closed on election day.

57 Moosey interview, 3 April 2007.

The Vietnam-era AN/PVS-2 night observation device (NOD) was intended to be rifle mounted.
The Vietnam-era AN/PVS-2 night observation device (NOD) was intended to be rifle mounted. The weight and ambient light needed to make the “Starlight Scope” effective limited its use by the ESAF. In a fixed defensive position it worked well for ODA-7.

The San Miguel OPATT officers, team leader LTC Smith, and his training officer, CPT Hawksworth (after being released from chicken pox quarantine), worked in the cuartel during the election watch. Sergeants Palmer and Janicki, who had come back from Panama, joined them in the San Miguel cuartel, alternating work shifts. SFC Davidson was sent to San Vicente to augment that OPATT team. The rest of ODA-7 stayed in the Bosque and pulled local security; two armed men on guard duty at all times through the election period. SFC Sena and SSG Moosey helped Sección Dos construct field-expedient “Claymore” mines to bolster their defense. Metal ammo cans were filled with C3 plastic explosive and machinegun ammo belt links. They used an old car battery to initiate them.

58 Sergeant Major (Retired) Peter J. Moosey, e-mail to Dr. Charles H. Briscoe, 16 June 2007, subject: San Miguel 1984, USASOC History Office Classified Files, Fort Bragg, NC; Garrett interview, 19 May 2007.

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