Dominican Republic - Operation Power Pack

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Operation Power Pack

In April 1965, the 82nd Signal Bn had just gone through some brutal CMMI/IG inspections. The troopers were exhausted. I was then the BN S-4 as a 1LT. We had a long list of outstanding requisitions for repair parts and equipment. They were not being filled. But we did well on the inspections because we had all the stuff on order. Sometime in the early morning hours the day after the inspection, the phones started ringing with alert notifications: report to Bragg immediately.  We had practice alerts like this all the time. I walked into BN HQ and reported present and said I’d be in the mess hall drinking coffee. Sergeant Major said, “not this time Lieutenant, it's the real thing”. The Dominican Republic? Where’s that?  It wasn’t long after that tractor-trailers started arriving with the stuff we had on orders for ages. It was a madhouse, as the entire Division was going!

 

Author Steve Johnson as Aide to CG, Fort Monmouth, NJ

Our ¾ ton trucks and trailers and ¼ ton M151’s were grossly overweight, but those load cards were accurate. We configured loads by mission, ensuring we didn’t put all the radio vehicles on one plane and wire equipment on another. One planeload could do a commo setup for a Tactical Operations Center. In training, we would show the loadmaster the cards for that plane and all was good. Not on Power Pack[1]. The loadmasters loaded by cube...if it fits, it went. The 130 I was in struggled the entire way. We barely got off the runway and could not get to the altitude of the formation all the way down.

The Division Ready Force left Pope rigged to jump. Much of the Signal Battalion was in the next echelon. Our vehicles and equipment were rigged to heavy drop. We were issued parachutes but never put them on, at least in my plane. We expected to jump in when we left Pope but were diverted to Puerto Rico. The rumor was that peace had broken out and President Johnson had put the invasion on hold.  It was short-lived because we mounted up again and took off for Santo Domingo. Again, we thought we were going to jump but en route, it was decided the field was secure and we would air land. Our pilot must not have believed it was secure because he did a Low-Altitude Parachute-Extraction System (LAPES) like landing. I swear he never stopped. The ramp came down and the 130 taxied slowly as they pushed our pallets onto the ground and he was gone. It was great fun trying to get the vehicles off the pallets and cargo chutes with no hoists or wreckers. Division TOC was first in a huge hanger. A Co did a great job and quick. Back then, the only commo back to the Pentagon/Bragg was High Frequency (HF) voice and radio-teletype. The M151 mounted AN/MRC-95’s that the Signal BN element to the DRF carried provided a huge capability until the ¾ ton AN/GRC-46’s landed.   Later the Division TOC moved to a huge school complex and things fell into a routine. I was already on PCS orders to Europe when we deployed. My replacement arrived so I returned to Bragg in early June and functioned as Rear Detachment CO for a  few weeks before checking out.

DOMREP was an amazing event for this young officer. I never imagined moving the entire Division in a couple of days on a no-notice basis and how well it went. It was rewarding to see all the training put into practice. The Troopers were amazing. Luckily the C-130s were there for the Blue Chip. My wife had no idea where we were. All she knew was that there were formations of cargo planes flying non-stop over Fayetteville.

 

[1]  I never heard the term “Power Pack” until many years later. All we ever called it was DOMREP