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Military Units in 2 States Mobilized or On Alert; No Comment on Panama Link With AM-US-Panama

December 20, 1989

Undated (AP) _ Soldiers from the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force in Fort Ord, Calif., were mobilized Tuesday night for transport to an unannounced location, while Fort Bragg, N.C., units were on placed on alert, Army officials said.

Soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division (Light), which in some deployments includes artillery and aviation units, were ordered to report to the Fort Ord Army base for an ″emergency deployment readiness training exercise,″ Army spokesman Jim Davis said.

He said he could not comment on the number of soldiers, their destination or time of departure.

Spokesmen for the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps early Wednesday stood by a statement issued Monday that the exercise at Fort Bragg was strictly routine.

″Periodically the Army exercises the readiness of selected units,″ said Sgt. 1st Class Dana Jackson, an 82nd Division spokesman. ″At this time, certain units at Fort Bragg are undergoing a validation of their readiness and state of training.″

Nineteen buses and a truck loaded with troops arrived at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., late Tuesday, according to KCRA-TV in Sacramento. But a base spokesman said he could not say where the soldiers came from or where they were going.

″We cannot comment on any military operations at this time,″ said Sgt. Jerry Taranto. ″We can’t comment on anything on the operation.″

Travis, 90 miles north of Fort Ord, was enveloped in heavy fog, and no planes had taken off by late Tuesday, according to KCRA-TV.

Last year, several thousand soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division were dispatched to Panama for a prolonged training exercise. The move was interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate U.S. military might during the burgeoning dispute with Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega.

During last year’s mobilization, troops from Fort Ord were bused to Travis, where they were airlifted to Howard Air Force Base in Panama.

The United States has tried to extradict Noriega, who controls the Panamanian military and the country, since he was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in February 1988.

About 12,000 American soldiers are stationed along the Panama Canal.

U.S. troops in Panama have been on maximum alert and restricted to base since Panamanian soldiers killed a U.S. Marine lieutenant Saturday.

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