Tag Archives: 470th Military Intelligence Brigade

204th Military Intelligence Battalion welcomes new NCOs

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Surrounded by exhibits depicting the greatness of the NCO Corps through the ages, nine new leaders were welcomed into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion in an NCO induction ceremony Sept. 8 at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“These Soldiers have shown they are no longer ‘worker bees.’ They have set themselves apart as professionals,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Bean, command sergeant major of the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade. “I’m very proud of the NCOs in our NCO Corps and where they are today. I see them stepping up in a time of turmoil to train and take care of our nation.”

At the start of the ceremony, the inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. He encouraged them to prioritize their education and to take their roles as Army leaders seriously.

Nine new NCOs were inducted into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion on Thursday during a ceremony at the NCO Heritage Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Nine new NCOs were inducted into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion during a ceremony Sept. 8 at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“People like me, I’m a dinosaur,” Tucker said. “It’s almost time for me to go. As a matter of fact, I walk the stage tomorrow for my retirement ceremony. And right now, I go to sleep every night nice and peaceful, because I know the greatest men and women of this country are protecting me. It’s you guys. You staff sergeants, sergeants first class: You are the future.”

Sgt. Davonte Winn walks under an archway, signifying his transition from junior enlisted Soldier to NCO. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Davonte Winn walks under an archway, signifying his transition from junior enlisted Soldier to NCO. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Following Tucker’s address, the audience joined the inductees in reciting the NCO Creed. Then, three NCOs representing the NCOs of the past, present and future lit three candles displayed behind wooden “N,” “C” and “O” letters. A red candle represented valor, a white candle honor and integrity, and a blue candle vigilance.

As their names were called, the young men and women each walked under a wooden archway signifying their transition from junior enlisted to NCO and then signed their name alongside their command sergeant major’s on their certificate – the “Charge to the Newly Promoted Noncommissioned Officer.” To end the ceremony, the group proudly sang the Army song.

Sgt. Luis Peluyera Rivera, one of the nine inducted during the ceremony, said he is proud of his and his comrades’ accomplishments.

“I feel like I’ve made it. We are the backbone of the Army, and it is great to finally be a part of it,” he said.

The charge to the newly promoted noncommissioned officer, signed by both the NCO and the command sergeant major, states, “I will discharge carefully and diligently the duties of the grade to which I have been promoted and uphold the traditions and standards of the Army. I understand that Soldiers of lesser rank are required to obey my lawful orders. Accordingly, I accept responsibility for their actions. As a noncommissioned officer, I accept the charge to observe and follow the orders and directions given by supervisors acting according to the laws, articles and rules governing the discipline of the Army, I will correct conditions detrimental to the readiness thereof. In so doing, I will fulfill my greatest obligation as a leader and thereby confirm my status as a noncommissioned officer.” (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The charge to the newly promoted noncommissioned officer, signed by both the NCO and the command sergeant major, states, “I will discharge carefully and diligently the duties of the grade to which I have been promoted and uphold the traditions and standards of the Army. I understand that Soldiers of lesser rank are required to obey my lawful orders. Accordingly, I accept responsibility for their actions. As a noncommissioned officer, I accept the charge to observe and follow the orders and directions given by supervisors acting according to the laws, articles and rules governing the discipline of the Army, I will correct conditions detrimental to the readiness thereof. In so doing, I will fulfill my greatest obligation as a leader and thereby confirm my status as a noncommissioned officer.” (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Three NCOs acting on behalf of NCOs of the past, present and future light three candles. The red candle represents valor, the white honor and integrity, and the blue vigilance. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Three NCOs acting on behalf of NCOs of the past, present and future light three candles. The red candle represents valor, the white honor and integrity, and the blue vigilance. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

This Month in NCO History: Dec. 20, 1989 — Intel NCO saves lives in Panama

When U.S. forces initiated Operation Just Cause on Dec. 20, 1989, in Panama it marked the beginning of one of the most unique assaults in the history of U.S. warfare.

The attack involved elements of 21 American military units working in dense urban terrain and using abundant firepower. It led to the deaths of 23 U.S. servicemen and up to 300 Panamanian civilians. That number would have been much higher if not for the work of Staff Sgt. Antonio Bonilla. Bonilla’s familiarity with Latin American culture and the operations of the Panama Defense Force allowed him to establish a telephone network during the invasion that saved scores of American and Panamanian lives and prevented the destruction of towns and villages.

The offensive was a short-lived and complex operation that sought to oust Gen. Manuel Noriega from power. After years of backing Noriega as a means to prevent the spread of communism, tensions mounted over the dictator’s narcotics trafficking and other illegal activities during the latter part of 1989. Five days after Noriega formally claimed leadership of the Central American nation and four days after a U.S. Marine was killed by the Panama Defense Force, roughly 27,000 U.S. military personnel under the operational command of the XVIII Airborne Corps began a coordinated incursion. It was the first test of joint operational planning and execution called for by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

Under the cover of darkness, an overwhelming U.S. military force neutralized the PDF within eight hours. After two days, operations in Panama shifted from combat to peacekeeping, although U.S. forces continued to face random violence and hostage situations in urban areas throughout the weeks that followed. Noriega fled as soon as the invasion started, and it took an additional two weeks to take him into custody.

From a tactical intelligence standpoint, conditions during Operation Just Cause were described as “ideal.” The 470th Military Intelligence Brigade was in Panama before the invasion monitoring the PDF and Noriega’s movements. Its personnel knew the strength and location of PDF units, and had identified targets of military and political value.

Human intelligence, or HUMINT, proved to be the most important and effective collection effort. HUMINT personnel from the 470th MI Brigade had collected and disseminated intelligence on the locations of PDF personnel and weapons caches, and tried to identify Noriega’s sanctuaries. The 470th chose Bonilla — its finest Panama expert — to assist U.S. Army South in these efforts. Bonilla served as first sergeant of C Company, 746th MI Battalion. He understood the Latin-American culture and, after nearly three years in Panama, was intimately familiar with the operations of the PDF. He had established an extensive HUMINT network to obtain real-time information on troop movements and internal PDF conflicts. In addition, a failed October 1989 coup to oust Noriega had provided valuable intelligence on the PDF’s capabilities.

Using his insight into the mindset and intentions of PDF commanders, Bonilla and his team spent hours on telephones persuading many of the commanders in outlying military zones to surrender. His persuasive argument was that they should “serve their country by living to see its rebirth instead of dying needlessly.” Their peaceful capitulation saved both American and Panamanian lives and prevented the unnecessary destruction of towns and villages.

Bonilla then focused all his available intelligence assets on tracking Noriega. He skillfully took to the phones to collect information from the Panamanian people. The network eventually provided critical information instrumental in flushing out the dictator. Bonilla’s network also produced information leading to the discovery of the largest weapons cache found during the entire operation.

For his efforts, Bonilla was awarded the Bronze Star in January 1990 by Maj. Gen. Marc A. Cisneros, then-U.S. Army South Commander. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alfred Villaseñor of the 470th MI Brigade also received a Bronze Star. At the award ceremony, Cisneros highlighted the often unsung nature of intelligence operations saying, “In an engagement such as Just Cause, the attention and publicity often goes to fighting elements. However, without Soldiers like Bonilla … and Villaseñor, the mission could not have succeeded.”

Bonilla’s accomplishments continue to reverberate as evidenced by his induction into the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame early this year.

“My personal philosophy of leadership and command, which today I do as a private business person, it doesn’t matter who thinks of the plan or the idea,” Bonilla said in a video that played during the ceremony in June at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. “So my philosophy is working as a team and putting into play the best plan indifferent to who comes up with it.”

Bonilla enlisted in the Army in 1980 as a military police officer. He graduated from the Defense Language Institute in 1984, when he switched to military intelligence. After Operation Just Cause, Bonilla continued working in Panama. He left the Army in 1990.

Compiled by Pablo Villa
— Illustration by Spc. James Seals