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"USMC Panama era Organisation " Topic

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2,662 hits since 7 Jan 2012
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Forper07 Jan 2012 4:16 a.m. PST

Hi, new poster here. I'm putting together a company sized force of US Marines for an airfield seizure mission (probably using the Crossfire rules system) and am wondering a few things about distribution of weapons and equipment in this element of a battalion landing team.

I found this excellent resource on the large pieces of gear and weaponry the Corps would bring for the task:


I have two main questions for the moment:

With regard to PRC-68A squad radios used at the time how were they distributed and what purpose did they serve? I assume one per squad but would the squad leader carry it, or a member of a fireteam? What other radios were used? What would be used to call in close air support, who would carry it and who would make the call?

Within fireteams would the assistant SAW gunner always carry the spare barrel and all the ammo? I've seen contemporary pictures from Iraq/A-stan with Marine SAW gunners carrying their own ammo and barrel. What about M-60E3 teams? Would the gunner only carry the gun while his two team members would carry everything else (tripod, ammo, barrel/s)?

Thanks if anyone can help.

CPT Jake07 Jan 2012 5:30 a.m. PST

The radios allow the SL to talk to the PL.

I don't remember my cav scouts lugging around extra barrels for the M249s we had.

For the 60s, the gunner carries the pig and a couple hundred rounds, the AG has the tripod and T&E device and an extra barrel (and asbestos glove), and several hundred rounds, an ammo bearer carries more rounds.

I know that article says Marines can do airfield takedown, but attempting a takedown from rotary wing assets is pretty dangerous, which may be why the mission seems to always be given to a unit from the 75th augmenting a BDE (now BCT) from the 82nd who can jump in and secure, get runways cleared to enable follow-up forces to land vice jump.

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2012 6:15 a.m. PST

Ok I was in Panama in 89. The PRC68 was a suck wad radio in our BN it was given to Squadleaders, PltSgts, and PltCmdrs they never worked. The Plt radio was still the PRC 77. SAW gunners in my Plt carried their spare barrel and three drums of ammo and the assistant gunner carrying more drums of ammo; I hate the SAW I think it's a stupid weapon. The M60E3 gunner carried a two 50 round boxes and the ammo man carried a couple of cans which was probably close to 600rds the leader carried the tripod.

I don't recall what radio we used for air it could have been the PRC 119 and the FAC (forward air control) was a pilot from the airwing who was attached to the BN for deployments. Company commanders, squad leaders anyone could call air if needs be. If a FAC wasn't there a lot of time the STA (stay) team which were the scout snipers would be lurking somewhere and have the ability to call air.

Forper07 Jan 2012 5:22 p.m. PST

Wow, thank you so much for thee time you took for those detailed replies. Great info.

CPT Jake, I know it sounds risky and pretty Hollywood but that's why I want to wargame it! In fact the US Marines still train for airfield seizure today, there was a recent news story on their training posted on youtube. However in this video YouTube link they were landing in Chinooks (again directly onto the tarmac) and with no fast attack vehicles, just infantry rushing the area. It does have an element of surprise, considering entrenched defenders may be worried about an attack over land more, an airborne attack directly onto the objective doesn't have to deal with wire, mines, crew served weapons pointed to the airfield approaches (for a while anyway , until the defenders can move them). I was thinking of a fictional Reagan vs Castro Xmas '89 invasion of Cuba. Most airfields have been tasked to the Rangers and Army Airborne but a low priority one is given to the Corps only this one turns out to have an encampment of Russian military "advisors" sitting on it! Bad intel!!!

Irish Marine – Amazing info, thanks so much. Can I ask do you remember how the cans of ammo for the M60E3 were carried by the ammo man? Rigged to an ALICE frame? Or some other way?

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2012 6:44 p.m. PST

Yup in his Alice pack, and if needs be one in the hand.

Forper07 Jan 2012 7:37 p.m. PST

Thanks again!!

I am the mongo08 Jan 2012 6:38 a.m. PST

I was an assistant automatic rifleman in the USMC way back then. I was not in Panama but I remember always having to carry that dang spare barrel bag for the SAW and anytime ammo had to be lugged around I got my fair share of it.


Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2012 7:10 a.m. PST

We used to make the gunner carry the spare barrel since it was that important we could always get him ammo but not another barrel.

Forper08 Jan 2012 12:11 p.m. PST

I think I'm pretty lucky to be researching a recent era of military history with primary witnesses! Thanks a lot guys.

A quick question on M60 ammo cans, were they ever carried externally on the ALICE pack?

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP08 Jan 2012 2:26 p.m. PST

Not that I ever saw, besides I can only guess what it would be like to try to run with a 800rd ammo can on the outside of a pack.

Forper09 Jan 2012 12:16 a.m. PST

Good point! Thanks once again.

I will post up my BLT here when it gets a bit more complete. So far only have eight 1/35 Marines and two SEALs done, a looooong way to go but so much good info here to make the guys pretty authentically organised and equipped. That's what I love about 1/35, being able to customise each man's gear easily.

Forper12 Jan 2012 12:49 p.m. PST

Apologies but yet another question for the Marines in this thread if someone remembers? Around the time of the Panama invasion did Marine units ever scrim up their helmets with strips of BDU material like the Army did during Panama like in this picture: link

There's a Dragon kit that says they did

but I can't find any actual pictures of Marines specifically doing this.

Forper19 Oct 2013 9:14 p.m. PST

Okay, I started putting together elements of my Battalion Landing Team. I'm no master modeller obviously but my aim was to realistically and accurately represent a force tasked with airfield seizure from a CH-53E circa 1989. This thread helped a lot, thanks guys. I still have a few key guys to add, like assistant gunners for a few of the M60E3s, SAW,.50 cal and SMAW.

I have one AG so far with an ALICE pack carrying more 7.62.

Theres a couple of SEALs in their too that might be tasked with observation before the main force lands, then they join the fight!

I have my squad leader with PRC-68 as advised in this thread.

Theres a ton of support weapons so far but I figure they would incorporate a lot of weapons platoon guys

I may flock the bases later but since the table they'll fight on will mostly be "tarmac" I might just clean them up keep them black.

Note Cuban regulars in the background of one shot, they'll be opfor.

If anyone knows where I can get a 1/35 CH-53E for my MUTT FAVs to drive out of please let me know!!

Any inaccuracies so far also please let me know.

Forper20 Oct 2013 3:48 a.m. PST

Note they're a mix of Tamiya and Dragon bodies but I've kept all the weapons, packs and pouches Dragon only. The Tamiya guys are a little smaller in scale so work as shorter Marines.

ACW Gamer Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2013 9:05 p.m. PST

I am considering doing some small scale actions in Panama 89 but I am still looking at what is out there for figures. Some of the PP AK47 range might work for Panamanian Defense Forces but the PP figures are carrying AK47s. Google is failing me because every search just bring up pictures of the US forces or a few PDF prisoners. I am thinking the PDF were armed with US weapons…correct? I am not quite ready to spend the money on an Osprey until I am a little more certain this is a 'viable' period to game.

Frogman19 Jul 2015 4:55 a.m. PST

Lost my password and used to post as Forper.

Sorry I missed your post ACW gamer.

PDF equipment in '89 is hard to pin down! From what I can tell they were more of a police/paramilitary/ad hoc kind of force.

There is that Osprey volume floating around on the conflict though, only ever seen the cover. I have a bit of Panama stuff from other publishers but it only shows US personnel.

In other news from 1989, rebased a lot of my guys, added some support elements and details (rifle slings etc). 5 years after starting this project, almost ready for their first game! Just need some Cuban armour and friends…the friends part could prove difficult..



TMP link


Forper17 Jan 2016 7:18 p.m. PST

Well over my long summer break here downunder I finally did up some dodgy scenery (first attempt since high school) for my scenario and gave the Cubans some armour.

Cuban forces:
BTR-60PA, a rifle squad, a weapons squad with a Russian advisor:

US forces:
A rifle squad, 2 SMAW teams, an M60 team, a Navy corpsman, a weakened SEAL team, 3 fast attack vehicles (that may or may not show up for the battle):

At this scale fighting is really close quarters and I tried using FUBAR because I didn't like the abstract nature of FoF which I'd used previously. FUBAR is pretty good but are there any other suggestions for a crowded short range table like mine?

Some re enacted highlights of the action from a solo game I had on Sunday:

The battlefield, entrance to a Cuban military airfield inland from the beach. A US Marine airborne assault company from II MEF is tasked with landing by helo inland and taking the airfield ahead of the main landing force, a squad from 1st Platoon plus some weapon's platoon assets and part of a SEAL team pushes to the entrance heavily defended entrance to the airfield to capture the ATC intact. Other elements off board are fighting for other sections of the runway. No CAS or indirect fire available as all danger close, it's toe to toe from here on in:

The objective:

Marines push up the right side of the road, a MUTT FAV from weapons platoon rolls up to assist:

After jumping the wall behind a hanger weapons teams establish overwatch on top of the hanger. SEALs in the area lend some firepower.

The squad leader and a Navy corpsman listen to comms over the net:

Alpha break from cover in a buddy rush, trying to cover 360:

Cubans on the balcony of the ATC lay down fire:

Looking surprisingly relaxed Cubans guard the entrance to the security checkpoint at the entrance:

Cuban armour rolls into the battle:

A Marine is down on the road:

Smoke is popped by the fireteam pushing up to retrieve their man:

The Cubans lay down suppressive fire but are taking fire themselves:

The battle rages:

A TOW missile equipped MUTT roles down the road but its firing line is obscured by the obstacles placed by the Cubans and the friendly smoke:

Marines keep trying to push up to retrieve the casualty but are in a heavy firefight:

The Mk48 equipped FAV opens up:

A SMAW team tries to get eyes on the BTR:

Charlie keeps pushing on the right flank but the Cubans are dug in and fight on, grenades are flying, the Cubans use a pre revolution .30 cal MMG WWII relic originally supplied by Uncle Sam:

In the actual scenario I played the US took heavy casualties, stabilised some with the corpsman but had to withdraw. Basically because the Marines had to maneuvre but the Cubans could stay in hard cover it wasn't a fair fight. I made the Cubans veterans because they may well have had experience from Africa in the late 80s whereas the Marines were veterans based on good training, but also that their NCOs might have had experience from Grenada. If I play FUBAR again I might make the Cubans lower than veteran and give the Marines a few more advantages. One advantage they did have that the Cubans didn't was a 5-6 body armour save. That didn't prove all that valuable in the end though.

Forper23 Jan 2016 12:10 a.m. PST

I'm going to pack up my troops for this year and put them into specially made packaging so they're like a toy set. After all, what I'm really doing here is recreating playing 'Joe in my backyard in the '80s.

Made some labels for the boxes:


Forper215 Jan 2017 5:49 p.m. PST

So the invasion continued in 2017. Last week I set up on the floor of my current apartment (no more garage or table), did some new scenery, cleaned up my forces (new, more aggressive Cuban poses, issued M18 smoke grenades to my Marine fire team leaders, LAW rockets to my riflemen), tried yet another new rule set: Normandy Firefight with my own amendments and suggestions from friend as we played and played out a few engagments. I like this set of rules, it took 3 days to have a squad on squad firefight (up to 2 hours per turn) but I liked the depth and role playing level gritty detail. It's something I'll pretty much be playing solo in future though because the friends I recruited to fight this year can't commit that much time.

Here are some pics from the action. In 1988 Golf Company (Heliborne) of 2/6 Marines as part of the 26th MEU had to take an armor bearing bridge inland from the main landing and on the MSR to Havana. The lead squad of 3rd platoon, with elements of weapons platoon spearheads the attack against dug in Cuban mech infantry from the Western Army's 70th Division.

In the end the Marines killed or incapacitated all 23 Cubans and the 14.5mm HMG on the BTR jammed beyond help so was abandoned. The Marines paid for that with 6 KIA (The Cubans got big VPs for Marines that weren't Casevaced by the end of the game). They did this before even reaching the main Cuban trenches. The squad leader attacked the Cuban barracks with a fireteam who were hit hard in the river. The Squad leader and corpsman pushed on and cleared the building with grenades. After that the SL called in 60mm mortars from the Weapons platoon off map. The M60 from Weapons got into a nice position and provided great overwatch cover fire as other fireteams had mixed success, possibly using smoke too early. The SMAW from Weapons hit the pillbox late in the game, using a bunker penetrating round. Machine gun fire and incoming mortars insured the Cubans doing a fighting retreat from their positions were all cut down. After calculating victory points the Marines were the winners.

Jazzadazza02 Mar 2017 12:36 a.m. PST

Really dug your AARs dude! Keen to see some more!

Forper200016 Jun 2017 4:13 a.m. PST

Thanks man, I'm focused on 1/6 outdoor games at the moment but hoping to get back into 54mm this Xmas again!

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