OPERATION ASSURED RESPONSE (1996)


In 1996, the US Military assisted in safeguarding and evacuating Americans from Liberia when that nation's civil war reignited into factional fighting and general violence in Liberia. During the first week of April 1996, as a result of intense street fighting during the ongoing civil war in Liberia, about 500 people sought refuge on American Embassy grounds and another 20,000 in a nearby American housing area. On April 6, the president approved the US ambassador's request for security, resupply and evacuation support.

Between 9 April and 18 June, a US Joint Task Force Operation Assured Response evacuated 2444 people (485 Americans and 1959 citizens of other countries). The bulk of forces were from Special Operations Command Europe, and the last elements redeployed 3 August.

Liberia was a very small scale operation. It could have turned in to a very large operation. Overnight about 180 soldiers came out of Southern European Task Force [SETAF] and evacuated almost 2,000 civilians out of Monrovia to safety. It could have been a big problem, but it wasn't. While the group out of SETAF was evacuating civilians in Liberia; they were also recovering another company from Bosnia, going through a battle command training program at their headquarters, and getting ready to send the rest of the task force to train at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels.

Air Force special operations forces led the evacuation effort, Operation Assured Response. Air Force KC-135 tankers and C-130 transports were put on alert in Europe to support 24-hour operations, while other mobility aircraft began to deliver critical medical supplies, food, water, fuel and communications gear. On April 9, less than 72 hours after the decision to deploy U.S. forces, the first MH-53 helicopter landed in Monrovia to begin the operation.

Those evacuated continued on US helicopters through Freetown, Sierra Leone, then on MC-130s to Dakar, Senegal, all under the cover of AC-130 gun ships. Throughout the rest of the week, the evacuation continued, as well as airlift of critical supplies to sustain the effort. By April 14, the evacuation was essentially complete, however, security and sustainment operations continued through Aug. 3. In this operation, Air Force special operations forces safely evacuated over 2,400 civilians representing 68 countries.

USAFE provided three KC-135s from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, two C-130s and an Emergency Medical Treatment Team from the 86th Airlift Wing, and a Flying Ambulance Surgical Team from the 52d Fighter Wing. The tankers, supported by about 100 people, deployed to Dakar, Senegal, 9 April. After flying over 50 missions and providing 1.5 million pounds of fuel to receivers, they returned to Mildenhall on 28 April. The C-130s and 51 people from the 37th Airlift Squadron flew to Dakar 10 April. They helped ferry people from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Dakar and returned to Germany 19 April.

In early April, elements of the Guam (LPH 5) amphibious ready group (ARG) and the 22nd MEU (SOC), were ordered to the vicinity of Monrovia, Liberia. Upon arrival, the 22d MEU (SOC) commanding officer assumed command of Joint Task Force-Assured Response (JTF-AR) which included Air Force, Navy and Marine forces. With additional support from an HC-4 MC-53E helicopter detachment and other Navy-Marine Corps aircraft, embassy security and transportation were provided and 309 noncombatants were evacuated -- including 49 U.S. citizens.

While on Mamba Station off the coast of West Africa in support of Joint Task Force Assured Response, USS Portland rendered assistance to an adrift cargo vessel. The "Duniya" requested fuel and water at about 7 p.m. on April 22, so Portland pulled alongside and stayed with the Duniya overnight to ensure the ship and crew's safety.

While still conducting this operation, elements of JTF-AR were ordered to Bangui, Central African Republic, to conduct similar operations. A special purpose Marine air-ground task force, embarked on the Ponce (LPD 15) and with 10 days' notice, relieved the Guam task force and assumed the duties of CJTF-AR. This was done to allow the Guam ready group and the 22nd MEU(SOC) to return to the Adriatic Sea and provide the European Command's desired over-the-horizon presence during the Bosnian national elections.

USS Ponce (LPD 15) returned to Norfolk after a two-and-a-half month mission of providing security and other assistance to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. Deploying with only 10 days notice, Ponce carried a crew of more than 300 Sailors and 700 Marines from Special Purpose Marine-Air-Ground Task Force 8, from Camp Lejuene, N.C. The move was taken by the U.S. government because of wide-spread civil disorder resulting from the six-year civil war in that country. The U.S. Embassy was the only Western Embassy to continue operations during this round of clashes. This was not the first time Ponce deployed to Liberian waters. In 1990, Ponce responded to "Operation Sharp Edge," guarding American interest and supporting troops assigned to the area at the time.



Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)

During the first week of April, 1996, as a result of intense street fighting during the ongoing civil war in Liberia, about 500 people sought refuge on American Embassy grounds and another 20,000 in a nearby American housing area. On 6 April, the President approved the U.S. Ambassador's request for security, resupply, and evacuation support. Air Force MH-53s led the evacuation effort, Operation Assured Response. Air Force KC-135 tankers and C-130 transports were put on alert in Europe to support 24-hour operations, while other mobility aircraft began to deliver critical medical supplies, food, water, fuel and communications gear.

On 9 April, less than 72 hours after the decision to deploy U.S. forces, the first MH-53 landed in Monrovia to begin the operation. Those evacuated continued on our helicopters through Freetown, Sierra Leone, then on MC-130s to Dakar, Senegal, all under the cover of AC-130 gunships. Throughout the rest of the week, the evacuation continued, as well as airlift of critical supplies to sustain the effort. By 14 April, the evacuation was essentially complete, however, security and sustainment operations continued through 3 August. In this operation, Air Force Special Operations Forces safely evacuated over 2,400 civilians representing 68 countries.


© Robert W. Kranz (2005) 
Information courtesy of: www.globalsecurity.org & AirForce Link