~ 720th Military Police Battalion Reunion Association History Project ~
We had stumbled onto something unforeseen!
Saint Croix, Virgin Islands 1989
Here’s the official story of the cocaine discovery.
First, my platoon had been attached to the 411th MP Company from the 410th for reasons of personnel shortages. We were considered the 5th Platoon, and we had three squads of about 25 soldiers. The 5th Platoon was kind of the bastard platoon because of the natural rivalry between the companies in the Battalion.
The Island was split in half for MP duties. The 503rd MP Company (Airborne), and the 411th MP Company shared Eastern half of the Island. As I remember it, the 411th was responsible for the SE section of the Island, to include the city of Christiansted. The MPs were mainly assigned to static posts; guarding food distribution points, the power company, FEMA offices, etc.
There were also two patrols charged with providing a “show of force” on the Island. For the most part, the MP patrols acted as the “eyes and ears” for the St. Croix Police Department, the Federal Marshal Service and the FBI.
On September 29, 1989, I was on patrol with PFC Vandenbark, we were working the day shift when we were called into the company area to pick up our Platoon Sergeant, SSG Edwin Nunez, and my counter part, Sergeant Mike Williams.
The four of us returned to patrol and headed up to the La Grande Princess community, which is NW from Christiansted. While reconnoitering an area to the north of La Grande Princes, we were standing on a knoll overlooking the northern shoreline of St. Croix when we saw what appeared from a distance to be a box on the beach.
Casually, we walked toward the “box” and as we got closer, we realized that the box was actually a lump covered in burlap. From the base of the item to the top, it stood approximately 2ft high.
Cutting what appeared to be a brick from the burlap, our knowledge increased. There were twenty or so bricks wrapped in the burlap, and once we cut a corner of the brick open, we discovered that we had stumbled on something unforeseen. Not having complete knowledge of narcotics, it was obvious that we had either found, or worse; interrupted a shipment of illegal drugs.
Looking to the left and the right from where we were standing, we saw another four identical “packages” scattered on the beach. We also noticed that we were flanked on both sides by houses on the cliffs.
Since we weren’t quite sure if we had stumbled into the middle of a pick-up, I sent PFC Vandenbark to back to the Hummer to set up in the turret with his weapon to cover us while we picked up the packages. Each bail weighed about seventy-five pounds, and since they were on a sandy beach, one person carrying the bails wouldn’t cut it. After taking the first bail to our vehicle, we returned and began carrying the rest up.
We drove to the Battalion CP, which was located at the Cruzan Rum distillery and reported to Battalion Sergeant Major, CSM Travis. The five of us then took our seized narcotics to the Brigade CP located on the other side of the Island. Once there, the Federal Marshal Service relieved us of our cargo.
Now, as Paul Harvey would say . . . “For the rest of the story”.
The patrol route we took into the La Grande Princess neighborhood also took us into the AOR for the 503rd MP Company. We knew that we were out of our AOR, but we were diligently patrolling, well diligently scouting for a good beach to have a platoon party.
Since SSG Nunez was with us, we had also taken the liberty to stop at the Wendy’s in Christiansted for lunch. We had eaten our share of T-rats, and had decided to go against standing orders with a visit to the fast food establishment. In our hurry to get the cocaine to the Battalion, we had forgotten to get rid of the “evidence” indicating our visit to Wendy’s.
When we briefed CSM Travis of our confiscation of the drugs, we of course had to show him where we were. The news that we were in the 503rd AOR, coupled with the Wendy’s bag sent the CSM over the edge.
Anyhow, CSM Travis stopped just short of telling us all that we were going to be busted and cleaning his boots for the duration of the deployment. After chewing SSG Nunez out and advising him that Article 15 punishment was on the way, we left for Brigade HQ.
At Brigade, SSG Nunez ran into an old friend from Grenada. It seems that SSG Nunez, and the now CSM for the 16th Airborne Brigade owed each other a favor. So, not only did the Deputy in Charge of the US Marshal Service in St Croix get a chance to sing our praises, so did USA Today with a story “sent ‘round the world”.
When our Article 15 punishment quickly ended up as Army Commendations Medals for the four of us. SSG Nunez went on to be the First Sergeant of the 410th MP Company, I became a senior III Corps desk sergeant back at Hood, Mike Williams deployed to Desert Storm and Mr. Vandenbark became a civilian.
"Now you know the rest of the story"
It should also be noted that soldiers from the 503rd MP Company also confiscated cocaine while in St. Croix. Just a much smaller amount of cocaine than we had. In total, we (the 5th Platoon) confiscated 125 kilograms, the 30 million dollar amount quoted is correct. SGT Brian T. “Sergeant Mac” McGlawn, Squad Leader, 410th MP Company, temporarily assigned as, 1st Squad, 5th Platoon, to 411th MP Company, 720th MP Battalion, 89th MP Brigade, May 1989-February1990.
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