Operation URGENT FURY proves OSI readiness in Grenada

  • Published
  • By Dr. Deborah Kidwell
  • OSI Command Historian

OSI continued to address two unique challenges throughout the 1970s and 1980s: a rise in terrorist activity and the development of a comprehensive wartime mission plan.

The counterintelligence mission dictated agents provide support to combatant commanders under a variety of conditions and objectives.

Operation URGENT FURY, the 1983 invasion of the Caribbean Island of Grenada, provided an early test in a contingency environment. The Army’s decision to return air base ground defense responsibilities to Air Force Security Police in the mid-1970s, dictated OSI’s full integration into war plans and execution. 

In March 1979, a group ousted Grenada’s prime minister in a nearly bloodless coup, and established the Marxist-Leninist People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) with a heavy influence from the Cuban government. In October of 1983, a power struggle within the government resulted in the arrest and subsequent murder of several government officials by elements of the People’s Revolutionary Army.

The country soon fell into political and economic disorder.

This breakdown in civil order prompted U.S. and coalition military forces to initiate Operation URGENT FURY, which began after ousted officials and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States requested assistance.

The mission objectives were to protect the lives of U.S. students in Grenada, restore democratic government, and eradicate the Cuban influence.

Two OSI special agents initially shared the duties of collecting and sharing information with Army Military (S2) and Air Force Intelligence (A2) forces from an office in the U.S. Embassy. Agents conducted surveys of airports, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas and shipping and port facilities.

Three more agents soon joined the first pair to set up source networks, collect information to protect airfields and approaches, and coordinate with Security Police and agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency.  

Twenty-eight OSI personnel, 23 special agents and five administrative specialists, participated in Operation URGENT FURY. They served as the eyes and ears for commanders whose forces entered the country and proved to be a crucial element of air base survivability.

Air Force aircraft and personnel conducted a wide range of missions, including reconnaissance, close air support, troop and cargo delivery, casualty and evacuee transportation, air refueling, psychological warfare, communications and air traffic control. 

At the conclusion of operations, aircraft returned more than 6,000 military personnel to home stations, and transported nearly 700 American medical students and 755 Cuban nationals destined for repatriation. These activities occurred under the watchful eye of OSI’s deployed agents and professional staff, who, in turn, performed a variety of duties designed and executed to protect and bring everyone home safely. 

From this experience, OSI recognized the need for the development of greater wartime skills and thus the need to train agents for contingencies, rather than relying on pairing more experienced agents with newer personnel, especially in hostile environments. 

Overall, U.S. military forces recognized the need to train and execute in a truly joint environment and OSI consequently adapted, revised, and refined their policy and procedures in light of the new joint policies, training and doctrine.