Small US contingent reaches East Timor in first wave

Monday, September 20th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Small DILI, Indonesia (AP) -- An advance team of U.S. Marines entered
East Timor today with the first wave of international peacekeepers,
scoping out the territory before a larger American contingent moves

Brig. Gen. John G. Castellaw, commander of the U.S. contingent
in the force, led a team of six Marines on a reconnaissance mission
into the territory, while other peacekeepers secured the key
locations of the capital's airport and harbor.

"We're getting the lay of the land," Castellaw told The
Associated Press in Dili, East Timor's capital.

The United States is contributing up to 200 troops to the
U.N.-approved peacekeeping force, which is expected to eventually
number 7,500 troops. The force is charged with imposing order in
East Timor after weeks of bloodshed and paving the way for the
territory's independence from Indonesia.

The United States is providing logistics and communications
support to the Australian-led force, but no combat troops.

"Our footprint will remain small -- communications and
intelligence," said Castellaw, who is deputy commander of the 3rd
Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan.

Castellaw said his advance team would not stay in East Timor
today, but would return instead to the northern Australian city of
Darwin, the staging post for the international force in East Timor

It may be days or weeks before U.S. personnel are put in place
in Dili.

"At this stage it's not time for the logistics and
communications that we will offer (to INTERFET), when the time
comes we will phase in our presence," he said.

Castellaw -- who has been involved in other humanitarian military
operations, including Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq
after the 1991 Gulf War -- said the troops that arrived today
received no resistance and were helped by the Indonesian military
in Dili.

"This was an arrival, not an assault," he said. "The
environment was conducive to moving troops in."

Castellaw said he and his men were working well with the
international force.

"We have worked and exercised with the Australians before and
we are glad to be here in support of this operation," he said.

Across the Timor Sea on Australia's northern coast, a C-5 Galaxy
transport plane touched down early today in Darwin, bringing an
18-member U.S. Navy team and crates full of vital satellite
communications equipment.

"It's small and it's quick to get out in any location," Chief
Warrant Officer Scott Griffin of the U.S. Navy said of his mobile
communications team, which arrived after a 17-hour flight --
including a stopover in Guam -- from the navy base in Pearl Harbor,

"We're specifically here to assist the Australia-led force,"
said Maj. Chuck Peabody of the U.S. Marines. "We'll remain
flexible to do any other kind of task that comes along."

The communications gear brought today, which handles voice and
data, is the only such system that the U.S. military has in the
Pacific region and one of three worldwide.

On Saturday, the first group of American forces -- 13 Marines --
arrived in Darwin and set up Castellaw's command post.