Paz, Robert, 1stLt

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 Service Details
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Last Rank
First Lieutenant
Last Primary MOS
0202-Basic Intelligence Officer
Last MOSGroup
Primary Unit
1989-1989, 0202, MSG Detachment Panama City, Panama
Service Years
- 1989
Foreign Language
Official/Unofficial USMC Certificates
Cold War Certificate
Officer Collar Insignia

First Lieutenant


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 Personal Details 

Home Country
Year of Birth
Not Specified
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Maj Hank (SemperBrew) Salmans, III to remember Marine 1stLt Robert Paz.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
Dallas, TX

Date of Passing
Dec 16, 1989
Location of Interment
Cementerio Central - Villavicencio, Colombia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

Cold War Medal

 Military Association Memberships
In the Line of Duty
  1989, In the Line of Duty

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

On 15 December, the Panamanian general assembly passed a resolution declaring that the actions of the United States had caused a state of war to exist between Panama and the United States.

Robert Paz went to Michigan State University to learn about farms and animals.  Four years later, to the surprise of many who knew him, he had become a Marine officer.  A native of Colombia, Paz traded a dream of working for a multinational corporation for a stint in the military.  "I remember he came to graduation in full military dress," said David Hawkins, a animal science professor at Michigan State, in East Lansing.  "We don't get too many animal-science students in the military."  The life of 1st Lt. Robert Paz spanned a quarter of a century, ending Dec. 16 - the day he and his companions got lost looking for a restaurant in Panama, according to the U.S. Southern Command.  President Bush has said repeatedly this week that it was the slaying of Paz that was one of the compelling reasons he ordered the invasion of Panama.  What happened is in dispute and still is under investigation.  The U.S. government maintains that Paz was killed when he and his companions fled a crowd of Panamanians who tried to force them from their car.  Panamanian officials say he was killed when he and three other U.S. officers ran a security checkpoint and fired at the headquarters of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.  Death has thrust Paz, whom acquaintances describe as a quiet, pleasant man, into the center of an international dispute.  According to US military sources, a US naval officer and his wife witnessed the incident and were subsequently detained by Panamanian Defense Force soldiers. While in police custody, they were assaulted by the PDF.  The US naval officer spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from his beating.  His wife was not injured but was sexually threatened by PDF soldiers.   It is hard for acquaintances to picture such a death for Paz, who just a few years ago was toiling on the dairy farm at Michigan State, finishing his degree in animal science.  School records show that briefly, during Paz's freshman year, he enrolled in military-science classes.  But then he stopped taking them and continued studies in animal biology and physiology.  What Hawkins most remembers about Paz is that "he was slight of stature."  He said Paz was an above-average student who asked a lot of questions in class.  "He was a pleasant person to have in the classroom," Hawkins said.  In his application at Michigan State, Paz wrote that his mother, Mary Alice Fisher, was a teacher and his father, Jaime Paz, was a travel agent.  He had lived in both the United States and Colombia.  His father was Colombian, and his mother was American.  Robert Paz was born in Colombia, the application said.  It was in Colombia, Paz said, that he developed a desire to pursue a career in animal science.  He spent part of his time there on a coffee and banana farm, where his family also raised cattle.  Paz's father now lives in Cali, Colombia, according to a Marine Corps spokeman.  His mother and father are reported to have lived in Dallas while their son was in college, and one brother lives in Texas.  Co-workers at Michigan State describe Paz as "hard-working" and as a typical college student.  He liked athletics and chatted about it often, they say.  His college application shows that in high school he belonged to both the soccer team and the swimming team.  It was his athletic abilities, in part, that may have made him particularly attractive to the military, officials say.  As an upperclassman, Paz participated in the Platoon Leader Class (PLC), a program started in the 1950s to attract college athletes to the military.  Entrance tests are tough and though many try, few pass, recruiters say.  Candidates for the Marine Corps PLC, for instance, must complete a three-mile run in 24 minutes or less, do 80 sit-ups in three minutes and do 20 pull-ups, according to Lt. Paul Power, a recruiter for the Houston office of the Marine Corps.  Under the PLC program today, recruits attend two six-week summer camps.  Those who complete the program and only about 63 percent do, have the option of accepting a military commission.

He received the Purple Heart posthumously.

Other Comments:
To Marine Lieutenant Robert Paz (December 16, 1989) First Lieutenant Robert Paz, a U.S. Marine Corps officer assigned to Headquarters, U.S Southern Command's J-3/Operations Directorate, was shot and killed by soldiers of the Panama Defense Forces (PDF) Saturday night of December 16, 1989 in Panama City, one day after the Noriega regime-controlled national legislature and PDF commander and ruler General Manuel Antonio Noriega had declared Panama to be in a state of war with the United States.  Paz and three other Southern Command officers, traveling in a private automobile off duty in civilian clothes and unarmed, were stopped by a PDF roadblock near the Comandancia (the PDF's central headquarters complex) in the El Chorrillo part of the city (about 800 meters from the Southern Command at Quarry Heights) after getting lost en route to a downtown restaurant.  When the driver, as he and the three passengers were being threatened by six uniformed PDF soldiers manning the roadblock, attempted to evade the roadblock by driving away at a high speed, the PDF soldiers opened fire on the vehicle with their AK-47 and other rifles.  Other PDF soldiers stationed about 300 meters down the street joined in the shooting, hitting Paz who was sitting in the back seat.  Paz died as the four reached Gorgas Army Hospital near Quarry Heights.  The shooting -- the culmination of two years of repeated incidents of harassment and threats of violence against U.S. service members and their families -- was one of two incidents involving PDF members and U.S. service members that night which shortly thereafter prompted President George Bush to order commencement of Operation Just Cause against Noriega and the Panama Defense Forces which began on December 20, 1989.

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 Unit Assignments
Marine Security Guard (MSG)
  1989-1989, 0202, MSG Detachment Panama City, Panama
 Colleges Attended
Michigan State University
  1983-1987, Michigan State University
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