Part Two – Once a Green Beret, always a Green Beret
In 1981, while conducting a clandestine intelligence gathering mission in Managua, retired Lt. Col. Bill Chadwick, a Special Forces officer; and Lt. Col. John Lent, encountered now-Lt. David Baez in the uniform of a Sandinista officer. Recognizing each other from 3/7th, the trio had a brief conversation, then went their separate ways. Previously, Baez floated another story around the battalion that he was forced to return to Nicaragua by its new government, and in order to protect his family, would have to join the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS). So the chance encounter between the three men was friendly.
The bond between Special Forces soldiers holding fast as Baez could easily and to his benefit betrayed the two officers.
Chadwick recalled that the two American officers swiftly reported their encounter to the U.S. Southern Command J2 and its counter-intelligence team. David Baez was now officially on the radar screen and a known enemy threat.
Assigned to the Combat Readiness Directorate, Baez’s first assignment was to train an EPS special unit of paratroopers. This he did with enthusiasm. The assignment was also seen as a means of monitoring the former American Special Forces soldier. “Trust but verify” was an important maxim for the Sandinistas. After training the paratrooper unit, Baez turned his expertise and the information he’d gathered as an AST in El Salvador toward the early formation and training of the EPS Irregular Warfare battalions (IWB). These battalions meant specifically to conduct counter-guerrilla warfare against the Contras. Strangely enough, the IWBs closely resembled the new Immediate Reaction battalions of the 3/7th mobile training teams in El Salvador in 1980–1981.
A born-again Sandinista
By 1982, Baez established himself as a born-again Sandinista. Promoted to the rank of captain, he volunteered for combat duty and was assigned to the “Pedro Altamirano” battalion of the EPS, then based at Montelimar. According to his brother, Eduardo Baez, Capt. Baez “would travel daily from El Crucero where we lived” to Montelimar to work. When his battalion deployed to the rugged Kilambé region of northern Nicaragua, Baez was an invaluable asset on the ground.
After many months of combat duty, he was assigned to a special troop three-man mobile team that specialized in detecting and tracking Contra infiltrations along the no man’s land corridor between Honduras and Nicaragua. The mobile team relied on jeeps to transport the team and its sophisticated Soviet-supplied radio intercept equipment to accomplish its missions.
Then, in April and May of 1983, Baez visited his brother and shared his next assignment. In his August 2001 interview with Roberto Fonseca of La Prensa, Eduardo recalled that sad moment. “He had volunteered to leave with a Honduran guerrilla column. He did not know if he would return or not. He asked me to take care of the children…you know, that kind of personal stuff.” Captain Baez, perhaps recalling the grief and pain that his family endured when his father disappeared in 1954, made a contingency plan should something similar happen to him.
“He also recommended,” said Eduardo, “that if [we] heard any news about the capture or [death] of a guerrilla in Honduras, under the pseudonym Adolfo [their father’s first name], that I would know it would be him.” Baez told his brother he wrote a farewell letter to his youngest son, just three months old, “We had a few drinks, we cried, we said goodbye and he left,” recalled Eduardo in 2001.
The Honduran guerrillas would be wearing Contra-style uniforms for their infiltration and carrying American-made weapons to include M16 rifles, M79 grenade launchers, M60 light machine guns, and 1911 .45 caliber pistols. Each fighter had a nom de guerre, or “guerrilla name,” for security reasons. Baez, like the others, would go in sterile–without any incriminating forms of official identification. He was used to playing this role from his training and experiences at both 10th Special Forces Group (A) and later as an AST in Panama.
If Baez were captured or killed and identified as a former Green Beret and now Sandinista officer, there would be diplomatic hell to pay with both the U.S. and Honduras.”