Gen. John A. Wickham Jr., newly appointed Army chief of staff, said yesterday that "I don't see the potential for widening the involvement of the U.S. military" in Central America, but added that building permanent military bases there should receive "serious consideration" if that is desired by friendly Latin governments.
Wickham said he doesn't have any plans to build such bases, and he stressed that any that might be constructed would be for the combined use of American forces and those of the host nation.
Gen. Paul Gorman, head of the Southern Command, which controls U.S. forces in Central America, has been briefing administration officials on the long-term potential of building military bases in Honduras in the future, but no decisions on this have been made, according to Pentagon officials.
Wickham said he sees no danger of the coming U.S. and Honduran military exercises, which he said he supports, leading to dangerous involvement for U.S. soldiers.
An advance party of U.S. troops arrived in Honduras yesterday to prepare facilities for the land maneuvers. Reuter news service reported that the party consisted of engineers from Fort Bragg, N.C., who arrived in San Pedro Sula. Their job is to build training camps, barracks and a 60-bed hospital, according to military officials there.