KEEPING THE PEACE IN PANAMA
SAN MIGUELITO, PANAMA
Just two days after he surrendered to the United States Army, Panamanian Cpl. Kenneth Bell was back on the street Tuesday, patrolling side by side with the United States troops he was battling less than a week ago. Corporal Bell, a nine-year veteran of the Panmananian Defense Forces, is an experiment for the future.
He is one of two Panamanians in an 11-man joint patrol in this battle-weary barrio - and the first of several thousand solidiers who will gradually be integrated into the ``Public Force'' created by the new civilian government.
Bell, still angry at Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega for giving up the fight after allowing so many deaths, said he was a bit apprehensive working with his former adversary, especially since they are more popular in his home town.
``I feel a lot of hostility here,'' he said. ``But we have to work so Panama can keep moving forward.''
For the young Americans here, the joint patrol isn't any easier.
``I lost two friends in the company'' this week, says Michael Campbell, a 22-year-old private first class.
``I look at this soldier and wonder, `Was this the same soldier that was shooting at us?' You don't just take someone shooting at you and trust him. It's hard to accept.''
For Private Campbell, it's reassuring at least that the US soldiers are decked out in full battle gear with automatic weapons while Bell only carries a billy club alongside his plain green uniform.