A squad of Army Special Operations soldiers on a routine patrol at Howard Air Force Base, Panama, traded gunfire with a small group of intruders, but no one was hurt, Pentagon officials said Friday.

The Thursday night incident came as the Army was poised to cut the required tour length in Panama, part of a continuing effort to reduce the number of military dependents in the troubled Central American nation.The service hopes to encourage more soldiers to opt for so-called "unaccompanied tours" - leaving their families behind - by reducing the tour commitment, said Defense Department officials, who asked not to be named.