Limited edition print by James Dietz, depicting 101st Airborne Division air assault soldiers of the 1/327th Infantry on February 24, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.
New Designation and Mission
In October of 1974, the 101st was re-designed as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 3rd brigade was changed from Parachute to Air Assault capabilities. The 101st created an Air Assault school designed to teach new soldiers the art of fighting a war from helicopter assaults. These new Air Assault Soldiers were authorized to wear a new badge, The Air Assault Badge.
In 1975 and 1976, the 101st conducted numerous training and readiness exercises. They also opened their Air Assault School to other unit's soldiers to ensure that more of the Army's forces could engage the enemy after being inserted into the combat zone via helicopter. In 1975, 2nd Brigade, comprised of the 502nd Infantry and support units, participated in Exercise GALLANT SHIELD in Fort Bliss, TX. Here, the Air Assault forces defeated large Armored and Mechanized forces in a desert environment.
In 1976, the 101st returned to Europe for the first time to participate in REFORGER 76, an exercise designed to test units tasked with reinforcing West Germany in the face of a Soviet attack. In July, equipment, vehicles, and 318 of the Division's aircraft were ready to leave from Norfolk, Virginia. On 7 August, the advance party left for the Federal Republic of Germany, and by 29 August, the deployment was complete. The first tactical exercise began the following week. Using the air assault tactics tested at Fort Campbell and with a German mechanized brigade and an American armored cavalry regiment for ground support, the Screaming Eagles pushed the aggressors back. Within forty eight hours, the Division dis engaged from the first exercise and moved to their major unit assembly areas to refit and deploy to a new area of operation. The scenario for a second exercise paralleled that of the first. Both times the 101st fought in a mid-intensity warfare environment, and each time air assault tactics proved effective.
After the second exercise ended, the Screaming Eagles participated in partnership training with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) units from Belgium, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. In addition, the 101st hosted an "Air Assault in Action" demonstration for NATO personnel and made commemorative visits to the Division's World War 11 battle sites at Bastogne and in the Netherlands. After redeployment to the United States, a full Division review at Fort Campbell on 22 October celebrated the end of REFORGER 75 and the safe return of the soldiers who had participated in the exercise.
In June 1979, the Division received the first of their new UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters and integrated them into the air assault concept. The Division Commander, Major General Jack V. Mack, accepted the 101st production helicopter in January 1981. Fulfilling its readiness role under the "one Army" concept, the division played a vital part in helping the United States meet Its commitment in the Middle East. Between November 7, and November 25, 1980, elements of the Division participated in the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Exercise BRIGHT STAR near Cairo, Egypt. The contingent was a battalion combat team of nine hundred men from the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry along with support units. The exercise gave the Screaming Eagles experience in overseas movement, desert warfare, and coordination with other branches of the United States Armed Forces and with foreign allies. Since then, several other exercises involving the Rapid Deployment Force have been carried out.
In late March 1982, the XVIII Airborne Corps designated the 1st Battalion of the 502nd Infantry as the replacement unit to be sent to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt for a six-month tour of duty with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). Supporting the American commitment to the peacekeeping force established under the terms of the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, the Screaming Eagles and the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg alternated six month tours of duty.
Also during 1982, the Division received two Cohesion Operational Readiness and Training System (COHORT) companies. Under this system, soldiers could be associated with a specific unit throughout their Army careers. After recruitment, the company received initial entry training and advanced individual training at one post. Upon arrival at their first duty station, they remained with their initial battalions for at least one year and then rotated as a unit to their first overseas assignment, concluding their enlistment abroad. The first Division COHORT company was Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, which arrived at Fort Campbell in June 1982. Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, arrived as the second COHORT company at the beginning of August 1982. Reorganizing once more in 1983, units from the 327th, 502nd, and 187th Regiments became the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigades of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 327th and the 502nd were two of the original units assigned to the 101st at their activation in 1942. The 187th's distinction stems from being the only airborne unit to serve in three wars: World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam.
Throughout 1984, the division participated in fifteen major exercises in the United States, Germany, Honduras, and Egypt, helping to maintain the readiness needed to fulfill its assigned mission to deploy rapidly worldwide using the unique capabilities of an air assault division. In 1985, tragedy struck the 101st after a seemingly routine MFO tour of duty for the 3rd Battalion of the 502nd Infantry. Returning to Fort Campbell from the Sinai on 12 December, 248 Screaming Eagles perished in an aircraft crash near Gander, Newfoundland.
The 100 Hour War: Operation Desert Storm
After the Army of Iraq invaded and captured Kuwait, the first Army command to send troops to Saudi Arabia was the XVIII Airborne Corps. The Corps was made up of the 82nd Airborne Division, the 24th Infantry Division (MECHANIZED) and the 101st Airborne Division. When the stand-by orders came in, the 101st was spread around the country. One Battalion was in Panama undergoing jungle warfare training, another Battalion was preparing for a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai, and 1,000 soldiers were at West Point training cadets. Several other units were working with Reserve and National Guard units. Within days, the mobilization machine was running at full speed.
On August 17, 1990 the first units of the 101st arrived in Saudi Arabia. 2,700 troops, 117 helicopters, 487 vehicles, and 125 pallets of supplies was transported on board 110 US Air Force C-5 and C-141 transport aircraft. Meanwhile, the remainder of the division was loaded onto transport ships in Jacksonville, FL and 46 days later arrived in the Saudi port of Ad Daman. The 101st was the first US Army Division to have all of it assets in theater.
Shortly after arrival, the 101st moved to King Faud airport and established their base camp the dubbed "Camp Eagle II." Miles of concertina wire were stretched and millions of sandbags were filled to secure the base. Every member of the 101st took part, even the Division Band who doubled as security for the Division Tactical Operations Center. When the plans for the liberation of Kuwait were finalized, the 101st was informed of its mission. When the assault started, the 101st, along with the 82nd Airborne and the French 6th Light Armored Division, would advance on the left flank of the advance and move north towards Baghdad and the Euphrates River Valley. The 101st then moved to their Forward Operating Base which was named "Bastogne."
3/502 was the first unit of the 101st to arrive at Bastogne and they quickly began establishing their presence. Over the next few weeks, the remainder of the Division moved forward. Here at Bastogne, the Division began conducting training operations almost around the clock. Now that the Screaming Eagles were acclimated to the desert heat, the soldiers were prepared. Abandoned villages were used to practice street fighting and several courses were laid out to practice the difficult task of desert land navigation.
On January 17, 1991, Desert Storm, the mission to liberate Kuwait began. At 2:38 am, 8 AH-64 Apache helicopters of the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment destroyed two Iraqi early warning radar sites, clearing the way for US Air Force strike aircraft on their way to Baghdad. The 101st Airborne Division drew first blood in Desert Storm. Blackhawk helicopters of 1st Battalion were on scene in case any Allied planes were shot down and the pilots needed to be rescued. The Apache gunships continued to attack Iraqi air defense positions. The first mission was a complete success and no losses were recorded for the 101st.
During the air campaign, the 101st Aviation Regiment flew hundred of sorties attacking various Iraqi positions. In mid-February, the Aviation units stood down in preparation for the ground war.
On February 24, 1991, the 101st and the French 6th Light Armored stepped off on their envelopment of Iraqi forces on the left flank of the Coalition line. A total of 300 helicopters lifted the 101st Airborne to their first objective, FOB COBRA, 110 miles inside Iraq. The 101st achieved complete surprise and the Iraqi forces at COBRA were routed; most were taken prisoner. After a rapid refueling, the 101st lifted off and moved another 60 miles. By the evening of the 24th, Highway 8 was cut and the Iraqi's had lost a key supply line. The 101st consolidated their positions and settled in for the night. That day's operation had been the largest helicopter assault in the history of modern warfare.
The next morning, 3rd Brigade (the 187th Infantry Regiment) moved north to occupy positions on the southern bank of the Euphrates River. They met little resistance and quickly captured their objective. The remainder of the 101st, maintained their positions at COBRA and Highway 8 as a blocking force for the main Coalition assault.
On February 26 and 27, the 101st began accepting the surrender of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who had been retreating from the massive ground assault. It soon became clear that the war was almost over and there would be little fighting. The 101st began collecting the Iraqi soldiers and sending them to rear areas. In just 100 hours of combat, the 101st had completed the largest, most effective combat helicopter assault ever attempted. Not a single Screaming Eagle lost his life during the battle but victory was complete.
Always on call
After the Gulf War, the 101st Airborne Division returned home to Fort Campbell, KY. During the 1990s, Screaming Eagle soldiers were been sent on numerous humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in places such as Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia.
Operation ENDURING FREEDOM
In January of 2002, the 101st Airborne was deployed to Afghanistan to relieve the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of operations to destroy the Al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban regimen of Afghanistan. On March 2nd, 1 soldier was killed and several wounded during a raid on a terrorist cave complex near Gardez Afghanistan.
Today, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is made up of the following units:
1st Brigade: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions 327th Infantry
2nd Brigade: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions 502nd Infantry
3rd Brigade: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions 187th Infantry
101st Aviation Brigade: 2nd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Squadron, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th Battalions 101st Aviation Regiment
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