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.
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 they 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
- 159th Aviation Brigade: 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th Battalions 101st Aviation Regiment
- Supporting Units: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 106th Transportation Battalion, 129th and 561st Combat Support Battalions, C Company, 1st Battalion 377th Field Artillery, 326th Engineer Battalion, 63rd Chemical Company, the 101st Division Band and several other support companies