81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team

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81st Armored Brigade Combat Team
81st Raven Insignia.svg
Shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1917 – present
Allegiance  United States
Branch United States Army
Type Heavy
Role Armored warfare
Size Brigade
Part of

Washington Army National Guard

California Army National Guard
Garrison/HQ Seattle, Washington
Nickname Washington Rifles
Mascot Dirty Bird
Engagements Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commanders
Current
commander
COL Michael Weitzel
Insignia
Distinctive unit insignia 81ArmorBrigadeDUI.jpg

The 81st Armored Brigade Combat Team is a modular brigade of the United States Army National Guard based in Washington and California and is subordinate to the 40th Infantry Division.

Current composition[edit]

The brigade contains six battalions and a Headquarters and Headquarters Company. It assumed its current organizational structure in late 2005, after its return from Iraq and Kuwait.

The brigade normally conducts its annual training at the Yakima Training Center, near Yakima, Washington.

History[edit]

World Wars[edit]

The 81st Infantry Brigade was constituted as part of the 41st Infantry Division on 1 April 1917, consisting of the 161st and 162nd Infantry Regiments.[1] The 41st deployed to France, but was designated a replacement division, with its infantry components sent to the 1st, 2nd, 32nd and 42nd Infantry Divisions.

Between the wars, the brigade joined the rest of the division in the Pacific Northwest, the headquarters moving with the home of the current brigade commander.[2]

In January 1942, the 41st Infantry Division was reorganized from a two-brigade, four-regiment structure to a three-regiment structure with no brigade echelon. The 81st ceased to exist and its two component regiments split up. The 161st went to the 25th Infantry Division while the 162nd remained in the 41st Infantry Division,[3]:19–21 where they both saw extensive combat.

Cold War[edit]

As part of an Army reorganization, the 81st was revived as a separate light infantry brigade on 1 January 1968 under Brigadier General Albert Kaye and built around the three battalions of the 161st Infantry Regiment. In 1971, the brigade converted to mechanized infantry, substituting one infantry battalion with 1st Battalion, 303rd Armor.[2]

In subsequent years, the brigade was consecutively "affiliated" with the 9th Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division before finally becoming the "roundout brigade" for the 9th Division and wearing its patch instead of the separate brigade patch. In 1991, the 9th Division was deactivated and the 81st was a separate brigade once again, tasked to augment the 2nd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea in wartime.[2]

Like many National Guard units, the 81st Brigade has been activated for state duty several times to respond to disasters and disorder. It responded to floods in December 1975 and November 1990, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, forest fires in 1994 and many other years, and the WTO Riots of 1999.[2]

Iraq (2004)[edit]

The 3,600-member 81st, one of the United States Army's 15 National Guard "enhanced readiness" or E-brigades, was federalized in November 2003 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom under Brigadier General Oscar Hilman. Most of its troops conducted pre-mobilization training at Fort Lewis, WA and the National Training Center and served in theater from March 2004 to March 2005.[4] The brigade was broken up, and its components extensively reorganized to meet the mission requirements:

Unit Organizational notes Area of Operation
81st Bde (-) HQ, 81st Armor Brigade; 181st Support Battalion LSA Anaconda
1st Battalion, 161st Infantry; 1st Battalion, 303d Armor Attached to 1st Cavalry Division Central and Southeast Baghdad
"Task Force Tacoma" Company A, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor (after fall 2004); Company B, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor; Company B, 160th Infantry (CA Army National Guard); Company A, 579th Engineer Battalion (CA Army National Guard), Headquarters Company, 898th Engineer Battalion (WA Army National Guard); and other elements. Attached to 1st Infantry Division, and later to 25th Infantry Division in Mosul. Area surrounding LSA Anaconda (2004), Mosul (2005)
1st Battalion, 185th Armor(-) Minus Company B, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor, and Company A, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor after fall 2004 Various sites in Southern Iraq
2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery; Troop E, 303d Cavalry Various sites in Kuwait, Battery B, 2d Battalion, 146th Field Artillery in Saudi Arabia

A total of ten brigade soldiers died from enemy action over the course of the deployment,[5] the majority of those from the 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry, the unit most directly involved in day-to-day combat operations. The 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry was responsible for the security and combat operations of a densely populated area of southeast Baghdad known as Al Zafranaya and Jsr Diayla. The battalion operated primarily out of Forward Operating Base Gunner (later renamed to FOB Highlander in honor of the battalion's nickname), Baghdad, Iraq. For its performance in combat, the 1–161st Infantry was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation by the Department of the Army.

81st Brigade Combat Team soldiers meet with commanders in Iraq.

Upon its return from overseas in March 2005, the brigade began to reorganize in accordance with the Army's new "Unit of Action" Brigade design, adopting the organization it has today.

Between deployments, the brigade responded to floods in Southwest Washington caused by the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.[4]

Iraq (2008)[edit]

The 81st Brigade was alerted for a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It received its mobilization order on 19 March 2008 from the Department of Defense. The brigade completed pre-deployment training at Fort McCoy, WI and then deployed to Iraq from August 2008 to August 2009.[4] The main focus of the brigade in OIF was security and "force protection operations."

The brigade was led into Iraq by Colonel Ronald Kapral and State Command Sergeant Major Robert Sweeney. During their time in Iraq, the brigade was visited by Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire and Washington Adjutant General, Brigadier General Toney. It suffered one fatality during its deployment, Specialist Samuel D. Stone, in a vehicle accident while on patrol.[6]

Troop A, 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment received the Distinguished Service Unit award. The award was received on behalf of the unit by Captain Patrick Gehring and First Sergeant Travis Wise.

Notable members[edit]

  • Benigno G. TaboraSergeant Major, World War II. Purple Heart recipient
  • Daniel P Unger – Specialist, United States Army National Guard, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor, Operation Iraqi Freedom Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor recipient, KIA Camp Kalsu 2004.
  • Lorin Bannermann, husband Stacy Bannermann, author of "When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind," covering the 81st's initial mobilization and the impact on its members and their families.[1]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ McGrath, 'The Brigade,' p.170
  2. ^ a b c d "About the 81st Brigade Combat Team (Heavy)". Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  3. ^ McCartney, Wiliam F. (1948). The Jungleers: A History of the 41st Infantry Division. Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal Press. ISBN 1-4325-8817-6.
  4. ^ a b c "81st HBCT". 81st Brigade Website. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "Fallen Heroes". 81st Brigade Website. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "SPC Samuel D. Stone". 81st Brigade Website. Retrieved 7 February 2012.