Military


1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment
"First Strike"

The mission of the 1st Battalion, 21st Cavalry Regiment is to, on order, deploy anywhere in the world to provide rocket and missile fires.

The 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, "First Strike," was constituted in the Regular Army on 1 July 1916 as Battery A, 21st Field Artillery. It was organized at Camp Wilson, Texas on 1 June 1917. The 21st Field Artillery as a whole was assigned to the 5th Division on 12 December 1917 and saw action in France during World War I, participating in the St. Mihiel and Lorraine 1918 Campaigns. After its service in the First World War the unit was relieved from assignment to the 5th Division on 4 November 1920 and was inactivated on 23 September 1921 at Camp Bragg, North Carolina.

While inactive the 21st Field Artillery was assigned on 24 March 1923 to the 9th Division. It was relieved on 1 January 1930 from assignment to the 9th Division and assigned to the 5th Division (later redesignated as the 5th Infantry Division) It remained inactive until 6 October 1939 when it was reactivated as part of the 5th Infantry Division. The unit was reorganized and redesignated on 1 October 1940 as Battery A, 21st Field Artillery Battalion. As part of the 5th Infantry Division, the 21st Field Artillery Battalion as a whole saw action in the World War II campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. At the end of the Second World War the unit was inactivated on 20 September 1946 at Ladd Field, Alaska

It was reactivated on 3 June 1948 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and inactivated there on 30 April 1950. It was reactivated again on 1 March 1951 at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania and inactivated there on 1 September 1953. On 25 May 1954 the unit was reactivated in Germany. It was inactivated on 1 June 1957 at Fort Ord, California, and relieved from assignment to the 5th Infantry Division. Concurrently, Battery A, 21st Field Artillery Battalion was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery.

It was redesignated on 1 July 1960 as Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Howitzer Battalion, 21st Artillery, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, and activated in Korea with its organic elements concurrently constituted and activated. It was redesignated on 1 September 1963 as the 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery. In July 1965, the unit moved to Fort Benning, Georgia as part of the reflagging of the 11th Air Assault Division as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). The 1st Cavalry Division in Korea reflagged as the 2nd Infantry Division.

Traveling with the 1st Cavalry Division to Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery participated in 16 different campaigns including the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley and the Counteroffensives I-VII. During the Vietnam conflict, the Battalion earned the Presidential Unit Citation for action in Pleiku Province, the Valorous Unit Award for the Fish Hook Campaign, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for operations in Vietnam (1967). Additionally, A and B Batteries were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for action in Binh Thaun Province.

Following its return from Vietnam, the unit was redesignated on 1 September 1971 as the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery. It was relieved on 13 September 1972 from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division and assigned to the 4th Infantry Division. It was inactivated on 19 December 1973 at Fort Carson, Colorado. The unit was relieved on 21 April 1975 from assignment to the 4th Infantry Division, assigned back to the 1st Cavalry Division, and activated at Fort Hood, Texas.

Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery, was reorganized and redesignated on 2 July 1986 as Battery A, 21st Field Artillery. The remainder of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery was concurrently inactivated. This unit continued to serve in the 1st Cavalry Division. In August 1990, the 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for deployment to southwest Asia as part of the joint forces participating in Operation Desert Shield. The units of the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery (DIVARTY) began a calculated war of deception along the Saudi Border. 1st Cavalry Division MLRS fires from A Battery, 21st Field Artillery illuminated the night skies over Baghdad and crippled Iraqi targets deep within enemy territory.

A Battery, 21st Field Artillery was reorganized and redesignated on 16 September 1997 as Headquarters and Service Battery, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery with its organic elements concurrently activated. With the addition of B (MLRS) and C (Target Acquisition) Batteries, the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery became the first Divisional MLRS Command and Attack Battalion in the US Army. In September 1998, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina to provide 24-hour Radar Support to Task Force Eagle.

On 28 July 2000, 68th Chemical Company, comprised of the Division's Smoke, Reconnaissance, and Decontamination forces, became part of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery and together with C/2-131st Field Artillery (MLRS) from the Texas Army National Guard formed the Battalion's task force. 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery completed the Army's first deployment of a Divisional Command and Attack battalion, in support of Operation Desert Strike 01-07, an external evaluation at Fort Bliss, New Mexico in April 2001. A year later in April 2002, the Battalion conducted its first live fire exercise incorporating all 3 firing batteries at Fort Hood, Texas.

1-21st Field Artillery arrived in Iraq in April 2004 after beinning to deploy in March 2004. Task Force 1-21st Field Artillery deployed to Iraq for combat operations under the task organization of the 5th Brigade (Provisional), 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Task Force Rocket was responsible for a portion of the Al-Rasheed district in southern Baghdad between March 2004 and March 2005. During that time the task force conducted daily patrols, ambushes, raids, convoy escorts, target acquisition, and counter-battery cannon fires.

Reorganized for the force protection, each platoon had 2 set patrols a day, but they also had numerous on-call missions like the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), Explosive Ordnance Escort (EOD), and Traffic Control Points (TCP) that added more to their plate. Also, for each mission there was usually 2 hours of prep before, and 1 hour of post patrol work, and the weather (120 degrees plus) did not help any. This schedule put each of the 3 platoons out of the wire approximately 10-12 times a week, for a total of about 20 hours.

1-21st Field Artillery's mission was, when they saw a rocket or mortar engage coalition forces, was to estimate its launch point, head to it and kill the insurgents responsible. They did not always take the insurgents by surprise when they found them. A couple of rocket-propelled grenades had been fired at them, and there had been a couple of small-arms engagements with anti-Iraqi insurgents. Locals had led soldiers to cached rockets and mortar firing points.

On 27 June 2004, on what would be the last night before the coalition turned over control to a sovereign Iraq, a platoon of soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, headed out on a counter-mortar mission. Insurgents had been firing rockets and mortars at various targets from the Battalion's area. Such attacks had been on the increase, making counter-mortar missions more important. The mission ran much like every other counter-mortar operation, with the platoon of Multiple Launch Rocket System crewman and fire direction specialists taking up positions at various observation points.

Although they still had constant patrolling, by May 2004 the focus of our patrols had begun to shift. They began devoting a great deal of time to civic improvements in the surrounding Iraqi neighborhoods. This included garbage collection and the construction of a new footbridge near a local school. While soldiers were not actually performing these tasks, interactions with the citizens of the neighborhood had been essential to achieving these goals. As for the barracks, the restrooms were undergoing renovations. The unit had purchased a foosball table, as well as an extremely popular ping-pong table. Also, they expected to have a fully functioning internet café. The barracks facilities were drastically improving. There was Air Conditioning, even though the electricity went out regularly. Also, National Guard engineers were working on building an indoor shower and bathroom facility.

The 1st Cavalry Division's first Silver Star Medal for valor in combat during the deployment was presented to a 5th Brigade Combat Team Soldier on 13 August 2004. Private, First Class Christopher Fernandez, of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, stood proudly in front of his entire Brigade as the Division's commanding general pinned on the small medal with red, white and blue ribbon. Fernandez was awarded the Silver Star for actions he had taken on the night of 5 May 2004, when his unit came under attack. Fernandez was on a patrol through the city's Saidiyah neighborhood when insurgents ambushed his unit. An improvised explosive device hit the patrol's rear vehicle. Immediately following the explosion, the patrol was barraged with small-arms fire. The patrol's crew-served weapons, a M240B machine gun and a .50 caliber machine gun, immediately returned fire. Two US Soldiers were killed and 5 others were wounded in the IED explosion and their vehicle was inoperable. Fernandez returned fire with his weapon, an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. He reloaded his weapon at least once during the short engagement, said Captain Thomas Pugsley, Battery A's commander. "There was a tremendous volume of fire coming at them," Pugsley said. In all the chaos, Fernandez saw the stricken vehicle's M240B machine gun was unused. Acting on instinct, Fernandez knew that another weapon would suppress the enemy's fire long enough to evacuate the wounded and leave the area. He left his vehicle, ran to the disabled humvee and recovered the weapon and its ammunition. Fernandez then opened fire on the enemy. What made all of that spectacular was the recovered weapon's condition, said Pugsley. The hand guards covering the machine-gun's barrel, so the gunner's hands won't burn, were blown off in the explosion. Fernandez, however, kept firing even though his hands were burning. Pugsley said 2 other Soldiers were recommended for Bronze Stars with Valor devices for their actions that night. One received it, while the other received an Army Commendation with V device.

The Battalion contributed greatly to the first ever free elections held in Iraq in January 2005. Following its return from Iraq, C/1-21st Field Artillery and 68th Chemical Company were inactivated in July 2005. On 19 August 2005, the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery folded its flag and inactivated as part of the inactivation of the Division Artillery (DIVARTY), 1st Cavalry Division. It was redesignated on 1 October 2005 as the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment and relieved on 15 October 2005 from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division.

The Battalion was reassigned as part of the newly formed Fires Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. The 1st Battalion 21st Field Artillery made its transition as part of the Army's new modular transformation concept. Falling under the newly formed Fires Brigade model, in 2006 the Battalion fielded and manned the 575th Forward Support Company and C Battery (MLRS), 1-21st Field Artillery. As of January 2006, 1st Battalion, 21 Field Artillery Regiment, part of the Fires Brigade, 4th Infantry Division was operating out of Camp Liberty, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On April 2008, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 08-10. During the deployment, the Battalion conducted an In-Lieu of Mission, responsible for conducting Detainee Operations, and Security Operations at Camp Bucca, Iraq. C Battery, 1-21 FA received a change of mission in July 2008, and conducted convoy security operations in support of International Police Advisors and Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Basra and Al Kut, Iraq. The 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery redeployed to Fort Hood, Texas in July 2009.




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list