2nd Brigade Combat Team (502nd Infantry Regiment),
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
2nd Brigade, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) rapidly deploys, conducts air assault operations, fights and wins. The 2nd Brigade at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky was, prior to the transition to the modular force, composed of a brigade Headquarters company and three infantry battalions. The Brigade was on the cutting edge of tactical and technical innovation. The Brigade served as the Army's testbed for the Rapid Force Projection Initiative, a series of advanced target acquisition and long-range killing systems designed to enhance the lethality of the Brigade's combat power while also reducing the risk to the individual soldier. After the transition to the modular force, the Brigade consisted of six battalions: two Infantry, one Cavalry, one Field Artillery, a Brigade Troops Battalion, and the Brigade Support Battalion.
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, traces it's lineage to the 159th Infantry Brigade, an element of the 80th Division, organized in August 1917. During World War I, the 159th Infantry Brigade participated in the Picardy (1918), Somme (1918), and Meuse-Argonne campaigns against the Imperial German Army.
Reorganized as the 80th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized) of the 80th Infantry Division, the unit participated in the Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and the Central European campaigns against Nazi Germany in World War II.
A major reorganization took place on 3 February 1964, when the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was activated at Fort Campbell, replacing the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 501st Infantry Regiment. The new 2nd Brigade's original organic battalions were the 1st and 2d Battalions, 501st Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry.
In December 1967, 2nd Brigade deployed by C-141 aircraft to the Republic of Vietnam. Over the next five years, soldiers of the "Ready to Go" Brigade participated in twelve campaigns, compiling a distinguished combat record as well as an enviable reputation for success in the rehabilitation of a war-torn nation. The President of Vietnam personally decorated the colors of the Brigade three times, twice with the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and once with the RVN Civic Action Honor Medal. The Brigade redeployed to Fort Campbell in April, 1972.
In 1984, with the reorganization of the Combat Arms Regimental System, the 2nd Brigade became the parent headquarters for the 1st, 2nd, and 3d Battalions of the 502nd Infantry Regiment. With this reorganization, the Brigade adopted the regimental motto, "Strike."
On 22 August 1990, elements of the 2nd Brigade led the Division's deployment to Saudi Arabia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. For the next 6 months, the soldiers of the Strike Brigade trained in the heat and sand of the Middle East in preparation for combat against Iraq. On 24 February 1991, elements of the 2nd Brigade joined the 1st Brigade in the largest helicopter assault in military history to seize the terrain to establish an aviation Forward Operating Base at FOB Cobra. Three days later, the Brigade again air assaulted 93 miles east to FOB Viper, further isolating retreating Iraqi forces in the Euphrates Valley.
In 1994, elements of the 2nd Brigade deployed to the Republic of Panama in response to a request from the Commander in Chief, US Southern Command, to have a mobile contingency force on-hand. Strike Brigade soldiers earned the praise of the CINC himself for their discipline, bearing, and unbroken string of successful missions.
The 502nd Infantry Regiment originated in July 1941, as the 502nd Parachute Battalion, an experimental unit formed to test the doctrine and tactics of the parachute assault. On 2 March 1942, the unit was redesignated the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, the first Airborne Regiment in the US Army.
Assigned in August 1942 to the 101st Airborne Division, the 502d PIR entered combat on the night of 5-6 June 1944, as the Regiment's Pathfinders led the way for the Division's jump into Normandy, France, on D-Day. Four days later, Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole, commanding the 3d Battalion, became the first Screaming Eagle to be awarded the Medal of Honor for leading his battalion in a bayonet charge against the German 6th Parachute Regiment at Carentan, France.
On 17 September 1944, the 502nd PIR jumped into Holland as part of Operation Market-Garden. During the battles to seize crossing over the Wilhelmina Canal, Private Joe Mann of Company H sacrificed himself to save his comrades from a German grenade, becoming the second Screaming Eagle to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, the 502nd PIR had emerged as one of the most decorated US units in the European Theater. It was awarded two Presidential Unit Citations, the French Croix de Guerre, the Belgian Fourragere, the Netherlands Orange Lanyard, and recognition in Orders of the Day of the Belgian Army for their actions at Normandy and Bastogne.
Twenty years later, the 502nd Infantry again answered the call to defend freedom, this time in the Republic of Vietnam. 2nd Battalion deployed in July 1965, joined by 1st Battalion in December 1967. Participating in 15 major campaigns from the Hue City in the north to the Delta region in the south, the troopers of the 502nd continued the proud traditions of their forebears in defeating the enemy and liberating the oppressed. Three more Strike soldiers earned the Medal of Honor for valor in combat: Specialist Dale E. Wayrynen, Private First Class Milton A. Lee, and Corporal Frank R. Fratellenico. The Regiment earned two more Presidential Unit Citations, four Valorous Awards, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two awards for the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
A reorganization of the Combat Arms system in 1984 returned all three battalions to the control of a single headquarters in the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and also reactivated the 4th, 5th, and 6th Battalions as the Berlin Brigade, until that command's inactivation in 1994.
During their service in the Sinai as part of the Multinational Forces and Observers, soldiers of the 3d Battalion earned a Superior Unit Award for their quick action to prevent a terrorist act from re-igniting hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Sadly, 248 of those same soldiers perished in Gander, Newfoundland, enroute to Fort Campbell upon completion of their tour in December 1985.
In August of 1990, soliders of the 3d Battalion led the Division's deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. In combat operations against Iraq, Strike Brigade soldiers again upheld the proud legacy of their forebears as they participated in the largest helicopter assault in history to defeat retreating Iraqi forces in the Euphrates Valley.
Soldiers of the 502nd Infantry have also participated in peacekeeping and contingency operations. In 1993 and 1994, soldiers of 1st and 3d Battalions deployed to the Republic of Panama to assist in the repatriation of Cuban refugees. Also in 1993-1994, soldiers of the 5th and 6th Battalions, in the Berlin Brigade, deployed to the Republic of Macedonia as part of the United Nations Protective Force, helping to keep ethnic tensions from erupting in violence and contributing to the stability of the region.
In 1996, elements of the 502nd deployed to the Republic of Panama. C Company, 1-502nd Infantry deployed to Nicaragua between November 1998 and March 1999, to provide humanitarian relief as part of the Hurricane Mitch relief effort.
After a busy summer training cycle, the 502nd Infantry Regiment assumed Division Ready Brigade mission in October 2000. The Brigade also conducted an excellent Expert Infantryman's Badge competition where 169 infantrymen earned the coveted badge. The unit deployed to the National Training Center in November 2000, deploying 5,000 troops and 2,000 pieces of equipment into the harsh desert winter of Mojave without a single serious incident. While most of the BCT was at NTC, 3-502nd "Widowmakers" were busy at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky training on squad, platoon and company battle drills and they were instrumental in developing the Individual Readiness Training (IRT) lanes that are being used to train all soldiers getting ready to deploy.
In May of 2001, elements of the 502nd Infantry Regiment deployed to Kosovo and Macedonia and received the mission to interdict NLA rebel supply lines from Kosovo to Macedonia. Throughout the summer, soldiers from the 502nd disrupted and practically brought to a halt the resupply operations of Muslim rebels fighting in Macedonia. On 25 June 2001, TF 3-502 removed an NLA rebel battalion from Aracinovo and escorted them to Nikustak amidst heavy fighting between the rebels and the Macedonian Army and special police. According to NATO officials, this action led directly to the peace process that soon followed and resulted in disarmament of the rebel force as well as greater rights for the Macedonian Albanians.
In February 2003, the Regiment deployed to the Middle East with the remainder of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for what became Operation Iraqi Freedom. It returned a year later having led the Division through the key battles of An Najef, south Al Hillah, Karbala, southern Baghdad, Mahmoudia, and Mosul. It completed the two longest air assaults in Division history. Over the subsequent 9 months, the Regiment re-built Mosul's hospitals, schools and water system. It built from scratch a regional police force that became the model for the rest of the country to follow.
In 2004 the 2nd Brigade, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky as part of the transition to the new modular force. The susequent 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division was redeployed to Iraq in 2005 and was still serving in that country through 2008.
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