172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate)
172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team
On 31 May 2013, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was inactivated in Grafenwoehr, Germany, as part of planned drawdowns in US Army forces in Europe.
The 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was first constituted on 5 August 1917 in the National Army as the 172nd Infantry Brigade. The unit was organized on 25 August 1917 at Camp Grant, in Rockford, Illinois and assigned to the 86th Division.
As part of the 86th Division, the 172nd Infantry Brigade arrived in Bordeaux, France, for combat duty in September 1918. At that time, the Brigade consisted of the 343rd and 344th Infantry Battalions, and the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion. Its combat record during the war was sketchy. Known for sure was that the 86th Division was depleted by calls for replacements at the front, and what remained of it was sent to Le Mans, France. The 86th Division returned to the United States in January 1919. The 172nd Infantry Brigade received a campaign streamer without inscription for participation in World War I and was disbanded in January 1919 at Camp Grant.
The Brigade was reconstituted on 24 June 1921 in the Organized Reserves, again as an element of the 86th Division, and was organized in January 1922 in Springfield, Illinois. The unit went through several redesignations, including on 23 March 1925, as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 172nd Brigade, and on 24 August 1936 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 172nd Infantry Brigade.
The Brigade Headquarters was converted and redesignated as the 3rd platoon, 86th Reconnaissance Troop, 86th Division on 31 March 1942. The unit was mobilized and reorganized at Camp Howze, Texas, on 15 December 1942 as the 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop. It was reorganized and redesignated again on 5 August 1943 as the 86th Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized. For the majority of the US involvement in World War II the unit remained stateside, participating in the Third US Army #5 Louisiana Maneuvers in 1943, among other exercises. The 86th Reconnaissance Troop moved to Camp Livingston, Louisiana in January 1944 and to Camp Coke, California in September 1944. It moved to Camp San Luis Obispo, California for amphibious training in December 1944.
The unit, along with the rest of the 86th Division, staged at Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts on 5 February 1945, and shipped for France on 19 February 1945. The unit arrived at Le Havre on 1 March 1945 and acclimated, trained, and then moved to Koln, Germany. There it participated in the relief of the 8th Infantry Division in defensive positions near Weiden between 28 and 29 March 1945. The unit found itself at Salzburg on 7 May 1945. While in Europe, the unit participated in amphibious assaults across the Danube, Bigge, Altmuhl, Isar, Inn, Mittel-Isar, and Salzach rivers in Germany and Austria. The division received the Central Europe campaign streamer, and during its few combat months was assigned to the First, Third, Seventh, and Fifteenth US Armies.
The unit was then sent back stateside to prepare for operation in the Pacific, arriving back in New York City on 17 June 1945, and proceeded to Fort Gruber in Braggs, Oklahoma before staging at Camp Stoneman at Pittsburg, California, on 14 August 1945. The unit shipped out from San Francisco on 21 August 1945 and arrived in the Philippines on 7 September 1945, 5 days after the Japanese surrender. On 10 October 1945, the 86th Reconnaissance Troop, (Mechanized) was again redesignated the 86th Mechanized Reconnaissance Troop, before finally being inactivated on 30 December 1946 in the Philippines. There it had performed occupation duty after arriving in September 1945.
However the 86th Mechanized Reconnaissance Troop was reactivated again on 9 July 1952 as part of the Army Reserve. Finally on 20 May 1963, the 3rd Platoon, 86th Reconnaissance Troop was converted and redesignated as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate). It was concurrently relieved from assignment to the 86th Infantry Division, and allotted to the Regular Army. It was formally activated on 1 July 1963 at Fort Richardson, Alaska as part of US Army Alaska.
After its reactivation, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was organized as part of the Reorganization Objective Army Division (ROAD) force structure with one light infantry Battalion, one mechanized infantry battalion, and one tank company. Its shoulder sleeve insignia was authorized for use on 28 August 1963 and its distinctive unit insignia was authorized on 8 June 1966. The Brigade was reorganized from mechanized infantry to light infantry on 30 June 1969, with a reduction to 2 light infantry battalions.
The Brigade was reassigned to Forces Command on 1 July 1974 and was reorganized again to include 3 light infantry battalions. The unit was reorganized once more in 1978 to a structure that included one infantry battalion, one mechanized infantry battalion, and one tank battalion, before it was finally inactivated on 15 April 1986 at Fort Richardson, Alaska. There its personnel were reflagged as elements of the 6th Infantry Division (Light). The 6th Infantry Division (Light) had 2 active brigades and a round-out brigade in the US Army Reserve.
The 1st Brigade, 6th Infantry Division (Light) was reflagged as the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) on 17 April 1998, which was concurrently reactivated. On 1 July 1998, US Army Alaska's 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) took on the role of US Pacific Command's (USPACOM's) Initial Entry Force (IEF). The IEF, designed for Force XXI missions that required battalion-sized or smaller forces, was to be tasked with responding rapidly to 3 types of crises: humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and permissive Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEOs). The 3 light infantry battalions of the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) shared the IEF mission on a 3-month rotational basis. The IEF provided the USPACOM commander with an efficient, flexible force that could be deployed rapidly throughout the USPACOM area of operations. The IEF accomplished small contingency missions, making it unnecessary to reorganize the Division Ready Brigade (DRB) of the 25th Infantry Division (Light), in Hawaii. The DRB mission remained a requirement in US Army Pacific, which mobilized in brigade-sized elements for larger operations and sustained combat operations.
At that time, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was uniquely qualified for the IEF mission. The 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) had its own airborne infantry battalion in addition to 2 light infantry battalions. Furthermore, it had a field artillery battalion and a support battalion. The 172nd Infantry Brigade Separate was also supported by an aviation battalion (4th Battalion, 123rd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska). The unique pool of assets allowed the IEF to tailor the force package to fit in a specified number of airframes and to accomplish the mission at hand.
In July 2001 the Army announced that the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate), with elements at Forts Wainwright and Richardson in Alaska and the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light), Schofield Barracks, Hawaii were among the next locations for the stationing of what was then known as the Interim Brigade Combat Teams as a part of Army Transformation. These brigade transformations were conditional upon the outcome of an Army Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that was completed in the fall of 2001. The Interim Force, which would include the Alaska and Hawaii Brigades, would be fielded with the Interim Armored Vehicle (IAV; later named the Stryker).
The 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was originally slated to deploy for a 66-month period to the Sinai region of Egypt in July 2002 as part of the US portion of the Multinational Force and Observers mission there. As of mid-April 2002, the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, of the Oregon National Guard, was preparing to assume that deployment, in order to free up the active-duty 172nd Infantry Brigade for other possible missions related to the War on Terrorism.
The US Army announced on 5 May 2003, that the third Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT; previously known as the Interim Brigade Combat Team), the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate), US Army Alaska, would be the first Army unit manned under the Unit Manning Initiative instead of the pre-existing personnel system of individual replacements. Unit manning the 172nd Infantry Brigade would aim to provide the Army with an important opportunity to develop and implement evolving personnel policies tailored to both building and regenerating SBCTs.
The Army hoped to gain important insights for unit manning Objective Force units in support of the Army's Transformation Campaign Plan. Unit manning would also enable the Army to convert existing units into Objective Force units in conjunction with fielding of Future Combat Systems (FCS). The goal was a trained and ready Alaska SBCT deployable for operations from the time of its initial operating capability (IOC) in summer, 2005 and beyond.
In May 2004 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment was the first unit in the Brigade to receive the Stryker vehicle. Soldiers were excited about the new equipment. Stryker Brigades were intended to provide the Army with a lethal, deployable, survivable, and mobile force featuring 10 variants of the Stryker vehicle. These forces were designed to fill a capability gap between the Army's light forces and the heavy forces then still equipped with the M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.
A new 23 million dollar facility formally opened on 22 April 2004. The Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF) provided state-of-the-art military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training to all US Army Alaska (USARAK) soldiers, and greatly enhanced the readiness of the USARAK's newly formed SBCT. The dedication ceremony included dignitaries from Alaska's Congressional delegation, Brigade personnel and leadership, as well as local community leaders. The facility included infrared digital cameras to record training events, pop-up targets, and a 25 acre built-up area that resembled a typical third-world village.
As part of the modular transformation, the Brigade gained an organic cavalry squadron, 4-14th Cavalry, and its organic support battalion was reorganized and redesignated as the 172nd Brigade Support Battalion. It retained its 3 infantry battalions, 2-1st Infantry, 1-17th Infantry, and 1-501st Parachute Infantry (Airborne), along with its artillery battalion, 4-11th Field Artillery, though all were reorganized to the new modular force structure. Its mission was to, on order, deploy worldwide, secure a lodgment, and conduct military operations in support of US national interests. Despite the transformation, the unit remained designated the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate). In July 2005, the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment was inactivated and relieved from assignment to the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate). It was subsequently reassigned to the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and reactivated at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
In addition, prior to 2005, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) had been nominally considered to be a component of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, as its round out brigade, part of the structure for Force XXI light divisions. This also connected the Brigade nominally to XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. However, this alignment ended when 10th Mountain Division began its own modular transformation and stood up organic 3rd and 4th Brigade Combat Teams.
In August 2005, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit deployed to Mosul, Iraq. Its tour was to have ended on 27 July 2006, but the US Army unexpectedly extended its deployment until the end of November 2006.
After its return from Iraq, on 14 December 2006, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was inactivated and reflagged as the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. On 16 March 2008, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Germany was inactivated and reflagged as the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) as part of a realignment of US forces in Germany and the transforamtion of the 1st Infantry Division to the US Army's modular force structure. 7 units in total from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry were reflagged as part of the new Brigade, organized as a legacy heavy brigade combat team. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry became Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 172nd Infantry Brigade. 1-18th Infantry and 1-26th Infantry were reflagged as 1-2nd Infantry and 2-28th Infantry respectively. 1-77th Armor was reflagged as 3-66th Armor, while 1-7th Field Artillery was reflagged as 1-77th Field Artillery. E Troop, 4th Cavalry was reflagged as E Troop, 5th Cavalry. Lastly, the 299th Forward Support Battalion was reflagged as the 172nd Support Battalion. The 172nd Infantry Brigade, organized a again as a pre-modular separate brigade, also gained 9th Engineer Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Company, and 57th Signal Company.
On 12 January 2012, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that as part of a new, 10-year defense strategy announced by President Barack Obama earlier in the month, which emphasized air-sea doctrine to better allow the United States to confront more than one threat at a time, the Army would withdraw 2 brigade combat teams from Europe, while retaining a strong presence in the region via rotational units. On 16 February 2012, the Department of Defense outlined the force posture adjustments. This plan involved inactivating the 172nd Infantry Brigade at Grafenwoehr, Germany in early FY14. Approximately 3,850 soldiers who were deployed in Afghanistan at the time of the annoucement would still redeploy in the summer of 2012 to Germany. Most soldiers and associated families could expect to move in summer 2013, likely to US locations, though some could expect to be reassigned within Europe.
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