1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, "Iron Horse," was first constituted on 29 August 1917 in the Regular Army as Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Brigade. The Brigade was organized as part of the 15th Cavalry Division in February 1918 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The Brigade's initial wartime service was patrolling the Mexican Border, where it served until it was demobilization on 14 July 1919, at Brownsville, Texas. Operating from horseback, the cavalry was the only force capable of piercing the harsh terrain of the desert to halt the band of smugglers that operated along the desolate Mexican border.
The unit was reconstituted on 20 August 1921 in the Regular Army as Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Brigade, and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division (later redesignated as the 1st Cavalry Division, Special). On 1 September 1921, the unit organized at Camp Harry J. Jones, in Douglas, Arizona.
The Brigade was reorganized and fought as infantry in the Pacific Theater of World War II, as did the entire 1st Cavalry Division. It fought on New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Philippines, earning both the United States and the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation. Moving to Japan in 1945, the unit was inactivated there on 25 March 1949 and relieved from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division, Special.
The unit was converted and redesignated as Headquarters, 1st Constabulatory Brigade on 20 May 1949, and was activated in Germany. The Brigade was relieved from assignment to the United States Constabulatory on 24 November 1950. On 15 August 1951, the unit was inactivated in Germany and was disbanded entirely on 5 December 1951.
The unit was reconstituted on 15 July 1963 in the Regular Army as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. The unit was activated on 1 September 1963 in Korea.
The 1st Brigade's colors were transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, in July 1963 as part of the reflagging of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) to the 1st Cavalry Division Airmobile. The 1st Brigade subsequently deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division later that year. Major operations included the Pleiku Campaign, Operations in War Zone C (III Corps), the Cambodian Operation, and operations throughout War Zone D. The Brigade returned to Fort Hood in July 1971. In June 1972, the Brigade received the official nickname of "Iron Horse."
The "Iron Horse" Brigade deployed as part of Operation Desert Shield in October 1990, and subsequently particpated in Operation Desert Storm. The unit conducted military operations with allied forces throughout the 6 month Gulf Campaign. The 1st Brigade redeployed to Fort Hood, Texas in April 1991.
Elements of the Brigade deployed to Guantanamo Bay between May and June 1992 for Operation Island Sentinel, to the Emirate of Kuwait for Operation Intrinsic Action, to the Republic of Korea for Exercise Foal Eagle, and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California for annual training.
The Iron Horse Brigade was the first element of the 1st Cavalry Division to transition to the Force XXI force structure and received the new M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) tank into its 2 tank battalions in addition to other modernized, digitally enhanced equipment putting it on the cutting edge of technology while maintaining the highest standards of training and soldier readiness.
In April, 1998, the Brigade was alerted for peace enforcement duty in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Stabilization Forces (SFOR) 4 on Operation Joint Forge. The Iron Horse Brigade deployed to Bosnia from August 1998 until March 1999 and was crucial to maintaining peace and stability during a very critical and potentially violent time in Bosnia where new governments were forming and the post-war tension was at its peak.
The Brigade executed their National Training Center train up between August 1999 and November 1999. The Brigade deployed to the National Training Center starting 2 January 2000. As a Brigade Combat Team (not to be confused with the modular brigade combat team), the unit executed each mission with confidence and with the warrior mentality. The BCT redeployed on 12 February 2000 without any major incidents. The Brigade Combat Team returned from the National Training Center and immediately executed a War Fighter Exercise. Upon completion of the WFX, the Brigade assumed the position as the Division Ready Brigade.
As of 19 March 2004, every soldier in 1st Brigade Combat Team was in Kuwait, preparing for the final leg of their deployment to Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The last plane, containing 74 Soldiers, landed at Camp Wolverine on 18 March 2004. Concentration shifted towards the unloading of more than 15,000 pieces of equipment from ships in the Sea Port of Debarkation. As of 25 March 2004, 1st Brigade Combat Team deployed over 3,175 soldiers to Kuwait to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2. It took 6 days to deploy the entire Brigade Combat Team.
The Brigade Combat Team was involved in the heaviest fighting in Baghdad up to that point since the initial invasion. The attacks by anti-coalition militias in their area of responsibility was largely a result of the closing of the cleric Muqtada Sadr's newspaper and the capture of one of his key aides. Those two key events happened just after the 1st Brigade Combat Team arrived and were transitioning with the outgoing unit. During its time in Iraq the Iron Horse Brigade Combat Team fought full spectrum of operations on a daily basis on its streets, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements and equipping the Iraqi Security Forces.
As of May 2004, the 1st Brigade Combat team was beginning to really get into rebuilding Iraq. Colonel Abrams conducted a press conference about the $51 million dollars of work that the 1st Brigade Combat Team was about to undertake. They started renovating the sewer systems of the Sadr City district in Baghdad. Also, a weapons buyback program was implemented by the 1st Brigade Combat Team. Despite many who thought it would fail, it turned out to be an amazing success. Lines were around the corner before it even opened. $1.35 million were bought back in weapons from Iraqis. This was very important, as it was over 70,000 weapons and rounds of ammunition that could not be used against US soldiers.
More than 3 tons of ordnance was turned into Coalition forces during a weapons rewards program in the Thawra district. The program, which began on 15 May 2004, was aimed to disarm the local populace while infusing money into the economy. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment; and 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment provided security for the weapons turn-in sites while the 1st Brigade Combat Team was inundated with thousands of weapons and tons of explosives and munitions. The task of handling, sorting, transporting, and destroying the large amount of ordnance was shouldered by 5 specialized Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams and the soldiers of the 20th Engineer Battalion. Ordinarily, the 1st Brigade Combat Team was allocated 2 Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams. However, for this undertaking, the Brigade requested assistance from the Air Force and Navy. The EOD teams disposed of most of the weapons turned in; however, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps redistributed a large number of the weapons for their use.
In March of 2005, the 1st Brigade redeployed back to Fort Hood, Texas and began the task of preparing for reorganization to the US Army's modular force structure. Headquarters, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division was reorganized and redesignated on 17 October 2005 as Headquarters, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, with Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division thereafter having a separate lineage. Through the rest of 2005 and into 2006, the Brigade reorganized to a Heavy Brigade Combat Team. As a part of this transformation, various elements previously held at division level, but habitually attached to the 1st Brigade during operations were made to the reorganized and redesignated 1st Brigade Combat Team. As a result, 2-5th and 2-8th Cavalry remained assigned to the Brigade. The Brigade also gained an organic cavalry squadron, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry; an organic field artillery battalion, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery; and an organic support battalion, the 115th Brigade Support Battalion. In addition, a Brigade Special Troops Battalion was activated to take over functions previously filled by elements of the 20th Engineer Battalion, 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, 13th Signal Battalion, 68th Chemical Company, and 545th Military Police Company. In the modular force structure, Air Defense Artillery assets were removed to Corps level.
In October 2006, the reorganized Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. Taking over the largest and one of the most populated areas in Multi-National Division - Baghdad, the Iron Horse Brigade Combat Team was an integral part of the surge operation in Baghdad. The initial focus on combat operations provided a safe, stable, and secure environment which allowed reconciliation efforts of both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders and led to a significant expansion of Iraqi Security Forces, local government, and infrastructure improvement followed by a flourishing economic and cultural growth.
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