3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor Regiment
In 2006 the 82nd Airborne Division began transformation to the US Army's new modular force structure. As a result all 3 existing Brigades and the newly activated 4th Brigade Combat Team all gained Cavalry Squadrons, an integral element of the Modular Brigade. 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division recieved the activated 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment. This unit traced its lineage and honors to the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor Regiment, formerly part of the 82nd Airborne Division, and inactivated in the late 1990s.
The 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armored Regiment was first constituted on 13 January 1941 in the Regular Army as the 76th Tank Battalion. This unit was redesignated on 8 May 1941 as the 756th Tank Battalion, and activated on 1 June 1941 at Fort Lewis Washington. It was inactivated 8 February 1946 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
It was activated on 1 August 1946 at Fort Benning, Georgia and reorganized and redesignated 15 January 1948 as the 756th Heavy Tank Battalion. This unit was again reorganized and redesgianted on 10 January 1949 as the 73rd Heavy Tank Battalion and assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division. It was reorganized and redesignated on 14 July 1950 as the 73rd Tank Battalion, and relieved from assignment to the 3rd Infantry Division.
It was assigned on 10 November 1951 to the 7th Infantry Division. This unit was inactivated on 1 July 1957 in Korea and relieved from assignment to the 7th Infantry Division.
It was reorganized and redesignated 2 October 1962 as the 73rd Armor, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. It was withdrawn from the Combat Arms Regimental System on 16 January 1986 and reorganized under the US Army Regimental System. Its Headquarters was placed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The M551A1 Sheridan light tank parachute airdropped into combat by the 3/73rd Armor attached to the 82d Airborne Division for Panama in 1989. The M551A1 Sheridan's last battle action was with the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 73rd Armor of the 82nd Airborne Division during the Gulf War. If the Iraqi Army had gone on the offensive against the 82nd Airborne Division, the Division's only antitank capability would have been the 3/73rd Armor, the antitank companies of the battalions, and the Dragon gunners in the line companies. When the M551A1 (TTS) vehicles were finally placed in the battlefield position that they were originally designed to dominate, the long armed Shillelagh missile system killed Iraqi armor.
Early in the evening of 18 September 1994, nearly 3,000 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were enroute to Haiti to launch Operation Restore Democracy. Aviation elements were already deployed to the nearby island of Great Inauga. Elements of the 3/73rd Armor were waiting aboard ships off the coast. When Haitian leaders heard the 82nd Airborne Division was on the way, a peace agreement was reached, and the 82nd was recalled. From 26 September to 25 October 1994, elements of the 3/73d Armor supported peacekeeping operations in Haiti.
The Army announced on 11 September 1996 the decision to inactivate the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This unit was the only light tank battalion remaining in the US Army, with the 16-ton Vietnam-era M551A1 Sheridan tank, which could be airdropped. Due to the retirement of the 30-year-old M551A1 Sheridan tank, the inactivation was expected to take place no later than 15 July 1997. This allowed an orderly inactivation to take place over a 10-month timeline decreasing undue turbulence for soldiers and their families. Some personnel were reassigned beginning in February with the majority of soldiers and families moving through June 1997.
The M551A1 Sheridan-equipped 3/73rd Armor of the 82nd Airborne Division operated one company of LAV's on loan from USMC inventory, for a year or more, prior to the Battalion inactivating. The Army was so favorably impressed that the Piranha/LAV series were being considered for a limited, off-the-shelf acquisition. The US Army had also considered replacing the M551A1 with the XM8 Armored Gun System, designed as a follow-on air-droppable armored vehicle. When neither of these options came to fruition the decision was made to inactivate the Battalion.
The decision to inactivate the unit was a tough one. Existing and planned future anti-armor assets within the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps were to ensure there was a sufficient anti-armor capability. The Division had individual man portable, shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapons like the M136 (AT-4) and Dragon, as well as vehicle-mounted, tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided (TOW) missiles. The XVIII Airborne Corps also possessed an attack helicopter brigade and could task organize its assets to augment the Division's anti-armor capability.
An Immediate Ready Company consisting of Abrams tanks and Bradley armored fighting vehicles from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia was created after the inactivation of the 3/73rd Armor, to augment the 82nd Airborne Division. The IRC, capable of being deployed by the Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III, gave flexibility, speed and lethality to early entry forces such as the 82nd Airborne Division. Risk were further decreased with the fielding of the Javelin weapon system to the Division from April 1997 through November 1998, and additional risk was expected to be decreased with the fielding of an Enhanced Fiber Optic Guided Missile Company in the future to the XVIII Airborne Corps.
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