4th Battalion, 160th Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne)
D Company, 160th Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne)
In late 2008, the 4th Battalion, 160th Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne), better known as 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, was activated at Fort Lewis, Washington. At that time the Battalion had some 400 personnel in 5 companies, consisting of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2 heavy assualt helicopter companies with the MH-47G helicopter, one medium assualt helicopter company with the MH-60L helicopter, and a maintenance company.
4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was first constituted on 1 April 1982 in the Regular Army as Company D, 160th Aviation Battalion, an element of the 101st Airborne Division. The unit was activated on 16 October 1986 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the 160th Aviation Battalion was concurrently relieved from assignment to the 101st Airborne Division.
In early 1987, as part of the implementation of Initiative 17, the US Air Force began a drawdown of its 5 UH-1N Hueys based at Howard Air Force Base, Panama. To fill that void, the 129th Special Operations Aviation Company began rotating a platoon of aircraft to Howard Air Force Base in October 1987. That rotation was the genesis of the 617th Special Operations Aviation Detachment.
For 18 months, the 129th Special Operations Aviation Company provided the personnel, equipment and training needed to stand up the 617th Special Operations Aviation Detachment. In March 1989, after having officially accepted the transfer of 5 aircraft from the 129th Special Operations Aviation Company, the 617th Special Operations Aviation Detachment stood on its own.
Company D, 160th Aviation Battalion was reorganized and redesignated 16 January 1988 as Company D, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, as part of the reorganization and redesignation of the 160th Aviation Battalion as the 160th Aviation Regiment, a parent regiment under the United States Army Regimental System in 16 January 1988. In late 1988, as part of the same reorganization, the Army reflagged the 129th Special Operations Aviation Company as Company A, 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Company D, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was redesignated on 28 June 1990 as Company A, 160th Aviation and inactivated on 15 November 1993 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Company A, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was redesignated on 16 June 1995 as Company D, 160th Aviation, and activated in Panama. Concurrently, the 617th Special Operations Aviation Detachment was reflagged as Company D, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Following the withdrawal of US forces from Panama, the unit moved to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico in 1999.
At that time, D Company was composed of 5 MH-60L Blackhawks, 64 soldiers, and 25 civilians, and was task-organized as though it were a small battalion. The company had 4 platoons: headquarters platoon, airborne platoon, aviation-maintenance platoon, and flight platoon. Forward basing of D Company offered several advantages. First, D Company was based with the units that it is designed to support. Second, whether training at Roosevelt Roads or deployed during joint and combined exchange training, counterdrug operations or other missions directed by US Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), the aviation and ground SOF units formed a joint combined-arms team that offered the Commander in Chief a capability that was second to none. Third, aggressive training and rehearsals with other special operations forces units had firmly established D Company's joint tactics, techniques and procedures.
One of the most important advantages of forward basing Company was that its members had become better able to communicate with the populations of the countries in which the Company was operating. D Company's aggressive language-training program required all soldiers to attend some level of instruction in Spanish. Spanish instruction ranged from courses at the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, to immersion in countries such as Costa Rica and Ecuador.
Another advantage to forward basing was that the commander of SOCSOUTH could deploy the Company, with the Commander in Chief's approval, on humanitarian-relief operations and on search-and-rescue (SAR) missions within the area of responsibility. In 1997 and 1998, D Company conducted 2 SAR missions involving Costa Rican citizens, one lost in the jungle and one lost at sea. In both instances, D Company helicopters lifted off within 3 hours after notification and assisted with the successful recoveries of the victims.
During humanitarian-relief operations for Hurricane Georges in 1998, D Company personnel deployed from Panama to the Dominican Republic within 3 hours after notification, and they were conducting on-site relief operations within 36 hours after notification. During Hurricane Mitch, also in 1998, 2 MH-60Ls deployed within 3 hours after notification and conducted relief coordination in Honduras the same day. Days later, the helicopters were still flying relief missions in El Salvador and Guatemala.
In July 1999, D Company received notification to deploy from its base in Puerto Rico with ground troops to recover a US Army Airborne Reconnaissance, Low (ARL) aircraft that had crashed into a mountainside in southern Colombia while on a counter-narcotics mission. Even though the crash site was in extremely rugged terrain, the mission was critical. Alerted during the night, D Company aircrews crossed the Caribbean in darkness and flew through the Andes mountains the following day. The company successfully recovered and evacuated the bodies of their fellow Army aviators.
Later in 1999, the Company deployed as part of Operation Fundamental Response to help victims of Venezuelan mudslides. Within 18 hours after notification, personnel of D Company landed in Maiquetia, Venezuela.
In late 2005, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment activated a provisional fourth battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. On 7 June 2006, the US Army announced the relocation of F Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment to Fort Lewis, Washington, as well as the activation of G Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment there. On 6 December 2006, Fort Lewis, Washington hosted an activation ceremony for the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, where the colors of the new Battalion were unveiled. Company D, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. F and G Companies, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment were inactivated and reflagged as companies of the new Battalion.
In late 2009, E Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was inactivated and reflagged as an element of the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The Company had been forward deployed in the Republic of Korea and the 4th Battalion was to take on a Pacific region focus in order to continue providing special operations aviation support in there.
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