Military


96th Regional Readiness Command "Deadeye"
96th Regional Support Command

The United States Army 96th Regional Readiness Command is seven-thousand soldiers who live and work in the many communities of the upper plains states and the intermountain west. The 96th Regional Readiness Command is a general officer command, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. It has Command and Control over Army Reserve units in a six-state area (Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming). The 96th Regional Readiness Command has 6,000 citizen-soldiers in these six states [as of 1999 96th RSC had approximately 7,000 soldiers serving in about 100 units, located in 33 cities]. The 96TH RRC is the largest geographical command in the continental United States. The six states encompass more than 572-thousand square miles.

For command and control, the majority of the units are assigned to one of three subordinate headquarters: the 650th Area Support Group in Salt Lake City, Utah, the 651st Area Support Group in Denver, Colorado, and the 652nd Area Support Group in Helena, Montana. The 96th RRC reports directly to the U.S. Army Reserve Command in Atlanta, Georgia. It carries the military lineage of the famed World War II 96th Infantry Division. Twenty reserve units from this command deployed to the Gulf War of 1990-91, four units supported peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, and one unit was deployed to Kosovo. Many soldiers from the RSC supported Operation NOBLE EAGLE, post-11 September homeland defense.

The 96th Infantry Division was first organized in October 1918, during the U.S. mobilization for World War One, although hostilities ended before it could be sent to France. The 96th Infantry Division was organized in the First World War "National Army" on 20 October 1918 at Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina. This was the mobilization force formed after the pre-war Regular Army was sent to France and the National Guard called into federal service. The 96th was one of the last divisions activated and the war ended before it could be deployed. It was thus demobilized on 7 January 1919. After the war the Army created the "Organized Reserves" (OR) to manage reserve officers and enlisted men and to serve as a mobilization base for any future conflict. The Division was reconstituted in the OR on 24 June 1921 at Portland, Oregon. During the 1920s and 1930s, the 96th conducted summer training for its own reservists, and supported Citizens Military Training and Civilian Conservation Corps Camps in the Pacific Northwest.

The 96th assumed a more active role in the summer of 1942, after the U.S. entry into the Second World War. The Division's organic combat elements, the 381st, 382nd, and 383rd Infantry Regiments; 361st, 362nd, 363rd, and 921st Field Artillery Battalions; and the 321st Engineer Battalion, were activated 15 August 1942 at Camp Adair, Oregon. The Organized Reserve divisions were known as "draftee divisions." Like their National Army predecessors, they had no pre-war combat strength and were filled up with post-Pearl Harbor draftees. By February 1943 individual basic training was complete. The Division's nickname, "The Deadeyes," was coined in reference to the Division Commander, MG James L. Bradley's, emphasis on individual rifle marksmanship. After an initial period of turbulence, the Division stabilized its personnel, losing relatively few men via transfers to other programs, cadres to form new units, or as replacements for divisions already overseas. In the spring of 1944, the 96th received 2000 soldiers from the discontinued Army Specialized Training Program to fill out vacancies in rifle and weapons platoons. These men, who scored in the Army's highest aptitude grades, proved in combat to be highly motivated and resourceful soldiers.

The 96th Infantry Division trained in Hawaiian Islands, July to September 1944, before entering combat in an assault landing in Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands, between Tanauan and Dulag, 20 October 1944. Enemy resistance in the beachhead area was quickly broken and the Division had advanced to and secured the Tanauan-Dagami-Tabontabon sector by 9 November after heavy fighting. The Division continued to wipe out resistance on the island, engaging in small unit actions, patrolling, probing, and wiping out pockets of Japanese. Chalk Ridge was taken, 12 December 1944, and major organized resistance was at an end by Christmas Day. The next 3 months were spent in mopping up, security duty, training, and loading for the coming invasion of Okinawa. The Division left the Philippines, 27 March 1945, for Okinawa, making an assault landing on the island, 1 April 1945. The landing was unopposed and a beachhead was established near Sunabe, 1-3 April. Resistance stiffened considerably as the Division advanced to gakazu Ridge, where fighting was fierce, 7-16 April. The 96th assaulted and cracked the fanatically defended enemy defense line, TanabaruNishibaru, 17-23 April, and after advancing slightly against extremely determined resistance, was relieved, 30 April, by the 77th Infantry Division. The Division trained and rested, 1-9 May, while elements mopped up bypassed enemy pockets and then returned to the offensive, 10 May, attacking and capturing Conical-Sugar Hill Ridge, 21 May, thus breaking the right flank of the Shuri defenses. Heavy rains the following week slowed down the advance. The offensive was resumed, 30 May, against weakening enemy resistance; Japanese north of Yonabaru-Shuri-Naha Road area were cleared out. Resistance stiffened again, 3 June, and Laura Hill was taken, 14 June 1945, only after a bloody fight; the last important Japanese defense position, the Yuza-Dake, Yaeju-Dake Hill mass, was secured by 17 June, and on 22 June all resistance was declared at an end. The Division patrolled an area from Chan to Ogusuku until 30 June. After resting in July, the Division left Okinawa for Mindoro, in the Philippines, and engaged in a training program. The Division left the Philippines, 17 January 1946, for the United States.

In 1946, it again became an administrative headquarters, and in 1996 after several reorganizations within the U.S. Army Reserve was re-designated the U.S. Army 96th Regional Support Command.

As in all of its previous conflicts, the United States rapidly demobilized after the Second World War. However, the Korean War of 1950-53 and an intensifying Cold War caused a military buildup that lasted until after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Gulf War of 1990-91. Throughout these years the National Guard and Army Reserve served as the nation's mobilization base and pool of trained military talent. Reservists experienced many changes as the President, Congress, and the Army's leadership sought to achieve the best mix of active and reserve components within what eventually became "One Army."

In 1947, the Reserve components contained 28 National Guard and 25 Organized Reserve combat divisions. For the Korean Emergency, 8 guard divisions and 54 Organized Reserve units were mobilized and 240,500 individual reservists were called up, with many serving in Korea as individual replacements. Seven Medals of Honor (five posthumously) went to "OR" soldiers, along with roughly ten percent of all other combat decorations.

The 96th Division was again activated as an Organized Reserve division in the Sixth U.S. Army area on 31 December 1946 at Helena, Montana, with personnel from the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Nevada. However, recruiting for the OR was a "hard sell." Before 1948, reservists were not given drill pay, nor did many units have dedicated drill armories or training facilities. The intensification of the Cold War and the outbreak of the Korean War persuaded Congress to authorize drill assembly pay, grant retirement benefits, and build a network of red brick "drill halls." Manning levels remained low until increased post-1950 draft call-ups generated renewed interest in local service in the Guard and reserves.

Even with increased recruitment, it proved impossible to retain all 25 Organized Reserve divisions.

The first cut came in 1955, when 14 were reorganized into mobilization replacement training centers, or "maneuver area commands," leaving only 10, among them the 96th, as true infantry mobilization assets. The Berlin Crisis of 1961 saw 113,254 officers and enlisted men called to active duty, including two National Guard divisions that remained in the U.S. to bolster the nation's strategic reserve until mid-1962.

The 96th Division relocated its headquarters several times between 1946 and the early 1960s, moving to Fort Douglas, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in September 1962. At the same time, the Army decided to reduce the number of reserve divisions to six, one for each Army area. The 96th Division ceased to be a combat unit and become a "Command Headquarters" with administrative responsibility for fifty-two subordinate units throughout the Rocky Mountain West. By 1967 most combat arms units had been shifted to the National Guard, leaving only combat support and service support organizations in the Army Reserve. In December of 1967 the 96th Command Headquarters became an Army Reserve Command or "ARCOM."

An expanding war in Southeast Asia after the spring of 1965 created a dilemma for President Lyndon B. Johnson and the leadership of the Army. To what extent should the U.S. rely on reserve component units or individual reservists to fight in Vietnam or buttress our overall strategic posture in the U.S. and Europe? President Johnson decided to avoid "alarming" the voting public by mobilizing reserve units before 1968, relying instead on increased draft calls to replace casualties and soldiers rotating home from combat units in Vietnam after the completion of their one-year tour. This created a situation in which membership in a reserve component gave an individual substantial protection against a draft call-up and subsequent combat service in Southeast Asia. After the Pueblo crisis of January 1968 and subsequent Tet Offensive, President Johnson yielded to the pressure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and mobilized a small number of Army Reserve combat service support units. Among these was the 259th Quartermaster Battalion (Petroleum), located in Pleasant Grove, Orem, and Provo, Utah. Mobilized in March 1968, the battalion trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and deployed to the I Corps region of South Vietnam. On its redeployment to the U.S. in September 1969, the 259th was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

In March 1971, the states of Wyoming, Colorado and both of the Dakotas were added to the 96th ARCOM, making it geographically the largest Army Reserve command in the United States. Two years later a six-state configuration was created when the ARCOM lost both Dakotas and gained New Mexico.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs were able to convince Congress and Presidents Carter and Reagan that the active and reserve components needed to be unified into "One Army." This would have three benefits. First, an upgrading of the equipment and personnel status of the reserve components would reduce post-mobilization, pre-deployment times in the event of a large conflict against the Warsaw Pact in Western Europe. Secondly, if reserve units achieved a higher state of readiness the Army could pass more of its combat support and combat service support strength to the reserves, creating a leaner "tooth-to-tail ratio" in the active components. And finally, if the reserves were fully integrated into contingency planning no future president could commit U.S. forces to combat abroad without a broad supporting consensus between Congress and the American people. The mobilization of reserves thus became a "litmus test" of domestic support for any significant U.S. military effort overseas.

This policy was reflected in Presidents Carter's creation of a "Rapid Deployment Force" in 1982 for possible use to protect Middle Eastern oil fields from external attack, a force in which reserve component units were well represented.

Another major Army reorganization in October 1984, returned the ARCOM to its 1971, seven-state area of responsibility.

Integration of active and reserve component units led to numerous reserve mobilizations during the Gulf War. The 96th ARCOM had 20 units activated for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm between the fall of 1990, and through the winter and spring of 1991. These units provided engineering, logistic support, medical evacuation, and military police support to the Gulf War. Between September 1990 and February 1991, the 96th ARCOM called up over 3000 of its reservists in twenty organizations. Thirteen went to the Gulf region and four to Europe, while three performed support missions in the US. The 96th ARCOM provided the only Reserve infantry unit activated for Desert Storm, the 3/87th Infantry Battalion. It too was inactivated during the 1995-96 reorganization of the Army Reserve.

After the Gulf War the reserve system had to deal with two new, complex realities. First, the reserves underwent considerable turbulence because of downsizing in both the active and reserve components that followed the end of the Cold War. While some units were deactivated, others were transferred into the reserves from the active component. Additionally, reserve units within the 96th continued to be mobilized to support Peacekeeping Operations in the Balkans: the 5502nd U.S.A. Hospital and 358th Public Affairs Detachment (twice), 452nd Ordnance Company and 50th Military History Detachment (two deployments).

In April 1996, the U.S. Army Reserve underwent a major reorganization reducing the continental U.S.-based Army Reserve Command headquarters from 19 to 10. The new commands were re-designated as U.S. Army Regional Support Commands (RSCs). The 96th RSC's boundaries were modified to align with those of the 8th Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region boundaries. The 96th RSC lost command of the Idaho Army Reserve units during this change.

In April 1997, the 348th Quartermaster Detachment (Water Purification) was activated under FEMA orders to provide purified water to the North Dakota flood victims. They were assisted by five other 96th water units which changed the dates and location of their annual training mission to provide this much needed assistance to the citizens of Grand Forks. In January 1999, three members of the 358th Public Affairs Detachment went to Central America in support of the U.S. relief efforts following Hurricane Mitch. Four other 96th units prepared to perform their 1999 annual training in Central America to aid in the relief mission there.

The terrorism of 11 September 2001 brought new challenges to the reserve components in the area of "homeland defense." The soldiers of the 96th began to meet those challenges, with the partial mobilization of the 5025th Garrison Support Unit at Fort Carson, Colorado. Eleven units received partial mobilization orders in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE and security for the 2002 Winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In late 2003 all Regional Support Commands were re-designated to Regional Readiness Commands.

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Fort Douglas, UT by disestablishing the 96th Regional Readiness Command. This recommendation was part of a larger recommendation to re-engineer and streamline the Command and Control structure of the Army Reserves that would create the Northwest Regional Readiness Command at Fort McCoy, WI.



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