1st Battalion - 180th Field Artillery
1st Battalion, 180th Field Artillery is currently the direct support artillery of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The 1-180th Field Artillery is an Arizona Army National Guard battalion, round-out to the famous 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, currently assigned the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) mission at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California.
The 11th ACR is tasked with training America's Army to face the toughest opponents in world and win. This assignment makes the 1-180th FA a truly unique organization. In addition to the typical role of a self-propelled direct support artillery battalion, 1-180th Field Artillery also trains as the opposing force (OPFOR) artillery at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. This dual mission requires mastery ofr both US and OPFOR tactics and techniques for delivering decisive fire support.
Since joining the "Blackhorse", the battalion has participated in the 1997 Advance Warfighting Experiment and a follow-up rotations in the summer of 1998, 1999 and 2000. During this period, the battalion earned two "Hamby First Class" unit awards for actions on the battlefield. During 2001 the unit trained in both OPFOR and standard US Army tactics to participate in both NTC OPFOR missions and as BLUFOR in rotations at Fort Stewart, GA in preparation for a Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana in 2003.
With over 500 soldiers assigned, as part of the OPFOR, the battalion is authorized to wear the complete OPFOR uniform, including the black berets and desert camouflage uniforms. In TY00, the battalion went back to the NTC to fight as a battalion in rotation 00-09 against the 218th Separate Infantry Brigade, an Enhanced Brigade from the South Carolina National Guard. Meanwhile, the Fire Support Detachment fought alongside the 218th as BLUFOR. In TY01, the battalion sent its batteries to the NTC to participate in split-battery rotations, supporting the Forward Security Elements of the Regiment as it provided a "world-class training experience" for the BLUFOR training units. The Fire Supporters participated in two BLUFOR CTC exercises - one at the NTC and one at the JRTC.
The battalion's M109 howitzers have been updated to the M109A5 versions, the TOE has changed to that of a direct support 3X6 battalion - complete with a substantial Fire Support Element equipped with the M981 Fire Support Vehicle. A Battery was moved to Tucson and B Battery was moved into Phoenix.
The 1st Battalion, 180th Field Artillery, has a history of which members, past present and future may be justly proud. It has served the State of Arizona and the United States since 1921. During World War II, the battalion was actively engaged in three campaigns in Europe.
The Battalion traces its lineage back to Battery B, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Arizona Army National Guard. This Battery was constituted on 16 July 1919, and was federally recognized on 24 March 1921 in Mesa, Arizona.
On 19 OCT 1921, the battery was redesignated as Battery E, 2nd Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment, thereby becoming part of the later famed 45th Infantry Division. This battery was originally equipped with horse-drawn 75-mm guns, model 1897 - the 'French 75' of World War I fame. In 1933, the battery was motorized and went to summer camp at Flagstaff, AZ in four Chevrolet trucks and one station wagon.
On 16 SEP 1940, Battery E was inducted into federal service in Mesa as part of the 45th Division, the battery soon joined the parent regiment and division at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
After a period of intensive training at Fort Sill, and at Camp Barkley, Texas, and maneuvers in Texas and Louisiana, the 2nd Battalion 158th Field Artillery Regiment, including many of the initial men in Battery E, were ordered to the Panama Canal zone. On 4 JAN 1942, nearly sixteen months after their mobilization, the battalion embarked from New Orleans, and arrived in Panama on 10 JAN 1942. In Panama, the battalion was outfitted with 105-mm howitzers.
On 22 FEB 1942, the 2nd Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment was redesignated the 207th Field Artillery Battalion, and Battery E became Battery B. Almost a year and half later, after rugged service in the jungles of Panama, the battalion was ordered back to the States. On 15 JUN 1943, it departed from Quarry Heights, Canal Zone, on the Army Transport 'George Washington', and arrived in San Francisco on 25 JUN.
In California, the battalion again underwent intensive training at Fort Ord and at Hunter Liggett Military Reservation. Also after some 23 years as Light Artillery, the battalion was reorganized on 1 FEB 1944 as a tractor drawn 8" Howitzer Battalion.
The time had now arrived to head toward the Shooting War across the ocean. On 20 JUL 1944, the battalion arrived at Camp Shanks, New York, and less than a month later on 14 AUG the battalion boarded the transport "Aquatania" and crossed the Atlantic to England. After a short month in England to complete equipping, the battalion arrived in France on 8 SEP 1944, D-Day plus 94.
The 207th Field Artillery Battalion fought in France, Belgium and Germany. It was credited with participating in the campaigns of Northern France, Central Europe and the Rhineland. The battalion remained in the European theater of Operations until 5 NOV 1945, when it departed form Marseille, France, on the transport "Westerly Victory". During its time in Europe, the battalion was assigned to III Corps and then to the 9th Army. The battalion arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 14 NOV 1945 and was inactivated there two days later.
Less than one year later the history of the Arizona Artillery resumed. It began on 24 JUN 1946 when Battery B, 207th Field Artillery Battalion was expanded to battalion size and designated the 480th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm Howitzer). The first units to receive federal recognition were the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery and the Service Battery, both located in Mesa. They received federal recognition on 9 JUL 1947. The battalion grew rapidly adding the following units: Battery B at Casa Grande, on 22 OCT 1947, Battery A at Chandler on 23 OCT 1947 and Battery C at Tempe on 23 MAR 1948.
On 1 MAR 1959, the battalion was reorganized as a 155-mm Howitzer (towed) battalion, and redesignated the 1st Howitzer Battalion, 180th Artillery. In September 1959, the battalion traded in their '105's and were issued the 155mm howitzers along with 5-ton cargo trucks and prime movers. On 1 MAR 1963, the battalion was redesignated as a self-propelled 155-mm howitzer battalion, although the towed equipment had to be maintained as a substitute for self-propelled howitzers.
On 10 DEC 1967, the battalion again reorganized under a new TOE which increased the unit's equipment and strength. This latest reorganization redesignated the organization as the 1st Battalion, 180th Artillery. In October 1969 the battalion traded in three of their nine 155-mm (towed) and were issued three M109 155-mm howitzers (self-propelled).
The 1st Battalion has played the role of "Thunder Horse," the opposing force field artillery at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA. The opposing force, or "OPFOR," is a world class opponent for the U.S. Army forces who train at the post. A full battalion-sized training rotation was conducted in July 1998, followed by three smaller battery-sized rotations in January, March and June 1999.
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