1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry deploys rapidly worldwide by air, land, or sea, occupies an ISB, and on order, conducts air assault or ground operations to destroy enemy forces, seize key terrain or facilities and control specific land areas including populations and resources.
The 502nd Infantry Regiment originated in July 1941, as the 502nd Parachute Battalion, an experimental unit formed to test the doctrine and tactics of parachute assault. On 2 March 1942, the unit was redesignated as the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. The 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment was activated on 1 July 1941, at Fort Benning, Georgia, and joined the 101st Airborne Division in August 1942.
The Battalion deployed to England in 1943 and participated in airborne operations during D-Day in Normandy, France. S.L.A. Marshall, the Chief Historian for the European Theater of Operations during World War II, summarized the Battalion's baptism by fire as follows: "An examination of the record and accomplishment of the First Strike Battalion, weighed critically against all others in the American Army, warrants the estimate that on D-Day, in point of fighting effectiveness and tactical scope, this was probably the outstanding battalion of the Normandy Operation."
The Battalion later participated in the largest airborne assault of the war, Operation Market Garden and, in December 1944, played a pivotal role in the Division's heroic defense at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, during which the Battalion withstood heavy armor and infantry attacks launched by surrounding German forces. For its participation in World War II, the Battalion, as part of the Regiment, received two Presidential Unit Citations, the French Croix de Guerre, the Belgian Fourragere, the Netherlands Orange Lanyard, and recognition in the Orders of the Day of the Belgian Army. After World War II, the Battalion was inactivated.
In September 1956, the O'Deuce was reactivated with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In December 1967, The First Strike Battalion deployed to Vietnam for five years. First Strike participated in twelve major campaigns and literally hundreds of unit engagements, including the 1968 Tet Offensive. In February 1972, the Battalion redeployed to its home station at Fort Campbell, having earned the Valorous Unit Citation, the Meritorious Unit Citation, and four Republic of Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry.
After the Vietnam War, the Battalion reorganized, refitted and refined modern Air Assault tactics and doctrine. During this period, the Battalion made numerous training and operational deployments worldwide including those to Panama, Jordan, Egypt, the National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center.
In August 1990, the First Strike Battalion deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From August 1990 to January 1991, the Battalion conducted desert training and continued to refine Air Assault operations for the defense of Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. On 24 February 1991, the First Strike Battalion was called on to take part in the initial spearhead into Iraq as part of the largest combat air assault operation ever conducted. The Battalion successfully secured parts of Forward Operating Bases (FOB) Cobra and Viper deep behind Iraqi lines during Operation Desert Storm.
Early in 1995, First Strike received the order to prepare to deploy to Panama in response to the Cuban migrant crisis that exploded in December 1994. By 20 February, the Battalion had executed its mission, moving 4,000 Cubans over a two-week period without incident or harm. The Battalion redeployed to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on 22 February 1995. In November 1998, the Battalion deployed 75 soldiers from C Company to El Salvador and Nicaragua in support of the humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Mitch. These soldiers returned home to Fort Campbell in January and February 1999. The First Strike Battalion also deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt in 1982 and in 1999.
The summer of 2000 saw the completion of transition training from the peace-enforcement operation associated with Multinational Forces and Observer (MFO) mission in Egypt back to war-fighting focus. The Battalion worked and trained toward ensuring wartime skills were back in order. The summer 2000 training cycle was very deliberate and focused to achieve this end. Multiple force-on-force and live-fire training and evaluation exercises were key to this. Simultaneously, the Battalion participated in numerous air assaults, gunneries, and other events. D Company was alerted by the Division on a short-notice exercise, and did an outstanding job on Mk 19 gunnery, putting steal on target with precision.
Since the summer of 2000, the Battalion was involved in a host of different events and missions, executing each in an outstanding manner. The Battalion supported the Division during the "white cycle" ensuring all taskings were executed to the highest possible standard. It conducted training and evaluation as part of the Expert Infantrymen's Badge (EIB), having a great showing with many of our soldiers receiving the coveted EIB. Many of the unit's leaders were involved in Observer/Controller duty in support of a 3d Brigade exercise during the fall of 2000 and assisted them during their rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC). The Battalion participated in the Brigade's DRB cycle and also out loaded the entire 2nd Brigade for deployment to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California in early November 2000, assisting in preparing and rail loading equipment.
The Battalion task force had a very successful rotation at the National Training Center (NTC) in November and December 2000. Completing all its assigned missions, the team did a superb job with every soldier doing their part to contribute to the overall effort. In addition to a host of force-on-force missions, the Battalion also conducted several battalion-level live fire exercises. These events included engineer support for breaching and mine reduction and indirect fire support from artillery and our own mortars. Upon completion of the rotation, the battalion redeployed to Fort Campbell for the Christmas holiday, spending the holiday as part of the DRB for the Division.
The battalion started off 2001 with a host of leader training events including standards runs for leaders, a professional development seminar for officers, a Squad/Team Leader Course, and a Master Fitness Training Program. This concentrated heavily this year on individual training of soldiers by revitalizing our Sergeant's Time Training Program and by concentrating on unit marksmanship training and qualification. The summer 2001 training cycle fired every element in the battalion, including all command and control and logistics nodes as well as squads, platoons, and companies. This included conducting several Air Assaults, and integrating AH-64 Apache Helicopter and 105mm artillery and mortar fire into squad and platoon training and evaluations.
In 2003 the 1-502nd Infantry deployed with the rest of the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004 it returned as part of the transition of the entire 101st Airborne Division to the new modular force. In 2005 it returned to Iraq with the rest of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, serving in that country through 2008.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|