159th Combat Aviation Brigade
159th Aviation Brigade (Assault)
Soldiers, families and friends of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), gathered at the division parade field 07 May 2015 to conduct the final official ceremony in the brigade's history. After 18 years of service, the 159th CAB colors were cased at the ceremony by Col. Jimmy Blackmon, the final brigade commander of the 159th CAB "Thunder Brigade," and retired Col. Bob Freeman, the honorary colonel of the brigade, signifying a conclusion to the legacy of this historic aviation unit.
With several subordinate units that traced their lineage back to Vietnam, the 159th CAB has provided aviation support to the 101st Abn. Div. in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, Trinidad and Tobago, and Central America. More recently, the 159th CAB played an active role in both Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2005, and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002, 2008, 2011 and 2014. The brigade had aircraft and crews participate in Operation Anaconda in March 2002, where it provided lift and assault capabilities during the early stages of OEF.
In 2003, the 159th also conducted the largest Air Assault operation in history by carrying fellow Screaming Eagles into northern Iraq in the seize of Mosul, where the division would later make its primary base of operations. Most recently, the brigade returned from deployment in September 2014 where it provided general aviation support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during its pivotal presidential elections in April 2014.
"We often quote our first commanding general, William C. Lee, at the dawn of World War II, for saying that the 101st has no history, but a rendezvous with destiny, but we don't always pay enough attention to that full order in which he said, 'the history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division,'" said Blackmon. "Having served seven years in this great brigade, I think that I am qualified to say that the Thunder Warriors of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade have indeed forged a record of high achievement in the annals of the American Army."
After the 159th CAB inactivated, many 159th CAB Soldiers and units remained with the 101st Abn. Div. and their sister aviation brigade, the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. Other Soldiers were redistributed around the Army for future assignments.
The mission of the 159th Aviation Brigade is to deploy worldwide within 36 hours notification and conduct air assault and air movement operations in support of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the XVIII Airborne Corps contingency missions. As of 2008 the Brigade was composed of 3 battalions of the 101st Aviation Regiment, 3rd Battalion ("Attack!"), 4th Battalion ("Wings of the Eagle"), and 7th Battalion ("Eagle Lift"), as well as 1st Squadron 17th Cavalry ("Palehorse"), the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion ("Keep Them Fighting"), and the 50th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) ("Eagle Dust Off").
The 159th Aviation was originally formed as the 159th Aviation Battalion in Vietnam on 1 July 1968 from the dissolved 308th Combat Aviation Battalion. Organized as the medium and heavy lift Assault Support Helicopter Battalion (ASHB) of the 101st Airborne Division the unit was comprised of three CH-47 companies and one CH-54 company.
During the Laotian incursion, the 159th ASHB was tasked to provide medium and heavy lift support for three divisions, elements of three additional divisions and a Ranger Group. This support was of a magnitude never before achieved and in the face of resistance never before encountered by a unit of this type. The heroic efforts of the 159th ASHB, together with supporting units were, in a large part responsible for the success enjoyed by the ground forces engaged in "Lam Son 719." The 159th ASHB received the Valorous Unit Award for services in Vietnam.
In February 1972, the 159th ASHB returned to Ft. Campbell as the only CH-47 battalion in the Army, and in September 1973, proved the feasibility of self-deployment of the CH-47. Four aircraft flew nonstop from Homestead Air Force Base, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico, a total of 907 nautical miles and 7 hours and 33 minutes. The battalion conducted further tests and in January 1974 flew 9 hours and 5 minutes, over 1090 nautical miles, nonstop.
A new era began in 1980 as the battalion field tested the CH-47D. Fielding of the aircraft began in 1983 and continued for three years. During this time the battalion set new lift records in the CH-47D with the innovative three hook system.
Throughout 1982 to 1986 the Battalion operated in over 21 states and six countries including Honduras, Germany, and Canada, conducting mission support for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), disaster relief operations, emergency search and rescue operations, and Joint operations. All of this was done while also instructing the Royal Air Forces of Great Britain and Canada on CH-47 operations.
In November 1987, the 159th ASHB was inactivated at Ft. Campbell and the 159th Aviation Regiment was activated under the US Army Regimental system at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. The 159th ASHB was redesignated as 4th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment and was activated in Kitzingen, Germany, and then relocated to Giebelstadt. The Battalion was again redesignated as the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, "Rock of the Marne." In 1991 the Brigade deployed to Northern Iraq and Southwest Turkey in support of Operation Provide Comfort.
In October 1992 the unit returned to the US and was again redesignated as the 159th Combat Aviation Group (Airborne), with Headquarters of the 159th Aviation Regiment, as part of the 18th Aviation Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Ft. Bragg. The regiment upheld its history of excellence by participating in Hurricanes Andrew and Emily Relief Operations, St. Maarten Disaster Relief in direct support of the Dutch Government, and in Operations Restore Hope, Uphold Democracy and most recently Joint Guard.
The 159th Aviation Regiment (Airborne) returned home to Ft. Campbell and was redesignated the 159th Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Elements of the 159th Aviation Brigade have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, being deployed during the initial combat in 2003 and then again in 2005.
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