21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat)
The 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) receives, equips, fields, trains, and evaluates all modernized attack and cavalry aviation units, either active or reserve component, employing a standard model called the Unit Fielding and Training Program (UFTP). The 21st Cavalry Brigade is also responsible for the reception, forming, training, and deploying Task Force ODIN to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Brigade's Single and Dual-Station Unit Fielding and Training Programs and Sustainment Programs were a cost-efficient and time-efficient method to train units to a single standard in a minimum of time. They increased the Army's ability to fight and win on the modern 3-D battlefield. The 21st Cavalry Brigade further strengthened national strategy by assisting allies and providing a venue of excellent training for the purchasers of American attack aircraft.
The 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) was a unique unit in the US Army. Functioning as the US Army's combat aviation training brigade, it was the only unit of its kind in the armies of the world. The Brigade traces its history to the formation of the AH-64 Task Force Headquarters, part of the 6th Cavalry Brigade, on 14 July 1984. This unit was charged with the responsibility for all planning, programming, and force modernization actions related to the training and fielding of all AH-64 Attack Helicopter Battalions in the Army. This headquarters developed the Single-Station Unit Fielding and Training Program (SSUFTP) subsequently implemented to field all AH-64A equipped battalions.
On 15 January 1985, the AH-64 Task Force became the Apache Training Brigade, a Major Subordinate Command under operational control of the Deputy Commanding General, III Corps. Its mission was to receive, equip, train, evaluate, and deploy all of the Army's non-Fort Hood attack helicopter battalions receiving the Apache helicopter.
On 1 January 1992, the Apache Training Brigade became the US Army Combat Aviation Training Brigade. The Brigade's new mission was to act as the Department of the Army Executive Agent to conduct collective aviation unit field training. This expanded the Brigade's original AH-64 mission to include the fielding of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior-equipped units and conducting unit sustainment training for fielded Apache battalions. On 20 May 1996, the requirement to field and train AH-64D Longbow Apache units was added with an implied task to prepare to do the same for RAH-66 Commanche units.
The Brigade focus included the training of the reserve component attack battalions, both National Guard and Army Reserve. The introduction of Kiowa Warrior and reserve component training brought in the concept of Dual-Station UFTPs. The Combat Aviation Training Brigade's personnel became traveling teams as the programs became more individually tailored and diverse.
Unlike Regular Army Apache battalions, the majority of the Kiowa Warrior units and all reserve component units were trained utilizing this Dual-Station program. These units completed much of their fielding and training at home station and then deployed to Fort Hood for up to 8 weeks where they completed battalion/squadron-level training, gunnery exercises, and a certification evaluation. Reserve component units performed their training over 2 or 3 years at home station during monthly drills and at the Combat Aviation Training Brigade during annual Active Duty for Training periods. They received the same intense training as their fellow aviators in the regulars and are held to the same standard during the final External Evaluation.
Sustainment training for Apache Battalions was an intensive 3-week training period focused on deployment, gunnery, combined arms operation, to include a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX). The training objective was to refine the skills necessary to remain "combat ready" for units that had already completed the UFTP. The desire was to cycle all CONUS-based battalions through the training, regular units every 2 years and reserve component units every 3 years.
On 22 October 1996, the Combat Aviation Training Brigade became the 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat). The 21st Cavalry Brigade, although not directly a warfighting brigade, was a most critical piece of the US Army. While it was widely known that the 21st Cavalry Brigade conducted collective aviation unit field training for the AH-64 Apache and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, the unit also worked intensively with National Guard and Army Reserve Units. In 1998, the 21st Cavalry prepared Task Force Panther (consisting of units from the North Carolina National Guard's 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment, and the Alabama Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment) for deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch. This was the first time a National Guard unit deployed with Apaches on this type of mission.
Under its several designations, the Brigade fielded all of the US Army's 26 regular AH-64A Apache battalions and squadrons. Seven National Guard and 2 US Army Reserve AH-64 battalions and squadrons had also completed the program. By 2005, the Brigade fielded and trained some 9 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior units with another 7 projected over the next 3 years. The Brigade had executed 4 AH-64 battalion sustainment programs and special programs for the other units.
On top of the mission to train various US Army units was the support provided to the Department of State and Department of Defense for Foreign Military Sales and Security Assistance. The United States worked to supply Apache Longbow technology and aircraft to several allies. As the only collective trainer for attack helicopters in the world, the 21st Cavalry Brigade was tasked by the ODCSOPS to provide the Unit Training Program to these allies. The requirements were again tailored to the country and its mission. The 21st Cavalry Brigade assisted the unit in developing a Mission Essential Task List (METL) based on their own requirements and then provided collective instruction in all arenas of attack helicopter battalion operations and maintenance. This provided the unit with a full, turn-key operation and a ready to fight unit. The objective was the best deal for their defense and national budget.
In support of operations relating to what was initially referred to as the Global War on Terror, and later Overseas Contingency Operations, the 21st Cavalry Brigade gained responsibility to assist Army attack helicopter battalions and other aviation units in their preparation for deployment. To accomplish that mission the 21st Cavalry Brigade created a mobile training program that allowed units to remain at their home station and receive critical training assistance. Additionally, the Brigade remained at the forefront of Army Aviation in planning, development and integration of new technologies. With the creation of the Task Force Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize (Task Force ODIN) in 2006, the 21st Cavalry Brigade eventually gained responsibility for administrative control of these units, as well as their reception, formation, training, and deployment.
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