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25th Infantry Division / US Army Hawaii
25th Infantry Division (Light) / US Army Hawaii
"Tropic Lightning"

The mission of the 25th Infantry Division, "Tropic Lightning," was to on order, redeploy, reset, and deploy trained forces to contingencies and operations worldwide to accomplish all assigned tasks in support of a designated Joint Force Commander. Following its reorganization to the US Army's modular force structure between 2005 and 2006, the Division consisted of four brigade combat teams, 2 in Hawaii and 2 in Alaska, along with a Combat Aviation Brigade, and its Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion (which replaced the Division Special Troops Battalion in 2010).

Prior to 2005, the "Tropic Lightning" Division was composed of 3 infantry brigades, 2 in Hawaii and one at Fort Lewis, Washington, an Aviation Brigade, Division Artillery (DIVARTY), a Division Support Command (DISCOM), and a complement of separate battalions. The Division acted as the major ground reserve force for the US Pacific Command, and as such trained in Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia. A rapid strike force of nearly 17,000 soldiers, the 25th Infantry Division focused primarily on training for low intensity conflict throughout the Pacific.

Born of elements of the famous Hawaiian Division (which was later redesignated as the 24th Infantry Division) in 1941, the 25th Infantry Division was about 2 months old when Japanese planes launched their attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii on 7 December 1941. Following the attack, Division soldiers set up and manned defensive positions around Honolulu and the Ewa plains.

The 25th Infantry Division was then ordered, following intensive training, to deploy to Guadalcanal on 25 November 1942, in order to relieve US Marines near Henderson Field. The first elements landed near the Tenaru River, on 17 December 1942, and entered combat on 10 January 1943, participating in the seizure of Kokumbona and the reduction of the Mount Austen Pocket in some of the bitterest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The threat of large enemy attacks caused a temporary withdrawal, but Division elements under XIV Corps control relieved the 147th Infantry and took over the advance on Cape Esperance. The junction of these elements with AMERICAL (23rd Infantry) Division forces near the cape on 5 February 1943, ended organized enemy resistance. Only 31 days were required to accomplish the mission and earned the Division its official nickname, "Tropic Lightning" (adopted as the official title of the Division on 3 August 1953).

A period of garrison duty followed, ending 21 July 1943. On that date, advance elements debarked on Munda, New Georgia. The 35th Infantry, under the Northern Landing Force, took part in the capture of Vella Lavella, from 15 August to 15 September 1943. Meanwhile, other elements landed on New Georgia, took Zieta, marched through jungle mud for 19 days, and captured Bairoko Harbor, winning the island. Elements cleared Arundel Island on 24 September 1943, and Kolombangara Island with its important Vila Airport on 6 October 1943. Organized resistance on New Georgia ended on 25 August 1943 and the Division moved to New Zealand for rest and training. The last elements arrived on 5 December 1943. The 25th Infantry Division was transferred to New Caledonia from 3 February 1944 to 14 March 1944, for continued training. It was during this time that the Division shoulder patch of a lightning bolt superimposed on a taro leaf was adopted.

The Division landed in the San Fabian area of Luzon on 11 January 1945, to enter the struggle for the liberation of the Philippines. It drove across the Luzon Central Plain, meeting the enemy at Binalonan on 17 January 1945. Moving through the rice paddies, the 25th Infantry Division occupied Umingan, Lupao, and San Jose and destroyed a great part of the Japanese armor on Luzon. On 21 February 1945, the Division began operations in the Caraballo Mountains. It fought its way along Highway Number 5, taking Digdig, Putlan, and Kapintalan against fierce enemy counterattacks and took Balete Pass on 13 May 1945. It opened the gateway to the Cagayan Valley on 27 May 1945 with the capture of Santa Fe. Until 30 June 1945, when the Division was relieved, it carried out mopping-up activities. On 1 July 1945, the division moved to Tarlac for training, leaving for Japan, 20 September. Arriving in Osaka, Japan, the Division performed occupation duty until 1950.

Open warfare once again flared in Asia, now the Division's primary area of concern, on 25 June 1950. The North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel on that day in an unprovoked attack on the Republic of South Korea. Acting under United Nations orders, the Tropic Lightning Division moved from it's base in Japan to Korea between 5 and 18 July 1950. The Division, then under the command of Major General William B. Kean, successfully completed its first mission by blocking the approaches to the port city Pusan. For this action, the Tropic Lightning received its first Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. Other battles later in the conflict further enhanced the Division's reputation for exceptional combat effectiveness.

The Division participated in the break-out from the Pusan perimeter and the successful drive into North Korea in October 1950. The Division joined Task Force Dolvin, the 89th Tank Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Dolvin on 24 November 1950, and together these units successfully drove the enemy to the Yalu River. In a sudden and unexpected reversal, however, an overwhelming number of Chinese Communist troops crossed the Yalu and pushed back United Nations forces all along the front. The Division was grudgingly forced to carry out a systematic withdrawal and ordered to take up defensive positions on the south bank of the Chongchon River on 30 November 1950. Eventually, these lines failed. However, after a series of short withdrawals a permanent battle line was established south of Osan.

After a month and a half of planning and reorganization, a new offensive was launched on 15 January 1951 and was successfully completed by 10 February 1951, with the recapture of Inchon and Kimpo Air Base. This was the first of several successful assaults on the Chinese/North Korean force, which helped turn the tide in the United Nation's favor. The Division next participated in Operation Ripper, during which it drove the enemy across the Han River. Success continued with Operation Dauntless, Detonate and Piledriver in the Spring of 1951. These offensives secured part of the famous "Iron Triangle" which enhanced the United Nations' bargaining platform. With leaders of 4 nations now a the negotiating tables in the summer of 1951, Division activity slowed to patrol and defensive actions to maintain the line of resistance. This type of action continued into the winter of 1952.

When negotiations began to fail, the Division assumed the responsibility of guarding the approaches of Seoul on 5 May 1953. 23 days later, a heavy Chinese assault was hurled at it. The Division held its ground and the assault was repulsed. The brunt of the attack was absorbed by the 14th Infantry, "Golden Dragons." By successfully defending Seoul from continued attack from May to July 1953, the Division earned its second Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. Again negotiators moved toward peace. In July 1953, the Division again moved to reserve status at Camp Casey where it remained through the signing of the armistice on 27 July 1953. Fourteen Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor during the Korean Conflict, making the Tropic Lightning Division the most decorated Division of that War.

After the armistice, the Division stayed as an occupation force until September 1954, then returned to Hawaii, concluding more than 12 years of duty in the Southwest Pacific and Asia. From then until early 1963, the 25th Infantry Division established and conducted extensive training programs in jungle warfare techniques and Asian languages. The 25th Infantry Division was the only counter-guerrilla trained division in the Army.

In response to a request from the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), the Division sent 100 helicopter door-gunners to the Republic of South Vietnam in early 1963. By August 1965, further Division involvement in the coming Vietnam Conflict included the deployment of Company C, 65th Engineer Battalion, to South Vietnam to assist in the construction of port facilities at Cam Ranh Bay.

By mid-1965, 2,200 men of the Tropic Lightning Division were involved in Vietnam. The Division was again asked to contribute combat forces in December 1965. In response to a MACV request, the Division deployed 4,000 3rd Brigade infantrymen and 9,000 tons of equipment from Hawaii in 25 days to the Northwest sector of South Vietnam to firmly establish a fortified enclave from which the Division could operate. Operation Blue Light was the largest and longest airlift of personnel and cargo into a combat zone in military history before Operation Desert Shield. The 3rd Brigade deployed its first soldiers from Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, to the central highlands at Pleiku. These men arrived in Vietnam on 24 December 1965. By mid-January 1966, the deployment operation was complete giving combat planners in Vietnam a favorable balance of power.

The Division was heavily engaged from April 1966 until 1969 throughout the area of operations in Southeast Asia. During this period, Tropic Lightning soldiers fought in some of the toughest battles of the war. During the Tet offensives of 1968 and 1969, Tropic Lightning soldiers were instrumental in defending the besieged city of Saigon. Due to its success in fending off that attack, the 25th Infantry Division spent most of 1969 more involved in the Vietnamization Program than in actual combat. During a 3 month period, from April through June 1970, Tropic Lightning soldiers participated in Allied thrusts deep into enemy sanctuaries located in Cambodia. In these operations, the Division units confiscated thousands of tons of supplies and hundreds of weapons. This operation crippled the Cambodian efforts against American units. Following its return from Cambodia to South Vietnam, the Division resumed its place in the Vietnamization Program. The war was winding down.

By late December 1970, elements of the 25th Infantry Division were able to begin redeployment to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. 2nd Brigade was the last element of the Tropic Lightning Division to depart Vietnam. It arrived at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii in the early days of May 1971. During the war in Vietnam, 22 Medals of Honor were awarded to Tropic Lightning soldiers, more than any other Division in the war.

After returning from Vietnam in early 1971, the Division was reduced to one brigade with a strength of about 4,000 soldiers. In mid-1972, the 2nd Brigade was reactivated and troop strength was increased to about 12,000 soldiers. In February 1973, it was reorganized to include as a "Roundout" Brigade, consisting of the 29th Infantry Brigade of the Hawaii Army National Guard (which included: 2-299th Infantry, Hawaii Army National Guard; 100th Battalion, 442d Infantry, US Army Reserve; and 1-184th Infantry, California Army National Guard) in case of national emergency. This relationship lasted until October 1986, when the Hawaii National Guard and Army Reserve assumed a partnership affiliation with the Division. Now reorganized, the 25th Infantry Division trained for the next 8 years throughout the Pacific Theater and continued to improve its combat capabilities with troop deployment varying in size from squads, which participated in training missions with Fijian forces, to operations as large as Operation Team Spirit, where more than 5,000 Divisional troops were airlifted to South Korea for this annual exercise.

In 1985, the Division began its reorganization from a conventional infantry division to a light infantry division. The 4 primary characteristics of this new light infantry division were to be: mission flexibility, rapid deployment and combat readiness at 100 percent strength with a Pacific Basin orientation. Major configuration changes included the addition of a third infantry brigade, an additional direct-support artillery battalion and the expansion of the combat aviation battalion to a brigade-sized unit. With the transfer of large quantities of heavy equipment, the 25th Infantry Division earned the designation "light." The reorganization was completed by 1 October 1986.

Following the reorganization, training became more sophisticated and more intense. In 1988, the Division's first battalions participated in rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. This training center provided the most realistic training available to light forces in the Army at the time. Coupled with Joint/Combined training exercises Cobra Gold in Thailand, Kangaroo in Australia and Orient Shield in Japan, the Division's demanding exercise schedule significantly increased the Division's fighting capabilities. Until 1993, Operation Team Spirit in Korea remained the Division's largest annual maneuver exercise, involving more than half of the Division's strength.

During the Gulf War, one platoon each from Companies A, B and C, 4th Battalion, 27th Infantry, "Wolfhounds," deployed to Saudi Arabia in January 1991. These Tropic Lightning soldiers were scheduled to be replacement squads in the ground campaign. However, after observing their thoroughly outstanding performance in desert warfare training, the Assistant Commander of Third US Army asked for them to become the security force for the Army's Forward Headquarters. In that role, the Wolfhound platoons were alerted and joined in the attack with Third Army (Forward) into Kuwait City on 26 February 1991, where they secured the headquarters area and conducted mop-up operations in the city and its adjacent mine fields. Company A's platoon was separated from the other Wolfhounds following that battle to accompany General H. Norman Schwarzkopf into Iraq on 1 March 1991, providing security at the truce signing. The three platoons returned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii without casualties on 20 March 1991.

On 1 March 1992, US Army Hawaii (USARHAW) was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division (Light), creating 25th Infantry Division (Light) and US Army, Hawaii. The new organization also assumed additional command of US Army Support Command, Hawaii (USASCH), US Army Law Enforcement Command (USALEC) and the 45th Support Group, which was redesignated the 45th Corps Support Group (Forward) on 16 October 1993. USASCH was designated as the US Army Garrison, Hawaii (USAG-HI) on 17 February 1994.

In 1995, the Division underwent another reorganization and reduction because of defense downsizing. 1st Brigade and its direct support units were inactivated and moved to Fort Lewis, Washington, where they were again reactivated as a detached brigade of the 25th Infantry Division (Light).

In January 1995, 3,700 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light) deployed to Haiti to participate in peacekeeping operations in Operation Uphold Democracy. The Division's mission was two-fold: the Division staff assumed the role of the Multinational Force headquarters and members of the 2nd and 3rd Brigades became members of the United States Forces Contingent. As the Multinational Force Commander, the 25th Infantry Division (Light) Commanding General Major General George A. Fisher assumed responsibility for soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and Coast guardsmen from 27 nations, including the Caribbean community, Nepal, Bangladesh and Guam. Major General Fisher, as well as other members of the multinational staff, worked with President Jean Bertrand Aristide and members of the various ministries to help Haiti reestablish itself as a democratic republic. Additionally, the staff provided the resources necessary for the Multinational Force to conduct this vital peacekeeping mission. Many of the missions undertaken in Uphold Democracy required military acumen and a great deal of diplomacy and managerial expertise. Members of the Division staff and subordinate commands worked extensively with members of the Haitian government in laying the foundation for a successful democracy.

While the staff was busy building a budding democracy, Divisional peacekeeping units were deployed to 2 separate areas of the tiny island nation. In the South, members of the 2nd Brigade provided security for President Aristide, the National Palace and other locations in Port-au-Prince critical to Haiti's emerging democracy. Through their vigilance and presence there, the threat to the government and government officials was significantly lowered. In the North, members of the 3rd Brigade were stationed at Cap Haitian. There the unit assisted the government in establishing law and order, developing infrastructure and setting the conditions necessary from promoting democracy. Members of the 25th Military Police Battalion, part of the US Army Military Police Brigade, Hawaii, an element of US Army, Hawaii, played a critical role in upgrading the national prison and assisting in the training of the Haitian interim security force. The 25th Infantry Division (Light) officially left Haiti on 31 March 1995 when the United Nations Mission in Haiti assumed command. Approximately 500 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade remained as part of the United Nations Force until early June 1995.

On 1 July 1998, US Army Alaska's 172d Infantry Brigade (Separate) took on the role of US Pacific Command's (USPACOM's) Initial Entry Force (IEF). The IEF, designed for Force XXI missions that required battalion-sized or smaller forces, would respond rapidly to 3 types of crises: humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and permissive NEOs. The IEF accomplished small contingency missions, making it unnecessary to reorganize the Division Ready Brigade (DRB) of the 25th Infantry Division (Light), in Hawaii. The DRB mission remained an ongoing requirement in US Army Pacific, which mobilized in brigade-sized elements for larger operations and sustained combat operations.

From April to September 2002, the 25th Infantry Division (Light) continued its peacekeeping mission into the 21st Century as 1,000 Tropic Lightning soldiers took part in operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. As part of Stabilization Force (SFOR) 11, Division troops took part in mine-clearing operations, reconstruction, and the destruction of weapons turned in by civilians. Over 849 rifles, 182 machine guns, 187 rocket launchers and 389,000 rounds of ammunition were confiscated and destroyed.

Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division was called to arms to fight the Global War On Terrorism in March 2003, when 107 soldiers representing 8 units from 25th Infantry Division (Light) and USARHAW were deployed to US Central Command in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tropic Lightning soldiers served in various capacities in support of CENTCOM and many saw combat while attached to the 3rd Infantry and 101st Airborne Divisions.

In support of the Global War On Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 25th Infantry Division was called to arms in July 2003 to prepare for deployment in 2004. This deployment would mark the first time the division deployed as a whole outside the Pacific region.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Iraq in January 2004. The Brigade was stationed outside the city of Kirkuk, where they engaged in peacekeeping operations and nation building projects. Rebuilding and security missions were dangerous, as insurgent forces relied on the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambush tactics to attack Coalition forces. The "Warrior" Brigade fought and destroyed insurgent forces in various cities and towns including Najaf, Huwijah, Samarra, and others. The culmination of their deployment occurred just before they were relieved, when they helped support the first free elections in Iraq held in over 50 years. After a year of hard fighting, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (not to be confused with the modular brigade combat team) returned to Schofield Barracks by March 2005.

Tropic Lightning deployed an impressive force to assist in the stabilization of Afghanistan. Deploying in March 2004, deployed units included the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (not to be confused with the modular brigade combat team), Division Artillery (DIVARTY), and units of the Division's Aviation Brigade. Soldiers of the "Bronco" brigade, "Tropic Thunder", and "Wings of Lightning" engaged in combat operations against Al-Qaida and remnants of the former Taliban regime while helping to rebuild a country ravaged by decades of war. During operations Lightning Resolve and Lightning Freedom, both units supported democratic elections in Afghanistan, the first ever in the history of that country. The first element to deploy was 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment. They were accompanied by B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment. 2-27th Infantry operated in the volatile Paktika Province on the border with Pakistan in the Waziristan region. The 25th Infantry Division was recognized for the first successful free democratic elections in Afghanistan on 9 October 2004. Units of Tropic Lightning deployed to Afghanistan returned home to Hawaii between April and June 2005.

Accompanying the Brigades to Afghanistan was Major General Eric T. Olson, Commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light). Major General Olson was deployed to Afghanistan to take command of Combined Joint Task Force 76, an allied command of over 18,000 personnel representing 18 countries. CJTF-76's mission included the continued pursuit and destruction of Al-Qaida and Taliban remnants while coordinating and continuing the humanitarian operations. Major General Olson and his staff returned to Hawaii on 15 March 2005.

While its other elements were deployed, in early 2005, an airborne brigade was created at Fort Richardson, Alaska and added to the 25th Infantry Division (Light). This unit, organized as a modular Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was activated in July 2005 as the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Fort Richardson, Alaska, assigned to US Army Alaska. The 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team deployed in October 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After returning from their deployments, the other elements of the 25th Infantry Division began their transformation to the US Army's modular force structure. The 2nd Brigade began its transformation as a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, while the 3rd Brigade began its transformation as an Infantry Brigade Combat Team in the same year. The (Light) status was dropped from the Division name in January 2006. On 15 December 2006, the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate) was reflagged as the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, while the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, Washington was redesignated as the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, and moved to Vilseck, Germany. The 1st Brigade had previously been reorganized as a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, having been identified to undergo the transformation in 1999. Plans to add two additional brigade combat teams, the 5th and 6th Brigade Combat Teams, were never realized, the personnel and equipment becoming elements of the 1st Infantry Division.

As of March 2009, 1st Brigade, 2nd Brigade, and 3rd Brigade were deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with 4th Brigade deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Between June and August 2009, the 25th Division was deployed in Operation Champion Sword.

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Page last modified: 13-10-2016 19:40:57 ZULU