Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division
4th Brigade (Aviation), 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)
Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)
The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade traces its lineage to the 3rd Aviation Company (Combat), which was activated and assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division on 1 July 1957 at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 5 June 1963, the 3rd Aviation Battalion was activated and personnel and equipment were diverted to support the US Army in Southeast Asia.
On 16 December 1974, the Battalion was activated as a provisional unit to test a new concept of Army Aviation in Europe. On 1 October 1977, the Battalion was officially designated as the first USAREUR Divisional Aviation Battalion. In April 1981, the 3rd Aviation Battalion (Combat) relocated from Kitzengen to Giebelstadt Army Airfield.
The unit once again took the lead in Army Aviation and on 16 November 1984 was provisionally activated as the US Army's first aviation brigade in a mechanized infantry division. The 3rd Aviation Brigade was officially activated on 15 March 1985 as the 4th Brigade (Aviation), 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized). Prior to Conventional Forces Europe reduction actions, the Brigade consisted of 2 attack helicopter battalions (2-3rd and 3-3rd Aviation), one general support battalion (Task Force 23), and a divisional cavalry squadron (3-7th Cavalry).
In April 1991, the Brigade was deployed to Northern Iraq and Southwest Turkey to support the Kurdish refugees and prevent further Iraqi aggression in the region. On 16 August 1991, the Aviation Brigade was inactivated.
The unit was reactivated as the 3rd Aviation Brigade on 16 February 1996 at Fort Stewart, Georgia as part of the reflagging of the 24th Infantry Division as the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized). In February 1998 the 3rd Aviation Brigade deployed to Kuwait as part of the 3rd Infantry Division's mission in support of Operation Desert Thunder. At the time the 3rd Aviation Brigade was organized to provide the 3rd Infantry Division with a maneuver brigade consisting of an attack helicopter battalion, a general support helicopter battalion and a cavalry squadron.
From September 2000 to October 2001, elements of the Aviation Brigade deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina for Stabilization Force (SFOR) 8 and SFOR 9 and enforcement of the Dayton Peace Accords.
As the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) moved toward Baghdad during the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the helicopters of 3rd Aviation Brigade were with it all the way, providing close air support, reconnaissance, re-supply and casualty evacuation to the division's forward combat assets.
The Brigade's mission started the minute the Division crossed the international border between Kuwait and Iraq. AH-64 Apache Longbows from B and C Companies, 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment moved forward of the division's ground units to observe incoming artillery fire on Iraqi outposts near the border
After the artillery fire ended, the Apaches moved in and destroyed any targets that survived the initial barrage. The first Hellfire RF missile fired in combat destroyed one of the outposts that night.
The Apaches continued to provide close air support throughout the push to Baghdad, giving crucial support in the battles for As Samawah, Objective Peach and Baghdad itself.
UH-60 Blackhawks from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment and the 507th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) flew almost constant missions to move casualties from the front lines to medical units in the rear. The 507th alone flew 19 missions in the war's first 24 hours. The Brigade's Blackhawks also acted as command and control platforms for the Aviation Brigade and Division commanders.
All the helicopters were kept operating by forward ammunition and re-supply points set up throughout the theater by the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion. As the division settled in to stability and support operations in both Baghdad and Fallujah, the brigade's Blackhawks continued to provide command and control, re-supply and medical evacuations throughout the region.
Although it was a part of Aviation Brigade, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment had its own mission as the Division's cavalry element. They made several feints toward the Euphrates River as the Marne Division moved north to confuse the Iraqi military. 3-7th Cavalry was involved in battles at As Samawah, An Najaf and Baghdad.
In 2004, the 3rd Aviation Brigade unit transformed to become the US Army's first modular Combat Aviation Brigade and deployed to Iraq in January 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. The redesign enabled the Brigade to significantly increase its ability to operate 24 hours a day for an indefinite period of time providing an unprecedented level of aviation combat power to the Division. The Brigade's accomplishments included flying over 80,000 hours in support of over 26,707 combat missions to include over 13,455 attack and recon missions, 289 air assaults and raids, and over 3,760 MEDEVAC missions transporting over 4,998 patients. The attack aircraft provided 24 hour coverage over the MND-B battle space from January 2005 to January 2006, proving to be the Division's most flexible and effective, quick reaction force. With an additional Assault Battalion and the Chinooks in the General Support Aviation Battalion, the Brigade was able to offer the Division a new mission: Air Assault. Additionally, the Brigade performed general aviation support missions, to include being the sole provider of helicopter support for the senior members of the Iraqi Transitional Government. This performance was a great testament to Army Aviation's new modular design and the great Soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade.
In 2007 the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade was alerted for deployment to Iraq. This included elements of all of its units except for the 3-3rd Aviation, which remained in the United States. In 2008, as part of a restructuring of the Combat Aviation Brigades of both the 10th Mountain Division and the 3rd Infantry Division, the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry was relieved from assignment to the Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division and reassigned to the Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. There, the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment was inactivated and reflagged as the 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment.