56th Brigade Combat Team "Thunderbolt"
2nd Brigade - 49th Armored Division
The 56th Brigade assumed the lineage of the historic 56th Cavalry Brigade, which was established in the early 1920's and existed until around 1943. The present brigade, formerly the 2d Brigade, 49th Armored Division, Fort Worth, Texas, is a brigade of the newly reactivated 36th Infantry Division. It should not be confused with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
The 56th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard joined the global war on terrorism as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Saturday, January 1, over 30,000 people showed their support for the 3,000 soldiers of the 56th BCT during an historic "send off" celebration in Waco.
On 15 August 2004 Texans gathered at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth and at 22 National Guard armories across the state to say their goodbyes to members of the 56th BCT. This is the largest single mobilization of a Texas National Guard unit called to a combat zone since the start of the war on terrorism. Since the Global War on Terrorism began three years earlier, more than 8,000 members of the Texas Army National Guard and Air National Guard have served on military missions. With the mobilization of the 56th BCT, the Texas National Guard has more than 4,900 Soldiers and Airmen serving on active duty. The deployment is the first overseas assignment of a Texas National Guard divisional brigade since World War II.
For any athletes, constant practice and teamwork can make the difference between winning and losing a big game. But for the soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division's 56th Brigade Combat Team, the intense combat training that they were performing in preparation for their deployment to Iraq is no game, because losing can mean the difference between life and death.
After the conclusion of several heartfelt farewell ceremonies held in honor of the deploying soldiers in various communities, the soldiers of the 56th placed their civilian careers on hold and reported to Fort Hood for training. While at Fort Hood, they were outfitted with the latest high-tech weapons and state-of-the-art equipment that they will need for the deployment. They also received the most up-to-date training in urban operations and were taught to protect themselves against terrorist tactics and improvised explosive devices used by insurgents. Some of the Guardsmen had to learn to re-think how to perform their mission and adapt to fighting the guerilla-style tactics the insurgents use.
Over 3,000 Soldiers of the 56th Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas National Guard, trained at the Joint Readiness Training Center December 3-16, 2004. Soldiers training at JRTC prepared for their participation and deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism through exposure to a number of intense combat scenario events set in a realistic environment. They were challenged to use their skills against JRTC's 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry and select members of the 1-131st Infantry (Air Assault) from the Illinois Army National Guard, the Opposing Force (OPFOR) for JRTC.
By January 2005 the Thunderbolt Brigade was in the process of moving all personnel and equipment into Kuwait. Following a short stay in Kuwait, the 56 BCT will move into Iraq and begin the mission transfer process.
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