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6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment

The mission of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, "Six-Shooters," is to, on order, deploy worldwide to conduct offensive operations, tactical reconnaissance, and limited security operations in support of the ground maneuver commander. It would also, on order, command and control an Aviation Task Force.

Prior to the modular transformation, the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment was a pure AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter squadron with the primary mission to self deploy to any designated contingency area and conduct combat operations as part of the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment. On order, it would conduct military operations that would engage and destroy an enemy or peacefully perform missions that ensure regional stability in the area of operations. With the transition of the 6-6th Cavalry during Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) transition of the mid-1990s, the unit had turned in their OH-58 scout helicopters for AH-64 attack helicopters.

On 4 May 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued the second mobilization call for the North and the 3rd US Cavalry was formed. The Regiment was redesignated the 6th US Cavalry when congress reorganized cavalry units on 3 August 1861. Since then the 6th US Cavalry has participated in 35 major campaigns in a dozen foreign countries.

The 6th Cavalry Regiment saw fierce fighting in five campaigns during the Second World War: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. The unit earned its Presidential Unit Citation for its efforts at Betlange and Harlange. When hostilities ended in 1945, the Fighting Sixth Cavalry found itself on the Czechoslovakian-German border, and remained for occupation duty. The 6th Cavalry patrolled the border, but also assisted the Bavarian people, helping to hear war-torn Germany and caring for its needy citizens.

After leaving Germany, the Regiment returned to Fort Knox, Kentucky to support Advanced Individual Training. The Squadron was deactivated on 24 October 1963.

The Sixth day of the Sixth month, 1990, saw once again the reactivation of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Hood, Texas. After an intensive training program and being designated as Combat Ready, with enough combat power to destroy an enemy tank division, the 6-6th Cavalry left for Germany. The arrival of the Squadron saw its sister squadron deploying to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Also marked for deployment, the squadron trained while performing security operations in Germany. The violent and short duration of the war saw the 6th Squadron still in Germany at the wars end. Saddam Hussein, unable to defeat the force he faced, turned against the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq. He systematically began to eliminate them. The 6th Squadron received the call to deploy to Northern Iraq and stop the senseless slaughter of the Kurdish people. Within 96 hours the Squadron left Germany in the first self-deployment by an AH-64 Attack Helicopter Squadron. Covering 5 countries, 2 continents, and 3,000 miles in just 4 days the Squadron established and controlled a 2,500 square mile security zone, as part of Operation Provide Comfort allowing the Kurdish people to return to their homes. October 1991 saw the redeployment of the Squadron to Illesheim, Germany. Subsequently, the Squadron was the first Squadron in the US Army to complete the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) transition.

During mid-1994 the 6th Squadron, 6th U.S. Cavalry, accomplished the tasks of reorganization and training during the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI). It was not simply a matter of turning in OH-58s and telling AH-64 pilots they were now scouts. There is a fundamental difference in the way a scout pilot and a gun pilot thinks. Although the AH-64 has better optics, navigational equipment and armament systems, a solid understanding of the fundamentals of the scouting missions is needed before the advantages of the more capable platform can be exploited. The major emphasis was training Apache Scouts and Scout Attack Teams or SCATs. It soon became obvious that the schoolhouse produced Attack/"gun" pilots, not scouts. Although scout helicopters were eliminated, the scout mission was still viable and remained.

This initially became the greatest training challenge. The lack of organic UH-60s made command and control difficult. Converting 6-6th Cavalry to the ARI MTOE was an all-encompassing task. More than 60 percent of the line item numbers (LIN) of equipment were affected by the change, and both the Headquarters and Aviation Unit Maintenance (AVUM) reorganized significantly. Overall, the Squadron increased from 296 to 299 personnel, and prime movers were reduced by 11 vehicles. All of the OH-58 and UH-60 equipment became excess, and new technology replaced aging systems (SINCGARS replacing VRC-46, for example). The drawdown identified a sister battalion in the Regiment, 4-229th Attack Helicopter Battalion, as a drawdown unit. This provided a unique opportunity to laterally transfer items easily, and ease 4-229th AHB's departure.

In April of 1996, C Troop (+), 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry deployed to Camp Hampton, Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation Joint Endeavor and the First Brigade Combat Team of the First Armored Division.

Demonstrating the Army's commitment to both accomplishing its missions and maintaining high standards of safety, a team of civilian contractors and soldiers completed modifications to V Corps' fleet of Apache helicopters in June 1997, and did so without impairing the aircraft's use in meeting mission requirements in Operation Joint Guard. What made USAREUR's Apache project particularly critical and challenging was the requirement to make the changeover while half of V Corps' Apache fleet was deployed to Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina and engaged in real-world operations. The contract team from Sabreliner Corporation in St. Louis changed 127 gas-generator (GG) rotors on 83 AH-64 Apache helicopters, starting 19 April 1997 and ending 6 June 1997. 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Apaches received new GG rotors at its base in Illesheim. In order for the 3-person contract team to work at maximum speed, aviation mechanics set their other missions aside and worked from 0600 to 2100 for 5 days, removing the engines, replacing them when the contract team completed the modification, and performing required maintenance operations checks.

In 1998, the entire squadron deployed to Bosnia again in support of Operation Joint Guard and Joint Force. They formed the nucleus of Task Force Sixshooter, as part of the 1st Armored Division for 4 months. The Task Force assumed 2 missions from 2 separate battalions, flying over 5000 hours, and maintained all training proficiency.

Less than 6 months after the redeployment from Bosnia the call for duty rang again, this time in support of Operation Allied Force. Recognized as the most combat ready Apache unit in Europe, 6-6th Cavalry was chosen to spearhead the deployment and prepare for combat missions against the Federal Republic of Serbia. Upon capitulation of Serbian forces, one-third of 6-6th Cavalry deployed to Skopje, Macedonia where they conducted peace keeping operations in the war torn area of Kosovo in support of Operation Joint Guardian.

Two 11th Aviation Regiment soldiers were killed in Albania 05 May 1999, following the crash of their AH-64 Apache helicopter. The crash occurred about 75 kilometers northeast of the Tirana-Rinas Airport during a training mission in support of Operation Allied Force. The aviators were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 3 David A. Gibbs, 38, from Ohio and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin L. Reichert, 28, from Wisconsin. Both were assigned to C Troop, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment at Illesheim, Germany.

The crash of the 2-person helicopter occurred about 1:30 AM. A security element secured the crash site and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team aided in the recovery effort.

A June 1999 review of aviators in the 2-6th and 6-6th Cavalry squadrons found that two-thirds of the assigned aviators had fewer than 500 flying hours, and none was Night Vision Goggles-qualified in the co-pilot gunner position.

In early June 2001, the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, gathered in their hangar on Storck Barracks in Illesheim. The soldiers of this historic unit officially cased their colors in anticipation of their move to Fort Hood, Texas. The timing of the casing was no coincidence. For it was exactly 11 years to the day they stood up the unit with the then state-of-the-art AH-64A Apache helicopter. The unit was headed back to Fort Hood to be trained in the newest model of the Apache at the time, the AH-64D Longbow Apache. The unit stood up in October 2001 at Fort Hood, after pilot training at Fort Rucker. Their return back to Illesheim was expected to occur within the July-September 2002 time frame.

Illesheim was the first location in USAREUR to see a change with the introduction of the AH-64D Longbow. Soldiers of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, based there as part of the 11th Aviation Regiment, left in the Summer 2001 for a year of training at Fort Hood, Texas, with 24 AH-64A Apaches.

The squadron was the first unit in USAREUR to reflect the reorganization of assets. Previously composed of 3 companies, each with 8 Apaches, the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry subsequently had 3 companies with 7 Longbows each, the new Army-wide standard for corps aviation assets. With no immediate changes in manpower or maintenance assets, the command will have a greater amount of assets to focus on the enhanced aircraft.

On 22 July 2002, 22 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, assigned to the 6th Squadron, 6th U.S. Cavalry, flew in mass formation to their home airfield in Illesheim, Germany. The helicopters had arrived at the port of Antwerp the previous week encased in a protective cocoon of shrink-wrapped plastic. Once accounted for and inspected, mechanics and crew chiefs from Troop D of the 6-6th Cavalry began reassembly of the Longbows. Following the reassembly process, the helicopters were test-flown before being moved to Illesheim. The arrival of the Apache squadron marks its return from Fort Hood, Texas, where soldiers of the 6-6th had spent a year becoming familiar with the helicopters as they were upgraded from AH-64A models.

A report in the 16 October 2002 European Stars and Stripes reported that elements of V Corps had deployed to Kuwait, ahead of the command element that was not due to arrive in the region for a couple of weeks. The 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry was thought to have arrived in Kuwait on 15 October 2002. However, subsequent reports and information from sources have made cast some doubt as to whether or not this deployment even took place, leaving one to conclude that it most likely did not take place. It later turned out to be accurate when the 6-6th Cavalry was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. 6-6th Cavalry and other deployed elements of V Corps left Iraq in March 2004.

In 2005 the 6-6th Cavalry became part of the push to transform the US Army to the newly developed modular force structure. A part of the transformation saw the inactivation of the 11th Aviation Regiment, later to be followed by all of V Corps. The 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment was reflagged the 6-6th Cavalry, which was subsequently reactivated in 2007 as part of the transformed 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, assigned to the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

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