82nd Airborne Division
"All American" / "America's Guard of Honor"
The mission of the 82nd Airborne Division is to, within 18 hours of notification, strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives for follow-on military operations in support of U.S. national interests. The mission of the reorganized modular 82nd Airborne Division remained the same.
The 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, provided the ability to begin executing a strategic airborne forcible entry into any area of the world within 18 hours of notification. Their primary mission was airfield and seaport seizure. Once on the ground, they provided the secured terrain and facilities to rapidly receive additional combat forces. The Division is the nation's strategic offensive force, maintaining the highest state of combat readiness.
On any day, a third of the division is on mission cycle, ready to respond to any contingency. Another third is on a wartime training cycle, and the rest of the division is on support cycle. These support units prepare vehicles and equipment for deployment and support such other division and post activities.
As the largest parachute force in the free world, the 82nd Airborne Division is trained to deploy anywhere, at any time, to fight upon arrival and to win. From cook to computer operator, from infantryman or engineer, every soldier in the 82nd is airborne qualified. Almost every piece of divisional combat equipment can be dropped by parachute onto the field of battle.
As early as 1784, Benjamin Franklin foresaw the potential of parachutists in combat. Though the concept of soldiers descending upon the enemy from above would not become a reality for another 150 years, the half century since the introduction of the paratrooper saw soldiers of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, Japanese soldiers in the Pacific, communist infantry in Korea, Cuban "advisers" in Grenada, General Manuel Noriega in Panama and General Cedras in Haiti all fall prey to the "vertical envelopment" of the American paratrooper.
No other military unit could respond more rapidly and effectively to conflict anywhere in the world than the 82nd Airborne Division. Known as "America's Guard of Honor," the 82nd was widely recognized as one of the most powerful forces in America's military arsenal.
The role of the airborne division was to plan, coordinate, and execute a rapid, combined arms, and forced entry operation employed alone or as part of a joint task force across the depth and width of the battlefield. The airborne division was unique in its ability to be deployed by parachute to achieve objectives. The airborne force commander task organized Army elements within an airborne force into 3 echelons.
The assault echelon comprises those forces required to seize the assault objective and the initial airhead, plus their immediate reserves and essential logistics forces. The Division Readiness Force and the Division Readiness Brigade, unique to the airborne division, were quick reaction forces designed for airborne operations. A detachment of the quartermaster airdrop equipment support company would enter the objective area in the assault echelon to advise the units in the recovery and evacuation of airdrop equipment from the drop zone.
The airborne forces would not need the follow-on echelon in the objective area during the initial assault, but would need it for subsequent operations. When needed, the follow-on echelon entered the objective area as soon as possible by air, surface movement, or a combination of the two. It included additional vehicles and equipment from assault echelon units, plus more combat, combat support, and combat service support units. The means of transportation used would influence the composition of the follow-on echelon.
The rear echelon included part of the DISCOM force left in the departure area that was not considered essential for initial combat operations. It had administrative and service elements not immediately needed in the objective area that could function more efficiently in the departure area. In long duration operations, the rear echelon could be brought into the airhead to support subsequent operations.
Prior to the shift to the modular force structure, the 3 brigades of the 82nd Airborne rotated between 3 seperate cycles: the mission cycle, the training cycle, and the support cycle. The a brigade was on the mission cycle it was referred to as the Deployment Readiness Brigade-1 (DRB-1), with the brigade on the training cycle being DRB-2, and the one of the support cycle being DRB-3. The 3 infantry battalions of each brigade were similarly organized as Division Ready Forces (DRF), with the lead element in the DRB-1 being referred to as DRF-1, the second as DRF-2, all the way to the last battalion in the brigade on the support cylce at DRF-9.
When a brigade was on Deployment Readiness Brigade-1 (DRB-1), it was referred to as being on mission cycle. During this cycle, the brigade was at its highest state of readiness. The brigade would be free of all outside demands on its personnel and equipment and was poised for take off from Pope AFB within 18 hours of being alerted. During this cycle, soldiers were on short leashes, liable for recall in accordance with a detailed schedule. To test the brigade's "go to war" posture, emergency deployment readiness exercises (EDREs) were often scheduled. An EDRE was nothing more than a practice deployment which involved the Division Ready Force-1 (DRF-1, or the battalion designated as the lead unit in the DRB-1) Task Force and possibly the DRF-2 and DRF-3 as well. When the EDRE was called, no one would know if it was practice or real. The units would go through the entire alert, recall, and deployment procedures as if it was real. Many EDREs involved having Task Forces jump into another US military base to conduct short field training exercises (FTXs).
The training cycle, commonly referred to as intensified training cycle (or ITC) occured when the brigade was the DRB-2. This period provided the brigade a period during which they could conduct uninterrupted training. Training during this period was designed to sustain the skills that were highly perishable. If the units of the brigade were not deployed for an extended time at Fort Bragg, they might be deployed to either the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, or the Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC) in Panama. Generally, no leaves were granted during this cycle, as it was imperative that the brigade utilizes this prime time training opportunity to hone its combat skills.
DRB-3 was when the brigade assumed support cycle. As the DRB-3, the brigade's primary wartime mission was to provide personnel and equipment required to "push" the DRB-1 Task Force out of Fort Bragg when they were called out. The battalion that was the DRF-9 had the primary mission to do this, and, so just as the DRF-1 was on a 2-hour string, so was the DRF 9. Additionally, because outloading the DRF-1 was such an inflexible requirement, the DRF-7 and DRF-8 battalions were required to be be prepared to provide support for whatever the Division or Corps might require. Some examples of these details included post support jobs such as providing life guards or parachute shake out personnel, evaluator support for units training on Fort Bragg as well as National Guard/Reserve units, ROTC support, and training center support. During some support cycles, soldiers would attend on- and off-post schools and enjoy leave.
During FY01, the Division experienced 525 reportable airborne operations accidents and one (MIRPS) fatal accident. 421 of the reportable accidents were parachute landing fall-related injuries. Also, there were 21 static line injuries, 34 DZ hazard, 11 entanglement, and 6 tree-landing related injuries. Issues that need special attention: PLFs, continue to account for more than 80% of all airborne operations injuries. Static line injuries appear to be on the increase.
On 15 January 2006, as part of the Army's transformation towards a modular force, the composition of the 82nd Airborne was changed. The most noticable changes as a product of the modular transformation were the changes in the relationship between support elements at division and brigade levels, and the addition of a 4th Brigade Combat Team to the Division's structure. The 82nd Airborne Division inactivated its Division Artillery (DIVARTY) and Division Support Command (DISCOM). DISCOM and other assets (engineer, military intelligence, military police, and signal) habitually assigned to the line brigades were activated as organic support elements either in reorganized Brigade Support Battalions or Brigade Special Troops Battalions. Additional assets were passed to the Division Special Troops Battalion and the 82nd Sustainment Brigade. The 82nd Aviation Brigade was also reorganized and redesignated as the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The 82nd Soldier Support Battalion was also reorganized as part of the shift.
In December 2007, the 82nd Sustainment Brigade was relieved from assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division and reassigned to XVIII Corps. The 18th Fires Brigade, though technically an XVIII Corps asset, also established a relationship with the 82nd Airborne Division.