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Air Assault battalion makes 3rd ID history


CAMP TAJI, Iraq
- The 3rd Infantry Division has fought in theaters all over the globe, engaging enemies with infantry, armor, artillery, aviation and just about every other possible type of asset during its history. However, until recently the 'Rock of the Marne' division has never had air assault capabilities.

That changed May 15, 2004, when the 101st Infantry Division's 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, with their Blackhawks, became the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Assault Helicopter Regiment and was assigned to the 3rd ID.

The move to integrate an air assault battalion with the aviation brigade has been a challenge. For the Soldiers who made it happen, the end result has been a tremendous success, as was demonstrated recently when the battalion conducted the first air assault operation in division history.

The battalion left home in Ft. Campbell, Ky., to train with 3rd ID Soldiers at Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Benning, Ga. The training was to teach Soldiers from various backgrounds such as armor, cavalry and infantry; many of whom never set foot in a helicopter, how to conduct an air assault, said Maj. Joe Matthew, 4/3 AHB executive officer.

It wasn't an easy process; even learning the basics of entering and exiting the Blackhawk helicopter took days and nights of practice.

"You could see a look of both apprehension and excitement on (the Soldiers') faces as they were going through cold-load drills," said Spc. Ronnie Wilson, a crew chief with A Company, 4/3 AHB. "But it was fun to see their excitement after their first ride."

While Soldiers were adjusting to learning new assault methods, their leaders took classes on planning, command and control of air assault operations, said Matthew.

The division proved themselves capable of executing air assault mission during two rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., before deploying to Iraq in January.

A Co., 4/3 AHB conducted the division's first air assault three days after the brigade's transition of authority. They inserted nearly 40 Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division to conduct foot patrols to seek and destroy improvised explosive devices. These missions have continued since, allowing Soldiers to successfully identify IEDs and preventing them from being placed by terrorists, said Matthew.

These missions demonstrated the unique capability which 4/3 brings to the division. It also foreshadowed the success of future, greater missions.

One of the battalion's next assaults was a joint nighttime attack with Marines from 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. Despite poor weather, the Marines were inserted into their target area with precision timing and detained more than 50 suspected anti-Iraqi forces. The success of this mission allowed coalition forces to establish a presence in what was a hostile area, said Matthew.

The largest air assault mission to date occurred last month, when 4/3 AHB delivered about 350 Soldiers, made up of two Cavalry troops of 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment and two companies of the 3rd Battalion, 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment from the 82nd Airborne Division, to a hostile South Baghdad neighborhood to restore coalition control, said Matthew. Supporting them were armor and attack helicopter assets, along with Iraqi Army Soldiers. The careful planning and flawless execution of this mission made it a resounding success, and the first battalion-sized air assault in 3rd ID history.

While this may be a normal event for some Soldiers of 4/3 AHB, planners of the mission were proud of how well everything went for doing something this big for the first time.

"It never dawned on us that we would be doing something for the first time. We were doing what we were trained to do, and each serial was within 30 seconds of their objective times," said Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Gregg, battalion standardization officer. "The crew chiefs performed magnificently in assisting both Soldiers and pilots. It was a superb effort by everyone in the battalion."

"When critical operations are happening, it's easy to spot veteran soldiers. They conducted themselves as professionals and veterans. I am very proud of their many accomplishments," said 1st Sgt. Jeff Thompson, C Company, 4/3 AHB.

The addition of 4/3 AHB's air assault capabilities is proving itself to be an invaluable tool in Baghdad, Thompson said.

A photograph accompanies this release. For the photograph, contact the CPIC Pressdesk and use reference number 050410a.

Cutline:

A Blackhawk helicopter from Black Heart Element, B Company, 4/3 AHB, departs a forward operating base near Baghdad on its way to an air assault mission .

Text for release and opsec review provided by the TASK FORCE BAGHDAD Public Affairs Office. contact david.abrams@id3.army.mil.


Release #050410a



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