The Battalion That Fired The First Shot Of Desert Storm!!!
The 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment is a direct descendant of Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion. Constituted on 15 November 1962 in the Regular Army, it became an element of the 101st Airborne Division. The unit was officially activated 3 December 1962 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. These dates correspond to the period when the 101st Aviation Company was reorganized and redesignated as a battalion.
Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion was the first aviation unit from the 101st Airborne Division to arrive in Vietnam. This also made the company the first element of the 101st Airborne Division to see combat since World War II. Just prior to leaving for Vietnam Company A was outfitted with 20 brand new UH-1D helicopters.
While under the control of the 13th Combat Aviation Battalion, Company A was sent to Soc Trang in order to conduct operations from 1 May 1965 to September 1966. During this period, Company A flew 300 missions and accumulated 24,000 combat flight hours. Consequently, the unit earned the first of two Presidential Unit Citations for action near Dong Xoai. The second Presidential Unit Citation was awarded later for combat action near the Chuong Thien Province. In September 1966, Company A returned to Fort Campbell and their aviation assets were transferred to the 336th Assault Helicopter Company.
In December 1967, the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Vietnam in our historyís largest airlift prior to Operation Desert Shield in 1990. Company A re-equipped, deployed and subsequently based out of Bien Hoa, which provided wooden hooches, showering facilities, and a mess hall. In February 1968, Company A moved to Camp Eagle, located in the Hue/Phu Bai area. The only permanent structure there at the time was the "dirt," a landing strip. These soldiers began a self-help program and literally built the camp, improving both the living and work areas. Camp Eagle later became the companyís home away from home from February 1968 to March 1972.
Over the next two years Company A would make the transition along with the division from airborne to airmobile. There were assaults into the A Shau Valley in August 1968 and the resupply of the Marines at Khe Sanh during their siege. There were missions involving 5th Special Forces out of My Loc with LRRP insertions and extractions in Laos. The extractions were often known as a "Prairie Fire Emergency." This meant that the team you were on standby for was hopelessly surrounded and you had to go in and get them, not good!
In late 1969, the reconnaissance area assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry was too large to be covered adequately by its organic air troops. The decision was then made to change Company A from an assault company to a provisional air cavalry troop to fill the holes in the reconnaissance effort. Thus, between 7 December 1969 and 31 March 1970, A Company was put under the operational control of the 2/17th Cavalry and redesignated F Troop. F Troop consisted of eight UH-1Hís (Lift), nine UH-1Cís (Gunships) and eight OH-6Aís (Observation/Reconnaissance) Helicopters.
F Troop flew over 2700 hours during Operation Randolph Glen while performing missions such as visual reconnaissance, ground reconnaissance with infantry platoons, Ranger operations, downed aircraft recovery, and general support of the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, United States Marine Corps.
Company A conducted combat operations as F Troop in Vietnam until 12 March 1970. The unit was then placed on a "stand down" from operational missions for reconversion to A Company, 101st Aviation Battalion (AH). During the period 12 March through 31 March 1970 the unit went through extensive classroom briefings and flight training in assault helicopter tactics in preparation for the new designation as an assault helicopter company. While the company was training for this new mission it still served in a limited general support role. Reconversion was completed 27 March 1970 with Company A being assigned 18 UH-1H helicopters. The assault helicopter training prepared A Company for Operation Texas Star during which, it was in direct support of 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AMBL).
The war did not get any easier for Company A. They now had to support a major operation into Laos. Lam Son 719 was an operation to disrupt an ongoing North Vietnamese Army supply buildup at Tchepone, Laos from 8 February through 9 April 1971. Company A was conducting regular insertions into Laos for some time. This operation would be different than any previous operation in that they were up against the heaviest anti-aircraft array incurred in the war. During its time remaining in Vietnam, the Company averaged 1600 flight hours a month. Company A finally returned from Vietnam in February 1972.
Upon return to Fort Campbell from Vietnam, Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion entered a time of significant turbulence and change. Throughout the next seven years the Company dealt with the major restructuring that was ongoing within the total Army, until it was inactivated on 4 April 1979. Later, after more than two years, A Company was reactivated on 30 September 1981 at Fort Campbell.
Company A was reorganized as A Company, 229th Attack Helicopter Battalion equipped with twenty-one AH-1 Cobras, thirteen OH-58 Observation Helicopters, and three UH-1H Lift Helicopters. This designator was maintained until 17 February 1987 when the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) made the transition to the "Army of Excellence" structure. The 229th Attack Helicopter Battalion was divided along company lines and transformed into three separate battalions. One of these battalions was the 55th Attack Helicopter Battalion, of the 101st Aviation Group. It was a turbulent time to be in the "Fighting 55th" due to the equipment and personnel vacancies that were still being filled. Standard operating procedures needed to be established, while company commands and staffs needed to be assembled and organized from the ground up.
The 55th Attack Helicopter Battalion had a short-lived, yet intense life span. In the first three months there were two deployments and one Field Training Exercise (FTX). These were immediately followed by a division FTX, "Golden Eagle í87," and two Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises (EDRE), "Sand Eagle Ď87" and "Solid Shield í87." "Sand Eagle Ď87" was a task force mission that performed Joint Air Attack Tactics, air assaults, and attack and cavalry operations in and around MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The unit received special recognition by the XVIII Airborne Corps Commander for their performance. "Solid Shield Ď87" tested the battalionís ability to conduct missions over great distances, in mountainous terrain, and in intense heat while operating in the heart of Honduras.
By the summer of 1987, the battalion had moved out of old Hangar 11 and into a brand new hangar at Sabre Army Heliport. The groundwork was being laid for the upcoming Apache Fielding Program. By fall the personnel turbulence was significant as soldiers were rotated in order to prepare for the upcoming transition and the six-month deployment to Fort Hood, Texas.
The motto "EXPECT NO MERCY" was coined one day during this difficult transitional period as LTC Thomas W. Garrett had his commanders and staff assembled in order to formulate a plan to accomplish the enormous amount of work to be completed prior to the Apache fielding. As the meeting adjourned, one of the company commanders turned to another and said, "EXPECT NO MERCY." The Motto stuck.
On 16 October 1987, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) went to the United States Army Regimental System and the 55th Attack Helicopter Battalion was deactivated. The 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment emerged as the first advanced attack helicopter battalion at Fort Campbell equipped with the AH-64A Apache. The battalion deployed to Fort Hood, Texas from June to December of 1988 for the transition to the Apache. All previous records were shattered under the Apache Training Brigade as the "Expect No Mercy" soldiers excelled in every task required of making a combat ready battalion.
Following the fielding of the AH-64A, the arduous task of sustaining pilots, crews, and soldiers in order to set the standard in the worlds most technologically advanced attack helicopter began. Train, maintain, and sustain were the missions. The Battalion continued to "lead the pack" by becoming one of only two Apache Battalions in the Army to develop a system by which copilot/gunners in the front seat would also fly with night vision goggles. The battalion leadership also continued breaking new ground by integrating the Extended Range Fuel System into missions to complement the aircraftís fighting capabilities.
In June 1989, LTC Richard A. Cody assumed command and injected his innovative attack tactics and maintenance management concepts into the battalion. This allowed the unit to support an ever-increasing operational tempo. The battalion participated in Joint Air Attack Operations with the United States Air Force and became fully integrated into the 101st Airborne Divisionís Air Assault doctrine. After a devastating storm to the Apache fleet at Fort Hood, the Battalion was selected to participate in a major force-on-force operational test of the Armyís new Air Defense Anti-Tank system at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California from September through June 1990. The tough, realistic training of this fast-paced period proved later to be invaluable as the battalion deployed halfway around the world in August 1990.
In August 1990, immediately after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the 1-101st Aviation Regiment deployed as part of the a 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) task force to Saudi Arabia to defend the kingdom and prepare for follow-on combat operations. Once again, the 1-101st became the first unit in the Division to deploy in the face of war. The 1-101st, the only Apache Battalion within the division at that time, was on the first C-5 Galaxy to depart Fort Campbell for Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield. The AH-64A Apache enabled the Army to quickly establish a force projection package ready to stop any further advance by Iraqi forces.
1-101st was task organized with eighteen AH-64 Apaches, three UH-60A Blackhawks, thirteen OH-58C and an one OH-58D Kiowa Scout Helicopter. This task force arrived at King Abduhl Aziz Air Base, Dhahran on 18 August 1990. In the process of building up the aircraft in Dhahran, the APR-39 Radar Warning Receiver was upgraded in order to enhance aircraft survivability.
The 1-101st left Dhahran for An Nariyah (nicknamed "Camp Hell" by the "Expect No Mercy" soldiers). During the early months of Operation Desert Shield, the Battalion continued to train for possible combat missions. Training was focused on preparing the aircrews for the new environment they would be flying in. The unit adapted quickly to the harsh desert environment developing new maintenance techniques and maintaining an unparalleled will to accomplish the mission. Through hard work, training, and vigilance Desert Shield successfully deterred any further aggressive action by Iraq, but this was only the beginning.
On 28 September 1990, LTC Cody received the order to task organize for a special operations mission designated "Normandy." Task Force Normandy was given the mission to destroy key Iraqi early warning radar sites in order to provide the air campaign with a radar free route into Iraq. As a result, there were numerous training missions and live fire rehearsals during the next few months preparing the eight AH-64 crews for the mission. On 18 December 1990 the battalion conducted the first ever live-fire exercise with the extended range fuel tanks installed on an Apache.
On 10 January 1991, Task Force Normandy conducted its final rehearsal and prepared to depart for Al Jouf in western Saudi Arabia. At 0238 hours on 17 January 1991, Task Force Normandy fired the "first shots" of the Allied Offensive, destroying two Iraqi early warning/ground control intercept radar sites. This opened a radar-black corridor to Baghdad and validated years of training, preparation, and hard work. Thus, also marking the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.
Next the 1-101st moved to Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) Eddie just east of Rahfa on 20 January. Once the TAA was established, they began patrols of the Iraqi border on 24 January. As the air war commenced, 1-101st began to conduct night cross-border reconnaissance for the divisionís future Forward Operating Base (FOB) Cobra on 14 February. On 24 February 1991, the Battalion was the lead element of a three Brigade Air Assault into FOB Cobra, inside Iraq. The largest air assault to date (150 km / 95 NM), this allowed the 101st Airborne Division to seize critical blocking positions along the Euphrates River, cutting off the major line of communication between Baghdad and Kuwait. It was for this kind of extraordinary heroism in military operations, against an armed enemy, that on 24 February 1991 the 1-101st received itís third Valorous Unit Award.
On 27 February, the Battalion once again led the division as it moved to FOB Viper and pursued the retreating Republican Guards along the Euphrates Causeway west of Al Basra. At 2300 hours the news of the impending cease-fire was received and the battalion began the transition back to peace. Between 28 February and 06 March the battalion still conducted nightly security operations in the Euphrates River Valley. Then on 8 March 1991 the 1-101st redeployed back to TAA Eddie in Saudi Arabia.
On 5 April 1991, the Battalion departed for Fort Campbell after successfully flying over 5,700 hours in the harsh desert environment and under the most austere of conditions. These soldiers successfully completed all assigned missions, without a single casualty or serious injury.
Once home the Battalion continued to deploy as part of the Armyís only Air Assault Division. Participating in numerous deployments to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), simulating low to mid-intensity conflict, it maintained it track record of success. Throughout the following years, the battalion continued to implement new tactics, techniques and procedures to better support the Air Assault mission. In May 1995 the Aviation Restructuring Initiative was implemented and the battalion yet again went through a major change. This resulted in a pure AH-64A Apache battalion of 24 aircraft and directed the turn in of all its OH-58ís and UH-60ís.
Currently we continue to operate under this structure. In January 1999, 1-101st received word that they would again return to the Middle East. Deploying a task force to Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch (OSW) it was once again to guard against any Iraqi aggression. Task Force 1-101st left Fort Campbell on 17 February with eight AH-64A Apaches, two UH-60A Blackhawks, and the necessary support equipment and personnel to accomplish the mission in Kuwait. While deployed, the Task Force aviators flew 974 imminent danger hours in support of Operation Southern Watch III. Meanwhile the remainder of the battalion did not stop as they supported the OSW task force and continued to train as an Attack Helicopter Battalion at Fort Campbell. The difficult task of conducting split-based battalion operations finally came to an end, as Task Force 1-101st successfully returned home on 20 August 1999.
Today the 1-101st continues a proud tradition of excellence as part of the only Air Assault Division in the Army and the strategic division of choice. As it transitions into the 21st Century the 1st Battalion will continue to tackle new challenges and set the standard as it turns yet another page in its history.
EXPECT NO MERCY
1st BATTALION, 101ST AVIATION HONORS & CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT
Presidential Unit Citation (Army),
Streamer embroidered DONG XOAI
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