The legendary US 101st Airborne Division is getting back to its strength in brigade-scale air assault, the thing they do the best. If you need to move a large number of troops and weapons into place on the battlefield, or even into enemy territory, call the guys from the 101st.
The 101st Airborne Division recently conducted just that kind of brigade sized air assault operation. Over four days, Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division and the 101st Combat Air Brigade, Wings of Destiny moved over 1,000 soldiers and sling-loaded over 30 large pieces of equipment, such as vehicles and earth movers on the designated place.
The drill was designed to practice establishing a position into which a larger following force could move freely into battle. Along with establishing troops into fighting position, the maneuver positioned artillery, armed vehicles, and the earth movers to allow for engineers to repair runways damaged by fighting. The goal is to repair runaway so cargo planes are able to land for resupply and troop movement.
The elite air assault strike force has replaced the parachute as the means for delivering Airborne ground troops to the battlefield.
Although the paratroopers of the Pathfinder companies of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade will be allowed to keep their maroon berets, the unit’s soldiers will no longer be in paid parachutist positions. Of three standing Pathfinder companies in the Army, the two at Fort Campbell, Ky., were the last of the division’s units on jump status.
“You can say it’s the end of an era,” said Daniel Peterson, director of the 101st Airborne Division’s Don F. Pratt Museum. “The very last of the parachute-deployed troops are no longer in the division.”
However, he said the change has more traditional importance than actual impact operationally in real-time. Although the division began with a majority of troops being parachutists, the 101st Airborne Division was officially designated Airmobile in 1968 and then classified as Air Assault in 1974. The moves decimated parachutist positions at the division. The 101st has long been doing air assault insertions, and jumps for its last two parachute units were done mostly so the units could remain on jump status.
The 101st Airborne Division remains as the one of the most recognizable air assault unit in the world.