The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) has a rich historical lineage, and today supports the United States Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd CAB provides the Division with many of its surveillance and mobility capabilities, as well as a great measure of its firepower. The 82nd CAB’s tactical symbol, Pegasus, comes not solely from the winged horse of Greek mythology, but from the glider-borne assault on Pegasus Bridge. This was arguably the most critical objective seized in preparation of the D-Day invasion of mainland Europe by Allied Forces during World War II. Shortly after midnight, six gliders carrying British paratroopers landed near Pegasus Bridge, representing the first company-sized Allied unit to land in German-occupied France. The seizure of Pegasus Bridge prevented opposing forces from flanking British and Canadian troops conducting amphibious assaults on Sword and Juno Beaches in Normandy in support Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944.
On September 1, 1957, the 82nd Aviation Company was established under the 82nd ABN DIV. Alpha Troop, 17th Cavalry, 82nd ABN DIV, which traces its lineage back to 1916, became the first Division unit to receive aircraft after being re-designated from the 82nd Reconnaissance Company, 82nd ABN DIV. The unit’s primary role was to provide command and control for aviation operations within the 82nd ABN DIV.
Following its activation, the 82nd Aviation Company expanded and was established as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd Aviation Battalion with Alpha Company and Bravo Company providing Reconnaissance, Attack, and Air Assault capabilities to the 82nd ABN DIV. This greatly increased the maneuverability and lethality of the 82nd ABN DIV.
On May 1, 1965, Alpha Company, 82nd Aviation Battalion deployed to Vietnam in support of Vietnam Defense, Vietnam Counteroffensive, and Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase II Campaigns. When Alpha Company initially arrived in Vietnam, they operated from Vung Tau under III Corps. In October 1965, Alpha Company moved to support the 173rd ABN BDE at Bien Hoa, Vietnam.
While most of Alpha Company was in Vietnam, the remaining elements of Alpha Company as well as Bravo Company, 82nd Aviation Battalion, and Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry deployed to the Dominican Republic to support OPERATION POWER PACK in order to bring stability to the nation. Aviation assets within the 82nd Aviation Battalion and 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry conducted Aerial Reconnaissance, MEDEVAC operations, Leaflet Drops, Air lift operations, and maintained a Quick Reaction Force.
On February 18, 1968, in response to the Tet Offensive, Bravo Troop 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, deployed with 3rd Brigade, 82nd ABN DIV to Vietnam, serving as the reconnaissance unit for the brigade. Their mission in Vietnam would not end for 22 months.
Following its operations in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic, the 82nd Aviation Battalion expanded to include Charlie Company, its General Support Aviation Company, and an Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Company. This transformation made the 82nd Aviation Battalion the largest aviation battalion in the U.S. Army.
On October 25, 1983, elements of the 82nd Aviation Battalion and 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, deployed with the 82nd ABN DIV in support of OPERATION URGENT FURY, a joint force consisting of the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy Seals, and the 75th Ranger Regiment along with Caribbean allies in the invasion of Grenada. Elements of the battalion conducted close combat attacks, air assault and air lift operations. During this operation, Bravo Company, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, became the first unit to employ UH-60 Black Hawks in combat.
On January 15, 1987, the 82nd Aviation Battalion was relieved from assignment to the 82nd ABN DIV and redesignated as 82nd Aviation, a parent unit under the U.S. Army Regimental System. This facilitated the redesignation of Alpha Company, 82nd AVN BN into 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation. 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation, contained all attack aircraft assigned to 82nd Aviation. Both Charlie Company and the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Company remained under HHC, 82nd AVN BDE, while Bravo Company remained directly under the 82nd ABN DIV.
In August 1987, 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation, deployed to Ft Hood, Texas in order to field the first AH-64A Apaches, the Army’s replacement attack helicopter for the AH-1 Cobra. They conducted rigorous training on the new systems, and during their training, the battalion reinstituted the call sign use of “Wolfpack,” formerly used by Alpha Company, 82nd AVN BN while serving in Vietnam. They returned to Ft Bragg, North Carolina in March 1988 as the world’s first combat ready Advanced Attack Helicopter Battalion. The new addition of the Apache made the already lethal Wolfpack a stronger force multiplier. The Apaches would soon get their first test in an operational environment.
On December 17, 1989, elements of 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation and 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, were sent to Panama under OPERATION JUST CAUSE in support of 82nd ABN DIV. The purpose of the operation was to protect key sites in the Canal Zone and capture Gen. Manuel Noriega. This was the first time that the Apache would conduct combat operations. Though no rounds were fired from the Apaches during the operation, they were used as long range reconnaissance and observation platforms for ground forces. Due to the initial level of secrecy, aviation operations were only allowed during the hours of darkness, as aviation units flew prescribed routes at night to different sites along the Canal Zone.
On January 15, 1991, elements from 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 82nd Aviation deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of OPERATION DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. Apaches from 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation joined Apaches from the 101st ABN DIV in the first deep drive into Iraq on January 17, after Saddam Hussein failed to leave by the January16 deadline. During this deep attack, Apaches assigned to 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation were credited with firing the first shots from an AH-64 in combat. In addition to conducting deep attacks against enemy artillery, air defense, and armor systems, they also conducted border patrol operations. UH-60s from 2nd Battalion, 82nd Aviation would also conduct personnel recovery and air lift operations.
On August 24, 1992, elements of the 82nd Aviation took part in Humanitarian Assistance operations after Hurricane Andrew struck Dade County, Florida. The battalion conducted numerous personnel recovery operations, moved food and water to the victims of the hurricane, and moved equipment to help in the immediate rebuilding of the area.
On September 19, 1994, elements of the 82nd Aviation, deployed in support of OPERATION UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. The purpose of the operation was to remove the military leader of a 1991 Haitian Coup that overthrew elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. UH-60s from the brigade conducted deliberate air movement of friendly forces as well as maintained a quick reaction force.
In April 1997, elements of the 82nd Aviation deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of OPERATION JOINT GUARD, part of a NATO-led multinational Stabilization Force charged with enforcing the stipulations for peace outlined in the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, which had ended the Bosnian War.
Since September 11, 2001, the 82nd Aviation Brigade has shouldered a heavy burden in the defense of our nation and its allies, as the operational reach achieved by aviation operations was a significant advantage leveraged against Anti-Afghan and Anti-Iraqi Forces. The Brigade saw action early in both OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM, the two major campaigns in the Global War on Terror.
Elements of the 82nd Aviation Brigade first deployed to Afghanistan in July 2002, providing combat power and support to American and Coalition Forces in order to disrupt Taliban and Al-Qaeda networks. The following year, the 82nd Aviation Brigade deployed to Iraq in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. After redeploying, the Brigade underwent a massive aircraft reset, and after becoming fully mission capable, elements of the Brigade supported the Drug Enforcement Agency supporting interdiction operations in the Caribbean. Other elements of the Brigade returned to Iraq in 2005, and conducted joint and multi-national operations in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.
In autumn 2005, 82nd Aviation Brigade elements remaining stateside again assisted in Humanitarian Assistance Operations, as they were part of Task Force All American, who deployed on short notice to provide immediate assistance and disaster relief to southern Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The modern 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) took shape in January 2006. As the U.S. Army sought to better consolidate combat power through the Brigade Combat Team construct for its land forces, the aviation brigades underwent similar realignment to increase its capabilities. As part of the reorganization, the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), 82nd Aviation Regiment, and the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion were created through the reflagging and fusion of other pre-existing units and became part of the newly organized 82nd CAB.
In early spring 2006, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, transferred to Ft Campbell, Kentucky, and reflagged as 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry, under the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). As part of the U.S. Army’s modular force structure, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry was reactivated and assigned to the reorganized 82nd CAB.
As a result of the reorganization of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the formation included: Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Gryphon), 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment (Saber), 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (Wolfpack), 2nd Assault Battalion (Corsair), 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion (Talon), and 122nd Aviation Support Battalion (Atlas).
Soon after reorganization of the 82nd CAB, the Brigade deployed elements in support of both OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM in June 2006, and OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in January 2007. The brigade headquarters company, 2nd Assault Battalion, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, and elements of 122nd Aviation Support Battalion deployed to Afghanistan, as 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, and the remainder of 122nd Aviation Support Battalion deployed to northern Iraq.
The 82nd CAB deployed for the first time as a complete brigade to Regional Command – South, Afghanistan, in early 2009 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. As part of a build-up of American Forces in Afghanistan, the 82nd CAB became the first full aviation brigade to be based in Regional Command – South. Previously, aviation assets had been concentrated in Regional Command – East, with one subordinate task force deployed to Regional Command – South. The 82nd CAB completed this deployment cycle in April 2010, and returned to Fort Bragg with great honor as the U.S. Army’s most decorated CAB.
After returning to home station, the 82nd CAB began to plan and train for its next call to arms. The 82nd CAB transitioned to the advanced M-Model of the UH-60. After undergoing a task organization shift in which the organic flying battalions became Multi-Functional Aviation Task Forces (MFATFs), the CAB’s Troopers also conducted training in the mountains of Colorado to prepare for the demands of flying over the mountainous and rugged lands of Regional Command – East, Afghanistan. The 82nd CAB deployed once again to Afghanistan in the fall of 2011.
The 82nd CAB deployed to Regional Command – East in support of OEF XII, relieving 10th CAB in mid-October 2011. With the brigade headquarters, one MFATF, and the aviation support battalion based in Bagram, other MFATFs were based in Salerno, Shank, and Jalalabad. The Brigade Task Force supported all of Regional Command – East, as well as the capital region, flying some 160,000 hours. The 82nd CAB provided a sustained aviation presence over the battlespace at a critical time during the Afghan Surge Retrograde, and ensured that Ground Forces received the full-spectrum aviation support they required. The 82nd CAB, having been relieved by the 101st CAB in mid-September 2012, redeployed with great honor and satisfaction of a job extremely well done.
In early fall of 2014, the 82nd CAB once again mobilized to Afghanistan. They were in a familiar place, but at a critical transition point in Afghanistan. Replacing the 159th CAB from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the 82nd CAB was headquartered in Bagram. 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, deployed to Nangarhar Province to Forward Operating Base Fenty, providing aviation support to outlying areas. 2nd Assault Battalion deployed to Kandahar Airfield, providing aviation support to outlying areas. 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment deployed to Logar Province to facilitate the closure of Forward Operating Base Shank, and to provide Armed Aerial Reconnaissance within the Base Security Zones of major installations. 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion deployed to Bagram Airfield, providing aviation support to outlying areas. 122nd Aviation Support Battalion deployed to Bagram Airfield and provided combat service support and retrograde operations. 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment and 122nd Aviation Support Battalion redeployed its colors by the end of 2014. Serving as the only U.S. Army aviation unit in Afghanistan, the 82nd CAB maintained personnel and aircraft in four different regional commands. The brigade redeployed in the early spring of 2015, following a successful completion of their mission during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and FREEDOM’S SENTINEL.
Today, the Troopers and Battalions within of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade maintain a high state of readiness in order to conduct rapid deployment as part of the nation’s response to world-wide contingencies. The Brigade continues to provide a Multi-Functional Aviation Task Force capable of conducting Full Spectrum Aviation Operations as part of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Global Response Force.