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.
Today, the 82nd CAB (typically known as Task Force Pegasus when deployed) is composed of some 2,800 Troopers and 122 aircraft. Airframes include the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopter, CH-47F Chinook heavy lift cargo helicopter, and variant models of the UH-60 Blackhawk general purpose utility helicopter. The highly flexible 82nd CAB conducts full-spectrum aviation operations, to include combat resupply, battlefield circulation, air assaults, close combat support, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). All these capabilities are critical assets ensuring tactical success on the modern battlefield in any environment worldwide.
The 82nd Aviation Brigade, officially activated on 15 January 1987, preceded the organizational structure of the 82nd CAB. The 82nd Aviation Brigade was primarily a conglomeration of three preexisting units: the 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion; 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, and the 269th Aviation Battalion. The colors of the 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion are still used to represent most of the modern 82nd CAB, and 1-17 CAV still proudly displays its traditional colors.
The 17th Cavalry Regiment traces it lineage back to 1 July 1916, and is by far the oldest unit within the 82nd CAB today. The 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion’s origins are rooted in the establishment of the 82nd Aviation Company, which was activated in 1957. The 82nd Aviation Company gradually expanded into a battalion-sized organization over the next decade, and elements served in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. In July 1979, the 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion received two additional assault companies. The 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion soon became the largest aviation battalion in the United States Army, as it incorporated a general support company and an attack company prior to deployment to Grenada in support of Operation Urgent Fury in October 1983. Operation Urgent Fury marked the first time the UH-60 Blackhawk was used in combat operations.
Soon after efforts to consolidate the 82nd Airborne Division’s aviation assets resulted in the activation of the 82nd Aviation Brigade, internal realignment continued. This resulted in the establishment of the Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company, as well as an Aviation Intermediate Maintenance (AVIM) company. Also, a provisional second battalion was established in May 1987. The second battalion was formally activated in September 1989, just two months before the brigade deployed to Panama in support of Operation Just Cause.
In August 1990, the 82nd Aviation Brigade deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the build-up of American Forces in the Persian Gulf region to support Operation Desert Shield, and later, Operation Desert Storm. In February and March 1991, the brigade launched deep attacks into Iraq and supported friendly forces liberating Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Just a few years later, the 82nd Aviation Brigade deployed to Haiti in November 1994 in support of Operation Uphold Democracy. Beginning in April 1997, elements of 2nd Battalion detached from the brigade for deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation Joint Guard. Elements of the 82nd Aviation Brigade conducted another rotation for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia in 2001. While not deployed overseas, the 82nd Aviation Brigade supported the 82nd Airborne Division in multiple training exercises, to include rotations through the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Erwin, California, and the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Since 11 September 2001, the 82nd Aviation Brigade has shouldered a heavy burden in the Global War on Terror. The Brigade saw action early in the campaigns Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 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 program, and after becoming fully mission capable, certain elements supported the Drug Enforcement Agency in 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, elements remaining Stateside accompanied Task Force All American Assist to southern Louisiana to help with disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
As the United States Army sought to better consolidate combat power through the Brigade Combat Team construct for its land forces, so the aviation brigades underwent similar realignment for greater empowerment. The modern 82nd CAB took shape in January 2006. 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 preexisting units and became part of the newly organized 82nd CAB. In April 2006, the Troopers of 1-17th CAV transferred to Ft Campbell, Kentucky, and reflagged as 7-17th CAV under the 159th CAB, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in June 2006. However, 1-17th CAV soon reactivated under the 82nd CAB at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as 1-82nd Aviation Regiment reflagged as 1-17th CAV. The former 3rd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment reflagged and reorganized as an Attack battalion, becoming 1-82nd Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is today composed of the following units: Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Gryphon), 1-17th Cavalry Squadron (Saber), 1-82nd Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (Wolfpack), 2-82nd Assault Battalion (Corsair), 3-82nd General Support Aviation Battalion (Talon), and 122nd Aviation Support Battalion (Atlas). The 82nd CAB is a medium-structure CAB, similar in organization to the 101st CAB, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The aircraft of assignment are as follows: 1-17th CAV, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior; 1-82nd ARB, AH-64D Apache Longbow; 2-82nd ASLT BN, UH-60M Blackhawk; 3-82nd GSAB, UH-60M Blackhawk, CH-47F Chinook, and UH-60M modified for MEDEVAC operations.
Soon after reorganization as 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, 2-82nd ASLT, 3-82nd GSAB, and elements of 122nd ASB deployed to Afghanistan, as 1-82nd ARB, 1-17th CAV, and the remainder of 122nd ASB had deployed to northern Iraq.
The 82nd CAB deployed for the first time as a complete brigade to Regional Command – South (RC-S), 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 RC-S. Previously, aviation assets had been concentrated in Regional Command – East (RC-E), with one subordinate task force deployed to RC-S. The 82nd CAB completed this deployment cycle in April 2010, and returned to Fort Bragg with great honor as the United States Army’s most decorated CAB.
After returning to home station, the 82nd CAB initiated its required reset, but soon began to plan and train for its next call to arms. The 82nd CAB conducted a complete reset, to include transitioning 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 RC-E, Afghanistan. The 82nd CAB deployed once again to Afghanistan in September/October 2011.
The 82nd CAB deployed to RC-E 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 also assumed operational control of a separate task force based in Sharana which was not organically part of the 82nd CAB. Likewise, the Brigade Task Force received other attachments, such as a Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) company. The Brigade Task Force supported all of RC-E, 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.
Whatever the threat, the 82nd CAB will remain ready to deploy as part of America’s Guard of Honor and conduct full-spectrum aviation operations in any environment across the globe.