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    A Soldier's History of the Air Assault: Screaming Eagles Attack From Above

    A Soldier's History of the Air Assault: Screaming Eagles Attack From Above

    Photo By Rick Rzepka | An "Above the Rest" Soldier from the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st...... read more read more

    By Sgt. Rick Rzepka
    1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division

    SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, Iraq - "The integration of aircraft into the organic structure of the ground forces is as radical a change as the move from the horse to the truck, and the process is only beginning..." – Lt. Gen. John J. Tolson, 1972

    There has never been a more succinct combat multiplier for the infantry Soldier than the introduction of the helicopter into warfare. Nowhere is this more evident than in the most dynamic division in today's Army, where every chess piece is a queen and every Soldier a "thunderbolt from the skies."

    Capitalizing on the dynamic nature of using helicopters as a mode of transportation into and out of combat, Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division are recognized the world around for their dexterity in combat, their deep and storied heritage and their pride in being a part of the only Air Assault division in the Armies of the world. Like those who came before them, the latest generation of "Screaming Eagles" attacks from above.

    "It is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of the Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division." – Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, Aug. 15, 1942

    The "Screaming Eagles" became "Airmobile" in 1968 during the Vietnam War, where helicopters proved effective at moving large quantities of men and supplies into and out of the dense battlefields. The mobility the division gained by utilizing helicopters in battle allowed the 101st Airborne Division to accomplish more missions than any other unit.

    In 1974, the 'Airmobile' skill identifier badge was authorized for wear on the Army uniform and four years later, 'Airmobile' became the 'Air Assault' wings that Soldiers of the 101st proudly wear today.

    Like Vietnam, modern day Screaming Eagle's are serving on terrain that is as unforgiving as the dense jungles of South East Asia. From the rugged mountains of Afghanistan to the sweltering deserts of Iraq, 101st Soldiers are able to operate in the world's toughest environments, thanks to the impetus of the Air Assault.

    In 1991, during the Gulf War, Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division again chiseled their names into the history books by conducting the largest and longest Air Assault in the history of warfare. More than 2,000 "Screaming Eagles" pushed more than 50 miles into enemy held territory to sever Saddam's supply lines, which affected a quick and decisive victory over the world's third largest army.

    Twelve years later, 101st troops again crossed the Rubicon to close with Saddam's army. The division was instrumental in liberating Iraq's people from the dictator's grip.

    "It's the greatest privilege that I can possibly imagine to have served in this division and to be blessed with such a team that we have here." – Gen. David Petraeus, 101st Airborne Division Commanding General, Mosul, 2004

    Today, Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, employ the Air Assault to mitigate the barren terrain of the Salah ad Din province.

    In the battle against extremism, "we use the Air Assault as a means to deny the enemy sanctuary and security," said Maj. Brad Mock, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, executive officer. "The Air Assault is our bread and butter," he said. "You can't hide from it."

    Mock's "Above the Rest" battalion has conducted numerous Air Assaults since deploying to the Iraq theatre in September of 2007. They, along with Iraqi security forces, have been vital to bringing al-Qaida in the Salah ad Din province to its demise.

    "We have choked the enemy out of his supply lines and his comfort zone," said Mock. "He is definitely on the run here."

    Keeping the enemy on the run by using air assets has been a major factor in the "Bastogne" Brigade's success in the Salah ad Din province. The Air Assault makes the Infantry brigade more mobile, lethal and diverse while pursuing a greasy enemy.

    Nearly every day here, 1st BCT Infantrymen utilize an aerial quick reaction force deemed "Bastogne Strike," to action time sensitive targets and to conduct 'confirm or deny' operations, said Capt. Justin Barnes, Brigade Aviation Officer. "The enemy is seeing that we are capable of covering a vast amount of terrain, unimpeded by zig zagged roads, obstacles and improvised explosive devices," he said. "We arrive on their doorsteps unannounced, within minutes."

    The element of surprise, along with highly trained and experienced Soldiers, is a haymaker punch that Soldiers of the 101st love to throw.

    "Having trained, combat experienced Soldiers to conduct Air Operations helps us tremendously," said Staff Sgt. Jamie Mendez, 1st BCT aviation element non-commissioned officer. "Utilizing the mobility of the Air Assault allows us to support locations in the Salah ad Din province that otherwise, may not be accessible due to road conditions and terrain limitations," said Mendez.

    Since arriving in the northern province in September of 2007, the "Bastogne" Brigade has conducted hundreds Air Assault missions. A fair amount of those Air Assaults are carried out with Iraqi army soldiers, who are becoming more adept at the concept of "air mobility." As their American counterparts learned in Vietnam, Iraqi soldiers are learning that the Air Assault adds a new dimension to the fight against terror.

    "Every time Iraqi soldiers go out with us, they learn something," said Mock. "They appreciate what helicopters and the Air Assault can bring to the fight here and are always eager to learn more," he said.

    To "Screaming Eagle" Soldiers here, the dull sound of rotorblades is a comforting reminder that they serve in the most adaptable, combat proven division in the history of warfare. To the enemy, that sound will be the last they ever hear.

    "Our enemies also have a rendezvous with destiny," said Mock.



    Date Taken: 08.21.2008
    Date Posted: 08.21.2008 10:33
    Story ID: 22737

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