The 101st Airborne Division also referred to as the “Screaming Eagles”, is a U.S. Military infantry division trained specifically for air assault operations. During World War II, it was became known for action during the Normandy Landings and in the Battle of the Bulge. During the Vietnam War during the development of helicopters, the 101st Airborne Division was redesignated first an airmobile division, then later as an air assault division.
For historical reasons, it retains the “Airborne” tab identifier, yet does not conduct parachute operations at a division level anymore. Many modern members of the 101st Airborne Division are graduates of the U.S. Army Air Assault School, and wear the Air Assault Badge, but it is not prerequisite for joining the division. The division’s headquarters are at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and has had active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Operation Enduring Freedom
The 101st Airborne Division was the first conventional unit to deploy in support of the American War on Terrorism. The 2nd Brigade, “Strike”, was largely deployed to Kosovo on peacekeeping operations, with some elements of 3rd Battalion, 502nd, deploying after 9/11 as a security element in the U.S. CENTCOM AOR with the Fort Campbell-based 5th Special Forces Group. The Division quickly deployed its 3rd Brigade, the 187th Infantry’s Rakkasans, as the first conventional unit to fight as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After an intense period of combat in rugged Shoh-I-Khot Mountains of eastern Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda with elements of the 10th Mountain Division, the Rakkasans redeployed to Fort Campbell only to find the 101st awaiting another deployment order. In 2008, the 101st 4th BCT Red and White “Curraahee” including the 1st and the 2nd Battalions, 506th Infantry “Band of Brothers” were deployed to Afghanistan. The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade deployed to Afghanistan as Task Force Destiny in early 2008 to Bagram Air Base. 159th Combat Aviation Brigade deployed as Task Force Thunder to Afghanistan in early 2009.
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Operation Iraqi Freedom
In 2003, Major General David H. Petraeus (“Eagle 6”) led the Screaming Eagles to war during the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom). General Petraeus led the division into Iraq saying, “Guidons, Guidons. This is Eagle 6. The 101st Airborne Division’s next Rendezvous with Destiny is North to Baghdad. Op-Ord Desert Eagle 2 is now in effect. Godspeed. Air Assault. Out.” The division was in V Corps, providing support to the 3rd Infantry Division by clearing Iraqi strongpoints which that division had bypassed. 3rd Battalion 187 inf regt (3rd Brigade) was attached to 3rd Infantry Division and was the main effort in clearing Saddam International Airport. The Division then went on to a tour of duty as part of the occupation forces of Iraq, using the city of Mosul as their primary base of operations. 1st and 2d Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment (1st Brigade) oversaw the remote airfield Qayarrah West 30 miles (48 km) south of Mosul. The 502d Infantry Regiment (2d Brigade) and 3d Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment were responsible for Mosul itself while the 187th Infantry Regiment (3d Brigade) controlled Tal Afar just north of Mosul.
Once replaced by the first operational Stryker Brigade, the 101st was withdrawn in early 2004 for rest and refit. As part of the Army’s modular transformation, the existing infantry brigades, artillery brigade, and aviation brigades were transformed. The Army also activated the 4th Brigade Combat Team, which includes the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 506th Infantry Regiment (“Currahee”) and subordinate units.
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Second Deployment to Iraq
The division’s second deployment to Iraq began in the late summer of 2005. The division headquarters replaced the 42d Infantry Division, which had been directing security operations as the headquarters for Task Force Liberty. Renamed Task Force Band of Brothers, the 101st assumed responsibility on 1 November 2005 for four provinces in north central Iraq: Salah ad Din, Kirkuk, Diyala and As Sulymaniyah. On 30 December 2005, Task Force Band of Brothers also assumed responsibility for training Iraqi security forces and conducting security operations in Ninevah and Dahuk provinces as the headquarters for Task Force Freedom was disestablished.
During the second deployment, 2d and 4th Brigades of the 101st Airborne Division were assigned to conduct security operations under the command of Task Force Baghdad, led initially by 3d Infantry Division, which was replaced by 4th Infantry Division. The 1st Battalion of the 506th Infantry (4th Brigade) was separated from the division and served with the Marines in Ramadi, in the Al Anbar province. 3d Brigade was assigned to Salah ad Din and Bayji sectors and 1st Brigade was assigned to the overall Kirkuk province which included Hawijah, one of the deadliest cities in Iraq.
Task Force Band of Brothers’ primary mission during its second deployment to Iraq was the training of Iraqi security forces. When the 101st returned to Iraq, there were no Iraqi units capable of assuming the lead for operations against Iraqi and foreign terrorists. As the division concluded its tour, 33 battalions were in the lead for security in assigned areas, and two of four Iraq divisions in northern Iraq were commanding and controlling subordinate units.
Simultaneously with training Iraqi Soldiers and their leaders, 101st Soldiers conducted numerous security operations against
terrorist cells operating in the division’s assigned, six-province area of operations. Operation Swarmer was the largest air assault operation conducted in Iraq since 22 April 2003. 1st Brigade conducted Operation Scorpion with Iraqi units near Kirkuk.
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Developing other aspects of Iraqi society also figured in 101st operations in Iraq. Division commander Major General Thomas Turner hosted the first governors’ conference for the six provinces in the division’s area of operations, as well as the neighboring province of Erbil. Numerous civil affairs operations were directed by the division, including the construction and renovation of schools, clinics, police stations, and other important landmarks in civilian communities from Turkey to Baghdad and from the Syrian border to the Iranian border.