The 101st Airborne Division is getting back to its strength in brigade-scale air assault: moving a large number of troops and weapons into place on the battlefield, or even into enemy territory.
The 101st recently conducted just that kind of brigade sized air assault operation. Over four days, Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st 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.
The movement was designed to practice establishing a position into which a larger following force could move freely. Along with establishing troops into fighting position, the maneuver positioned artillery, armed vehicles, and the earth movers to allow for repair of runways damaged by fighting. The goal is to allow cargo planes to land for resupply and troop movement.
The 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, Peterson said the change has more traditional significance than actual impact operationally. Although the division began with a majority of troops being parachutists, the 101st 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 being doing air assault insertions, and jumps for its last two parachute units were done mostly so the units could remain on jump status.