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The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade uncased their colors in a ceremony at Fort Campbell yesterday


159th Combat Aviation BrigadeFort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne DivisionFort Campbell, KY – The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade part of the 101st Airborne Division held a ceremony uncasing their unit colors at the Fort Campbell Army Airfield’s Passenger Processing Center on March 22nd.

The colors uncasing ceremony is a time-honored tradition that marks the final step of redeployment for the brigade from its yearlong mission providing rotary-wing aviation support throughout southern Afghanistan.

Col. Royar, the Commander of the 159th addressing the assembled soldiers and family members

Col. Royar, the Commander of the 159th addressing the assembled soldiers and family members

Col. K. Todd Royar, the Commander of the 159th addressed the assembled soldiers and family members.

I sure believe that the simple act of uncasing our colors in more than symbolic in nature. It really marks a transition in the life of every unit. Just a little over a month ago the brigade, as well as each of the battalions in the squadron, cased their colors in Afghanistan signifying the end to their rotation over the past year.

As we uncase them today it again marks that transition. We not only have the opportunity to not only recognize the accomplishment of every solider and the individual units but to also move ahead, and it serves as a testament that the unit is ready for its next rendezvous with destiny.

Every commander is rightfully proud of the accomplishments of their unit, and I am certainly no different. But also as I mentioned over a year ago, as an aviation brigade our success is never measured in numbers. It is not measured in the number of hours we fly, the amount of fuel we pump, or anything of the sort. It is solely measured by those that we support on the ground, and it is their impact that makes a difference.

So consequently we take pride in knowing we helped the brigade combat teams, the special operations units, and others accomplish their mission. Every one of the battalion and squadron task forces that you see in front of you did exactly that, whether it was supporting Brigade Combat Teams; to include our own great Strike Brigade in southern Afghanistan, special operations forces, or even soldiers from other nations. Everyone did their part and everyone helped accomplish the mission.

We also take pride in knowing that we helped accomplish the mission of our Afghan counterparts. As examples of the things that this brigade was able to do based off the individual efforts of the leadership you see standing in front of you, we were able to accomplish several notable firsts.

For example the first Afghan air assault conducted by all Afghans. Pilots, crew chiefs, as well as the soldiers in the back was made possible by the partnership of the formations you see standing in front of you, and that is just one example.

Through the dedicated efforts of the soldiers of the brigade, the proficiency of the elements whether it was from the Afghan National Air force, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army was all improved.

Unfortunately the Brigades rotation did not come without a cost though. So today we take a moment to honor the service of the 6 pathfinders that were lost in the rotation. They paid the ultimate sacrifice; they and their families will always remain in our hearts and prayers.

Any success that the Brigade may have had during the rotation did not happen by it’s self. We know that we are stronger as a team, and so if you will permit me I have to say a few thank you’s and recognize several groups. First in addition to the units organic to the brigade the taskforce was comprised of elements from other active duty CAB’s, four of them to count; multiple reserve component units from 10 different states; A United States Air Force element; as well as a detachment from Australia. All of them deserve an equal credit for a job well done.

Second the brigade could not have functioned without the dedicated efforts of those here at Fort Campbell including the great support of our division and garrison to include the soldiers who were left on the rear detachment. All made it possible for the Brigade Forward to focus on its mission.

Now all of us knew when we left a year ago; we were absolutely blessed with unmatched community support. Our time in Afghanistan only helped to re-emphasize that. We do absolutely live in the best communities in the United States, The towns of Clarksville, Hopkinsville, Oak Grove and other surrounding communities set the hallmark for support of the military families.

And Finally I need to recognize the families themselves. I think we would all probably agree that during a deployment our families probably have the harder job. It is only with their support that those of us in uniform are able to do what our nation calls us to do. It is a task we are proud to do, we are proud to wear that screaming eagle on our right shoulder.

As our colors are now uncased and we transition to new challenges we are confident in our ability to meet those challenges because of the same strengths that made the unit successful over the past year. Our soldiers are disciplined and ready, our families are resilient, and we come from the greatest division in the army, and are supported by the by the best communities America has to offer. We are ready for the next challenges. We are your 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, ready for its next rendezvous with destiny. Air Assault!

The 159th CAB was deployed off-cycle from the rest of the 101st Airborne Division and is the last brigade to return from its most recent mission in Afghanistan. This was the second deployment for 159th CAB in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

During the deployment soldiers of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade:

  • Conducted more than 700 air assault missions
  • Took part in 275 direct engagements against the enemy
  • Flew more than 4,000 medical evacuation flights assisting 6,000 Coalition and Afghan soldiers
  • Launched special operations resulting in the capture of approximately 180 priority targets and the destruction of nearly 44,000 pounds of drugs and more than 55,500 pounds of homemade explosives. HME destroyed was equivalent to the removal of more than 3,000 improvised explosive devices from the battlefield
  • Flew more than 101,000 hours across two regional commands
  • Saved the Army more than $225 million by enforcing supply discipline within first 10 months
  • Incorporated the emerging fixed winged capabilities of the C-27J Spartans and the Communication Electronic Attack with Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CEASAR), greatly increasing the effectiveness of the brigade.

In addition to conducting full spectrum of aviation operations, the 159TH CAB also broke cultural barriers by forming new partnerships within the Afghan community and helping the Afghan security forces increase their capabilities. Among these accomplishments were:

  • Holistically engaged partnerships with four Afghan units – Kandahar Air Wing (KAW), 2ND Afghan National Civil Order Police SWAT (ANCOP), Shinkai District National Police and the Afghan Army’s 4TH Kandak, 2ND Brigade, 205TH Corps
  • Trained the KAW to plan, lead, and execute the first-ever Air Assault mission in history in support of the Afghan National Security Forces
  • Conducted the first-ever MEDEVAC mission with Afghan medics on board while responding to Afghan military and civilian casualties

As a result of its contributions to operations in Afghanistan, the 159TH CAB, its subordinate units and Soldiers have been recognized with the following distinctions:

  • 563RD ASB was named the 2011 AAAA Outstanding Logistic Unit of The Year and earned the LTG Ellis D. Parker Award for Overall Best Combat Support Battalion Category
  • Semifinalist for Deployed Unit of Excellence (Large Category)
  • 159TH Soldiers were also recognized individually with the following awards: Aviation Soldier of the Year, Avionics Award, Trainer of the Year, Aviation Medicine Award, Aircraft Survivability Equipment Award, and Air Traffic Control Maintenance Technician of the Year

Photo Gallery

About the Meritorious Unit Commendation

The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade was awarded the meritorious unit commendation for their service in Afghanistan.

By direction of the Secretary of the Army, the Meritorious Unit Commendation is award to the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 7th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, and 563rd Aviation Support Battalion for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service during the period of 6 December 2008 to 24 November 2009, the units of 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) displayed exceptionally meritorious service in support of Global War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom. Their relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to mission accomplishment enabled full spectrum aviation support to Combined Joint Task Force-101, Combined Joint Task Force-82, and International Security Assistance Forces. the units of 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division’s outstanding performance of duty is in keeping with finest traditions of military service and reflects distinct credit upon the unit, Combined Joint Task Force-82 and the United States Army.

About the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade

159th Combat Aviation BrigadeThe 159th Combat Aviation Brigade was originally formed in 1997 as the 159th Aviation Brigade (Assault), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Between 1997 and 2001, the Brigade deployed units to Bosnia, Kosovo, Trinidad and Tobago, and Central America. Following 9/11, elements of the Brigade deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2003, the 159th deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Under Army Transformation, the unit was re-designated as a combat aviation brigade in 2004. Following its re-designation, the 159th CAB deployed again to Iraq in 2005, then to Afghanistan in 2008.

In January 2011, the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade was again called upon to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The entire brigade, minus its MEDEVAC Company that had just returned from an off-cycle deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, assumed responsibility for the rotary wing aviation mission throughout Regional Command South in Afghanistan.

Throughout its year-long deployment, the brigade provided full-spectrum aviation operations to the battle space owners, to include air assaults, air movements, reconnaissance, security, close combat attack and Pathfinder missions. During the deployment, Task Force Thunder made history when it became the first CAB to receive, integrate, and execute fixed-wing movements with C-27J Spartans and electronic attack missions with CEASAR C-12 aircraft.

The 159th CAB also took on a new role during this deployment, serving as mentors to Afghan National Security Forces. Partnerships with the Afghan Air Force, Afghan National Police, Afghan National Civil Order of Police, and the Afghan National Army helped to further improve security in the region and increase the capability of the ANSF and the government of Afghanistan.

The 159th CAB currently comprises the following units:

  • HHC, 159th CAB “Dragonlords”
  • 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment “Eagle Attack”
  • 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment “Wings of the Eagle”
  • 7th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment “Eagle Lift”
  • 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment “Palehorse”
  • 563rd Aviation Support Battalion “Fighting”

The units that augmented 159th CAB during its OEF 11-12 deployment to Afghanistan are:

  • 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment “Dragon”
  • 5th Aviation Regiment, Australian Army “Brahman”
  • Company B “Guns”, 4th Battalion, 227th Cavalry Regiment
  • Company B “Voyager”, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment
  • Company B “Blackjacks”, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment
  • Company B “Sugar Bears”, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment
  • Company C “Dustoff”, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment
  • Company C “Arctic Dustoff”, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment
  • Company C “Dustoff”, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment
  • Company C, 3rd Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment
  • C-12 CEASARS
  • C-27J Spartans

The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade is continually at the forefront of Army Aviation. Honor, duty and innovation are the hallmarks of the Soldiers who continue the proud tradition as the Thunder Brigade continues to “Press On” for America’s Army and the United States of America.

About Bill Larson




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