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End of an era for 101st: Paratroopers lose jump status, but heritage - and patch - remain

Jan. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
New Combat Service identification badges
CSIB --Combat Service Identification Badges, to worn with the new Dress Blue uniform. 101st Airborne Division. (Photos from Ira Green, Inc.) ()
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Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Beville, airborne operations noncommissioned-officer-in-charge for F Company, 5th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) does final checks to the jumpers' equipment onboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during the final jump Oct. 16. (Spc. Joeseph Green/Army)

History of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

Aug. 16, 1942: 101st Airborne Division is activated at Camp Claiborne, La.
June 6, 1944: The 101st paratroopers are the first to parachute into and set foot in occupied France.
Sept. 17, 1944: The division jumps into the Netherlands during “Operation Market Garden”
December 1944: The 101st begins fighting in Bastogne, France during the Battle of the Bulge.
November 1945: The division is inactivated.
Sept. 21, 1956: The 101st Airborne Division is reactivated.
July 1965: The division’s 1st Brigade lands in Vietnam.
August 1968: The division is redesignated as the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile).
Oct. 4, 1974: The division is again redesignated, this time as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
August 1990: The division fires the first shots of the air war in Desert Storm.
November 2001: The division’s 3rd Brigade deploys to Afghanistan, and the soldiers participate in Operation Anaconda in 2002.
February-March 2003: Soldiers deploy to Kuwait and make their way into south Baghdad.
April 2003: The division conducts an air assault into northern Iraq and assumes responsibility for Mosul.
2005: The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) deploys to Iraq for the second time and assumes responsibility for most of northern Iraq.
October-November 2007: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams deploy to Iraq separately and are attached to other Army division headquarters.
March 2008: The division headquarters deploys to Afghanistan and leads Combined Joint Task Force-101 in control of Afghanistan’s Regional Command (East).
2009: The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deploys to Afghanistan.
2010: Division headquarters returns to Afghanistan to take up the Combined Joint Task Force-101 designation and resume control of Regional Command (East).
December 2012-January 2013: The division cased its colors Jan. 25, as the headquarters deployed to Afghanistan again. They are scheduled to return in the next month or so.
Source: 101st Airborne Division Association website

Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) are known for their World War II jump into Normandy, but about 70 years of parachute operations for the division will remain only in the history books as its last two airborne units have lost their

Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) are known for their World War II jump into Normandy, but about 70 years of parachute operations for the division will remain only in the history books as its last two airborne units have lost their

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Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) are known for their World War II jump into Normandy, but about 70 years of parachute operations for the division will remain only in the history books as its last two airborne units have lost their jump status.

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.

“The name 101st Airborne Division has a famous and historic lineage dating back to World War II,” said Master Sgt. Pete Mayes, a spokesman with the 101st Airborne Division, in a statement. “The division itself, however, has not been on active jump status in several decades.”

Mayes said the Pathfinders can still accomplish their mission of aircraft and personnel recovery and extraction, sling load operations, and preparing landing and drop zones, without using airborne insertions.

If the Pathfinders are required to conduct a parachute mission, they can be recertified, a post official said.

“We will maintain sufficient airborne qualified personnel to rapidly train and conduct such an operation as needed,” said Capt. Jon Bate, the commander of Company F, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.

'Carry on'

Bate said when the official word came down that the company was going to lose its jump status, he gathered his leaders to tell them before talking to all of the soldiers.

“They were disappointed because it is something that we do as airborne infantry,” Bate said. “But my other point was that this was not going to deter us from accomplishing our mission.”

Bate said the change means they have taken all of the jumps off their training calendar and are now focused on training in other methods of insertion. The soldiers in the unit also lost their jump pay.

Jump status is something that was part of their heritage as Pathfinders, he said, and while it holds a special place for them, the “bottom line” is that they can still do their jobs.

“While it’s something that we want to do, we just move on with the mission and carry on,” Bate said.

Bate was on the last parachute jump made by the 101st on Oct. 16, and said it was a “big honor” to jump and be part of the larger parachutist heritage of the division.

“We aren’t currently on jump status, but we still retain the identity by being airborne qualified,” Bate said. “It’s part of our identity as paratroopers, as Pathfinders, recognizing the identity that we have going back in the Army’s history.”

But he maintains that losing jump status would not stop the soldiers from being Pathfinders.

However, with all of the parachute units gone from the 101st, does that mean the division will no longer wear the Airborne tab over the Screaming Eagle patch?

Not at all, Peterson said.

“The Airborne tab will remain — not out of tradition or for looks, but because the unit is still air mobile,” he said.

Peterson said the 101st is considered an airborne unit because the division is designed to be moved by helicopter.

“We certainly still are airborne,” Peterson said.

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