3rd Brigade, Rakkasan, 101st Airborne
3rd Brigade, Rakkasan, 101st Airborne
The 187th Infantry Regiment, from which the Rakkasans draw their history and lineage, was constituted on Nov 12 1942, at Camp Mackall, NC and on Feb 25, 1943, was activated and designated as a Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) assigned to the 11th Airborne Division.
The first mission of the 187GIR was to help convince the War Department that an Airborne Division could fly over water at night, drop with minimal casualties, and wage sustained combat operations while being resupplied entirely by air. The success of the ensuing Knollwood Maneuvers proved the effectiveness of the Airborne Division concept and compelled the war department to create other Airborne Divisions.
The “Rakkasans” deployed to the pacific in mid-1944 with the 11th Airborne Division and saw combat service in New Guinea, Leyte and Luzon. The 187th was the first Airborne Regiment in concert with the 188th, to conduct a combat amphibious landing on enemy-held shores, landing in Lingayen Gulf to flank the Japanese lines on Luzon, while also fighting in the battles of Purple Heart hill, Tagatay Ridge, Nichols Field, Manila and Mount Macelod. They also earned the distinction of being the only allied airborne force to meet and destroy an enemy combat parachute operation on their positions when Japanese airborne units tried to recapture airfields on Leyte taken by the Rakkasans. The 187th, joined by its sister Regiments (188th and 511th), then led in the liberation of Manila, the first enemy held friendly nation capital liberated in the Pacific campaigns. The Rakkasans were given the honor of garrisoning the city of Manila to clear the city of enemy stragglers and death squads and prevent the infiltration of Japanese elements who threatened the establishment of the Philippine government. When the war ended the 187th, as part of the 11th Airborne Division, was chosen to spearhead the occupation of Japan. On Aug. 30, 1945, at 1 a.m., the first planes carrying 187th Soldiers left for Atsugi Airfield. This was a momentous occasion, as the 187th would be the first American as well as foreign troops to enter Japan in more than 2,000 years. While serving as part of the American Occupation Force and conducting training jumps, it was the Japanese who gave the paratroopers of the 187th Infantry Regiment the nickname “Rakkasan,” loosely translated as “falling down umbrella.”
On Aug 27, 1950, the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment was reorganized and re-designated as the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. In September 1950, elements of the 187th exploited the success of the Inchon landings, clearing the Kimpo Peninsula between the Han River and the Yellow Sea. In the months that followed, the 187th defeated an enemy force of more than 3,000 soldiers, performed a textbook parachute assault and heavy drop at Sukchon-Sunchon, and defeated the Chinese in the Battle of Wonju. The Rakkasans performed another airborne assault into the Munsan-ni Valley, fought battles at Inje, Kumwha, Wonton-ni and quelled prison-camp riots at Koje-do. The Rakkasans’ successes in Korea changed the face of airborne warfare, revitalized interest in the use of paratroopers, and convinced the Pentagon to reactivate the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, NC.
On Dec 13, 1967, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, reported for duty in the Republic of Vietnam. The Rakkasans were called upon to conduct countless operations against “hot spots” of enemy activity throughout every Corps area in the Vietnam Theater and became known as the “nomad” unit. Though not the only battle of their service in Vietnam, it was the Rakkasans who defeated the first line Vietnamese army forces in the battle for Hamburger Hill, Don Ap Bia.
In September 1990, the Rakkasans deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. In late February 1991 but prior to D-Day, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment air assaulted into Objective Weber and captured more than 400 Iraqi soldiers. On Feb 25, 1991, the 48th anniversary of the Regiment, the Rakkasans conducted the largest and deepest air assault operation of its time—striking 155 miles behind enemy lines into the Euphrates River valley, cutting Highway 8 and the Iraqi retreat from Kuwait. This action led to the decisive defeat of Iraqi forces and helped ensure a total Allied victory.
In Dec 2001, as part of the ongoing war on terrorism, the Rakkasans were deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The first Army Brigade to deploy in support of the Global War on Terror, they conducted operations against the Taliban and were instrumental in liberating Afghanistan from extremists. The Rakkasans took part in numerous missions in Afghanistan, to include fighting in the Shah-I-Kot mountain region of eastern Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda in Mar 2002.
In 2003, seven months after their return from Afghanistan, the Rakkasans deployed to Kuwait as the Division DRB-1 for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF1). On 20 March 2003, the Rakkasans led the Division’s attack into Iraq, establishing FARPs Exxon and Shell in support of deep attacks into Iraq. They later seized the city of al Hillah, participated in the liberation of Saddam Hussein International Airport, and occupied portions of Baghdad, defeating Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi forces. The BDE then moved to western Ninewah province along the Syrian border for the remainder of the deployment, establishing fledgling governance and reconstruction projects for the betterment of the local population, while continuing operations against insurgents.
In early 2004, the BDE returned to FT Campbell and soon reorganized under Army Transformation as the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT). The 3BCT also began massive preparation return to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, deploying in Sept 2005 for OIF rotation 05-07. Deployed to Salah Ad Din Province, including Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, the BCT conducted combat operations for the next year against a growing Sunni insurgency. In partnership with the fledgling Iraq Army and Police, the BCT conducted countless operations against the insurgency, to include Operation Swarmer, the largest air assault since the invasion in 2003.
The BCT redeployed in Sept 2006, and commenced another refit and re-training period. A year later, in Sept 2007 following the Iraq Surge, the 3BCT deployed again for OIF 07-09, this time to southwest and southern Baghdad between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The BCT, in concert with improved Iraqi Army and Police counterparts and thousands of Sons of Iraq, conducted operations over the course of the next 15 months against the remaining Sunni and Shia insurgents, decimating the remnants of the enemy they had fought just a year earlier.
Redeploying again in Nov 2008, the BCT commenced its forth refit and re-training period since 9/11. Fourteen months later, in January 2010, the 3BCT returned to Afghanistan in support of OEF 10-11 as part of Regional Command-East, near the Afghan-Pakistan border. The Rakkasans completed nearly 600 major named operations, with individual battalion task forces conducting over 12,000 unit-level patrols in Paktika, Pakyta, Khowst provinces, Deh Yak and Andar districts in Ghazni province, and Panjwa’I district. Task Force Rakkasan units also conducted almost 2,200 Key Leader Engagements (KLEs) or shuras with local village leaders.
After 12 months, the BCT returned to FT Campbell in early 2011. Following the longest period home since 9/11, the Rakkasans once again returned to Afghanistan in Sept 2012, assuming responsibility for Khowst, Paktya and eastern Paktika provinces. In partnership with the Afghan 1BDE, 203Corps, multiple Border Police BNs and the Afghan Uniformed Police, the Rakkasans conducted hundreds of operations against insurgents across eastern Afghanistan, while advancing the confidence and independence of their Afghan counterparts. Redeploying in May 2013, the BCT is once again beginning preparations for its next Rendezvous with Destiny.