Fort Bragg's 127th Engineer Battalion reactivated
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Two Fort Bragg battalions were reflagged Wednesday as part of an ongoing reorganization of brigade combat teams across the Army.
In a morning ceremony, the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion was deactivated and the 127th Engineer Battalion was activated in its place.
The 127th last existed more than 50 years ago, officials said. Its history includes fighting in World War II's Pacific theater.
In the afternoon, the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment was deactivated and replaced by the 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment fought in World War II, including in Normandy, Ardennes and the Rhineland. It also was involved in much of the Vietnam War, including the famed Battle of Hamburger Hill and every Tet counteroffensive.
Both battalions are part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team and the brigade commander, Col. Trevor Bredenkamp, was reviewing officer for both ceremonies at Stang Field.
At the 127th activation, veterans of the unit from World War II were among the guests in attendance.
Lloyd Wade volunteered for the Army in 1943 with the hopes of joining the 82nd Airborne Division.
Instead, Wade soon found himself in the Pacific with the 127th Engineer Battalion, then part of the 11th Airborne Infantry Division.
Wade spent two years in the Philippines and New Guinea and twice made combat jumps as part of a unit that built roads and airstrips for other U.S. troops to follow.
Decades later, Wade said he finally has his chance to be in the 82nd.
Officials with the newly minted 127th Engineer Battalion said Wednesday's ceremony was important because it formalized the addition of a new history for the 82nd Airborne.
While most 82nd units served in the European theater of World War II, the 127th can claim a history in the Pacific, said battalion executive officer Maj. Brian Hoffman.
The unit itself has not changed much, however. The soldiers will still be the most diverse unit in the 1st Brigade, with engineer, signal, intelligence, military police and other specialties serving side by side.
Along with the activation, the 127th also added a company of soldiers, bringing the battalion's numbers to about 650, officials said.
The added company will bring the unit additional engineer capabilities, battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest McGee said.
McGee said Wednesday's ceremony had added significance because of veterans like Wade, who traveled from Denver to attend the event dressed in his old jumpsuit with corporal rank.
"They make history real," McGee said.
The battalion leadership did not change along with the name, but the battalion colors and flash did, officials said.
The new symbols of the battalion were created by the leadership, McGee said, because no one could find an image of the historical colors and flash.
The 127th had not existed since 1958, officials said.
And its veterans, like the 90-year-old Wade, assumed their unit was long gone.
Lt. Col. Mark Childress, battalion commander, paid service to the 127th's history, but added that the history books were not yet fully written.
"I stand before you today confident and hopeful that our best and, in many ways, our most important and our most productive days remain still ahead of us," he said.
In the afternoon, Bredenkamp welcomed the brigade's newest battalion as members of the "Devils in Baggy Pants" - a nickname the brigade earned in World War II.
Until recently, the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment had been part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, but that unit was reassigned as the 4th Brigade prepares to deactivate next year.
Two other 4th Brigade units, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, will be reassigned to the 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams after deployments to Afghanistan.
Bredenkamp said the battalion's move from 4th Brigade and its reflagging from a cavalry unit to parachute infantry were important milestones in the Army's Brigade Combat Team 2020 design.
"We are fortunate to have those fine paratroopers as part of our brigade family," Bredenkamp said of the latest additions.
"The name may change, but the quality and caliber of the paratroopers will not," he said.
Lt. Col. Mark Purdy, commander of the newly minted 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, said the unit's history would not be forgotten.
"We will carry that stamp forever on this battalion," he said.
Purdy listed the nine soldiers lost by 4th Squadron during various deployments to Afghanistan in recent years and said those fallen heroes would "transition and stay with us."
"Never forgotten," he said.
But Purdy said the battalion was prepared to accept the 501st's history, too.
He said it was exciting to now claim the lineage of the 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment because of its storied history in World War II and Vietnam.
The battalion had one of the most decorated U.S. soldiers in history when, in Vietnam, Capt. Joe Hooper earned a Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts.
It also was one of the nation's first airborne units.
"It's pretty amazing," Purdy said.