By Vanessa Villarreal (USFOR-A)May 2, 2015
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, May 2, 2015--After a nine month deployment in Afghanistan, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) / Task Force Pale Horse transferred responsibility to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade / Task Force Destiny in a transfer of authority ceremony today.
The 82nd CAB reduced its personnel by one-third and still managed to fly over 35,000 hours. The challenge was maintaining a high OPTEMPO flight program with a significant cut in personnel. As a result, the distance the pilots traveled to execute operations was greater than ever before.
According to Col. Mike Musiol, outgoing 82nd CAB commander, as they conducted the task of redeploying aircraft and other equipment, it took a while to push aircraft out of Afghanistan. A team was brought in from Fort Bragg, and the 101st sent an advance team to assist with moving aircraft in and out of the country. In addition, both brigades sent personnel to Rota, Spain to ensure the proper transfer of helicopters from aircraft to ships to complete the transatlantic movement of aircraft from home station to theater and vice versa. A significant muscle movement and a lot of planning and analysis was done to ensure aircraft movement went smoothly. Sixty helicopters were brought into theater, while AH-64D Apache helicopters departed and were replace by new "E" models. Aviators washed helicopters and conducted joint inspections to prepare for the loading onto C-5s.
"Of all my deployments, this was the most challenging," Musiol said. "Beginning this tour with almost 1,800 troopers and trying to determine who stays after the transition from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom's Sentinel would not have been possible without the help from Fluor, Dyncorps, and the White Air teams. If you had the opportunity to fly on a helicopter in Afghanistan, it was probably flown by a Pale Horse trooper. Our goal was to arrive in Afghanistan prepared to deliver the best aviation support possible, carrying ground forces to the fight in a deliberate and efficient manner, evacuating those heroes who were injured, and picking a fight and ruthlessly finishing when we felt it was required."
Task Force Pale House has a long history that began in 1957 when the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade was established as the 82nd Aviation Company, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, and activated at Fort Bragg, N.C. Five years later, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade was reorganized and redesignated as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd Aviation Battalion. The 82nd CAB was officially activated on Jan. 15, 1987.
Between 2003 and 2005, the 82nd CAB conducted joint and multi-national operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The new integrated force structure of the Army was implemented in January 2006, bringing 1-17th Cavalry into the Brigade. This combination required activating both the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion and 3-82nd General Support Aviation Battalion.
In 2006, the new 82nd CAB served a simultaneous deployment to both theaters of the Global War on Terror. The 122nd, 1-82nd, and 1-17th all had elements serving in Iraq, while the 2-82nd, 3-82nd and Brigade Headquarters deployed to Afghanistan.
The 82nd CAB deployed to Afghanistan in September 2011, serving Regional Command - East. The brigade provided aviation coverage and support, flying an unprecedented number of hours to support the Global War on Terror. During Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade was re-missioned and assumed responsibility of the Theater Aviation.
"Task Force Pale Horse truly made a difference," Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, U.S. Forces Afghanistan Support, said. "When they arrived in Afghanistan last September they were asked to take on the monumental task of providing air support across the CJOA-A, from Kandahar to BAF. The troopers of Task Force Pale Horse were then asked to do this with less. As the mission changed from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom's Sentinel, Task Force Pale Horse was asked to provide the same coverage and support once provided by three CABs, while reducing their force management level by one-third."
"The Screaming Eagle Soldiers of Task Force Destiny are prepared to live up to the heroic legacy of those who've gone before us," Col. Thomas Drew, incoming 101st CAB commander, said. "It is not lost on any of us the high standards, the professionalism, and the courage in the face of the enemy that this Old Abe patch represents on our left shoulder. We have a solemn duty to build upon the courageous heritage of the 101st Airborne Division, and by our actions, honor those Screaming Eagles that jumped into France on D-Day and would not surrender while facing overwhelming odds in a small Belgian town called Bastogne on Christmas Day in 1944."
The 101st Aviation Brigade was founded as the 4th Aviation Section (Light) in 1950 under the Eighth U.S Army Korea. The unit saw several activations and deactivations over the next several years. In 1968, at Camp Eagle in the Republic of Vietnam, the 160th Aviation Group was made up of elements of the 17th Cavalry Regiment, and the 101st, 158th, and 159th Assault Helicopter battalions. On June 25, 1969, the 160th was retitled as the 101st Aviation Group. With the air mobility concept added to the organic capabilities of the 101st Airborne Division, soldiers were delivered to the battlefield by the helicopters of the 101st Aviation Group.
On Aug. 15, 1986, the 101st Aviation Group was renamed the Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). In 1997, the largest Aviation Brigade split nine battalions into two brigades, the 101st Aviation Brigade (ATTACK) and the 159th Aviation Brigade (ASSAULT).
The 101st Aviation Brigade has deployed multiple times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. After the Brigade's redeployment from Operation Iraqi Freedom in the spring of 2004, the brigade transformed to create a self-sustaining CAB. In December 2007, TF Destiny deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Every decision was similar to a chess game, trying to think ahead multiple moves and anticipate the requirements and enemy's plan," Musiol said. "Sometimes we were right, and at other times we went back to the white board. What made this possible was I was blessed to have an incredible team of battalion and company commanders, senior warrant officers and NCOs, extremely talented aviators and crew chiefs who all wanted to make a difference. I am incredibly proud of our service here in Afghanistan."
"We now have the mission," Drew said. "The important mission in my view, of assisting the proud people of Afghanistan and our Afghan security partners realize a brighter future. A future where its citizens live in a peaceful and secure Afghanistan, allowing them to enjoy the freedoms we Americans take for granted. This is a righteous cause and on the Wings of Destiny we will succeed."