3 BCT “Rakkasans”
History of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans”
The 187th Infantry Regiment, from which the Rakkasans draw their history and lineage, was constituted on Nov. 12 1942, at Camp Mackall, N.C. The unit was activated Feb. 25, 1943, and designated as a Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) assigned to the 11th Airborne Division.
The first mission of the 187th GIR 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.
World War II
The 187th deployed to the Pacific Theater 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, and Manila.
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 187th. 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 187th took control of garrisoning the city of Manila to clear it 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.
Post World War II Years
While serving as part of the American Occupation Force and conducting training jumps, the 187th Infantry Regiment earned its nickname “Rakkasan” which loosely translates as “falling down umbrella men” from Japanese locals observing the training.
On Aug. 27, 1950, the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment was reorganized and re-designated as the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.
In September 1950, the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team deployed to Korea where 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 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.
For their actions in the Korean War, four Rakkasans, Cpl. Rodolfo Hernandez, Cpl. Lester Hammond, Cpl. Joe Baldonado and Pfc. Richard Wilson would earn the Medal of Honor and 18 Soldiers would receive the Distinguished Service Cross. The unit earned One Presidential Unit Citation, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations for its actions during the war.
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, N.C.
Post Korean War
Through numerous reorganizations and re-designations, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade, evolved into its modern configuration in February 1964. The brigade was composed of three infantry battalions. From 1964 until 1971, these battalions were the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 506th Infantry Regiment “Currahee”, and the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment “Rakkasans.” Between 1964 and 1967 these units conducted challenging and diverse operations, ranging from the Mojave Desert to Norway in preparation for both conventional and unconventional war contigencies.
On Dec. 13, 1967, the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, reported for duty in the Republic of Vietnam during Operation Eagle Thrust, the longest and largest airlift directly into a combat zone.
The 3rd brigade was 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. From 1968 until 1971, the brigade participated in many airmobile combat operations such as Operation Apache Snow, which included the battle for Don Ap Bia, better known as Hamburger Hill.
When the unit returned to Fort Campbell, seven Soldiers, Sgt. Gordon Roberts, SP4 Frank Herda, Pfc. Kenneth Kays, Lt. Col. Andre Lucas, SP4 Matthew Guenette, and Capt. Paul Bucha had received the Medal of Honor and 11 Soldiers had received the Distinguished Service Cross. The unit had distinguished itself by earning two Valorous Unit Awards, and its third and fourth Presidential Unit Citations for the battles of Trang Bang and Dong Ap Bia Mountain.
Following the Vietnam War, the 3rd Brigade was reorganized, with elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, as the only parachute-qualified brigade in the Division. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 503rd Infantry Regiment replaced the two battalions of the 506th Infantry Regiment. The unit came off jump status and was designated as an Air Mobile unit in April 1974 and an Air Assault unit later that year.
In October 1983, the 4th Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment was activated as part of the brigade and the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment was concurrently relieved from assignment and inactivated. A year later, the 5th Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment was activated and replaced the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. The brigade now consisted of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment stationed in the U.S. and Panama and would eventually settle as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions following Army force realignments with the 4th and 5th battalions be re-designated as the 1st and 2nd battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment by 1990.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm
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 off 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.
Global War on Terrorism
In December 2001, as part of the ongoing war on terrorism, the Rakkasans were deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 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 March 2002.
In 2003, seven months after their return from Afghanistan, the Rakkasans deployed to Kuwait as the Division DRB-1 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 20, 2003, the Rakkasans led the Division’s attack into Iraq, establishing Forward Arming and Refueling Points 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 brigade then moved to 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 brigade returned to Fort Campbell and soon reorganized under Army Brigade Combat Team system as the 3rd Brigade Combat Team resulting in the 2nd Battalion, 187th Infantry being re-designated as the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment. The 3BCT also began preparation to return to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, deploying in September 2005 for OIF 05-07. Deployed to Salah ad Din Province, 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 September 2006, and commenced another refit and re-training period. A year later, in September 2007 following the Iraq Surge, the 3rd BCT 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, and eventually transferring authority of the area to the partnered Iraqi forces.
Redeploying again in November 2008, the BCT commenced its fourth refit and re-training period since 9/11. Fourteen months later, in January 2010, the 3rd BCT 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 more than 2,000 Key Leader Engagements (KLEs) or shuras with local village leaders.
After 12 months, the BCT returned to Fort Campbell in early 2011. Following the longest period home since 9/11, the Rakkasans once again returned to Afghanistan in September 2012, assuming responsibility for Khowst, Paktya and eastern Paktika provinces. In partnership with the Afghan 1st Bde., 203rd Corps, 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 has undergone transformation as part of the Army 2020 force structure integrating elements of the deactivated 4th BCT including the return of the 2nd Bn., 506th Inf. Reg., the addition of a third artillery battery to the 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment and the re-designation of the 3rd Special Troops Battalion as the 21st Brigade Engineer Battalion. The unit conducted Operation Golden Eagle, the first brigade-size air assault training mission of a 101st unit in more than a decade. The Rakkasans are currently preparing for a rotation to the Joint Readiness Training center where it will perform the first joint force entry air assault into the JRTC in more than a decade.
Even now, the Rakkasans continue preparing for their next “rendezvous with destiny” being the only BCT with an airborne regiment lineage in the history of the U.S. Army to fight in every war since the inception of airborne tactics. From glider, to parachute, to helicopter, the Rakkasans have entered combat in each mode of airborne warfare and have pioneered its implementation. Throughout their history, the Rakkasans have upheld the motto “Ne Desit Virtus” Let Valor Not Fail and continue to do so today.
1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (1-187 IN; Leader Rakkasans)
3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (3-187 IN; Iron Rakkasans)
2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment (2-506 IN; White Currahee Rakkasans)
1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry (1-33 CAV; War Rakkasans)
3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment (3-320 FA; Red Knight Rakkasans)
21st Brigade Engineer Battalion (21st BEB; Rak Solid Rakkasans)
626th Brigade Support Battalion (626 BSB; Assurgam Rakkasans)