Fort Stewart was named for Brig. Gen. Daniel Stewart, great grandfather of President Theodore Roosevelt. A Revolutionary War hero and Georgia statesman, Brig. Gen. Stewart was born in Liberty County in 1762. During the Revolutionary War, he joined the militia at age 15. Advancing to the rank of colonel, Brig. Gen. Stewart commanded a battalion of Georgia Militia and became one of Georgia’s leaders after the war. He was in the forefront of virtually every undertaking concerning the protection of people and the advancement of their interests. He remained with the state militia and fought Indians, settled Southern disputes, finally attaining the rank of brigadier general. Brigadier General Stewart died at his home in Liberty County in 1829 at the age of 67. He is buried in Midway Cemetery near Fort Stewart.
Hunter Army Airfield bears its name in tribute to U.S. Army Air Corps (later U.S. Army Air Forces) Maj. Gen. Frank O’Driscoll Hunter. As a World War I fighter pilot, he became an ace, with eight German planes to his credit, earning him the Distinguished Service Cross with four oak leaf clusters. The former stockbroker found the Air Corps to his liking and made it his career. In 1942, Hunter joined the fighter arm of the 8th Air Force in England. During this command, he earned a Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and a Silver Star. In 1943 Maj. Gen. Hunter returned to the United States to head the 1st Air Force. In 1944, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his role in planning and executing the movement of air echelons of the 12th Air Force from Great Britain to North Africa. Maj. Gen. Hunter retired Dec. 4, 1945 at Mitchell Field, N.Y. then returned to his hometown of Savannah.
In tribute to Maj. Gen. Hunter, the Savannah City Council renamed its municipal airport Hunter Field in 1940. The Army Air Corps acquired the field a year later. Retaining the name Hunter Field, the AAC held it until 1946 when it was returned to the city. The Air Force took occupancy in 1949 with the Army returning in 1967, when the facility was renamed Hunter Army Airfield.
In June 1940 Congress authorized funding for the purchase of property in coastal Georgia for the purpose of building an anti-aircraft artillery training center. It was to be located just outside of Hinesville, Ga. The coming of the anti-aircraft training center to the area adjacent to the sleepy little community of Hinesville would forever alter its lifestyle. Hinesville, the county seat of Liberty County, was populated by barely 500 people. It wasn’t a particularly prosperous area; however, that had not always been the case.
Liberty County is rich in history, having provided two of Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence. The area had always stood proudly for the cause of “Liberty,” hence its name. Before the Civil War, it had been a very rich and prosperous area. That war had not affected the area much, until the United States Army arrived with General Sherman. In a matter of a few months, Liberty County had been devastated. It’s economy never recovered from that terrible blow. However, 75 years later the U. S. Army returned, almost as if to make amends for that which they had been responsible during the Civil War. The new post would mean new jobs, new industry, and a major boost to the local economy, which was still suffering from the Great Depression. Hinesville would never be the same, and its fortunes would become entwined with those of the new post.
Camp Stewart Forms
On July 1, 1940, the first 5,000 acres were bought and subsequent purchases followed. Eventually, the reservation would include over 280,000 acres and stretch over five counties. The large expanse of property was required for the firing ranges and impact areas that an anti-aircraft artillery-training center would need for live-fire training. In November 1940, the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Training Center was officially designated as Camp Stewart.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 accelerated activities at Camp Stewart as units set about accomplishing the missions for which it was intended. Facilities were expanded and improved. Camp Stewart’s training programs continued expanding to keep pace with the needs placed on it. Units were shipped out promptly upon completion of their training and new units received in their place. The camp provided well-trained Soldiers for duty in Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Pacific theaters. By late 1943, Camp Stewart assumed a new responsibility as one of many holding areas designated in this country for German and Italian prisoners of war, who had fallen into Allied hands during fighting in North Africa. These persons were held in two separate prisoner-of-war facilities on post and used as a labor force for post operations, construction projects, and for area farmers.
Camp Stewart also served as a Cook and Bakers School, and as a staging area for a number of Army postal units. By spring 1944, the camp was bulging at its seams as more than 55,000 Soldiers occupied the installation during the build-up for the D-Day Invasion. However, almost overnight the post was virtually emptied as these units shipped out for England. With the D-Day Invasion and Allied control of the air over Europe, the need for anti-aircraft units diminished. In response, the anti-aircraft training at Camp Stewart was phased out. By January 1945 only the prisoner-of-war camp was still functioning. With the end of the war, Camp Stewart came to life briefly as a separation center for redeployed Soldiers. But on Sept. 30, 1945, the post was deactivated. Only two officers, 10 enlisted men, and 50 civilian employees maintained the facilities, and the Georgia National Guard did the only training there during summer months. It seemed as if Camp Stewart had served its purpose.
World affairs would once again affect the life of Camp Stewart. With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950, the United States again found itself with the need to update training and prepare new Soldiers to meet the crisis in Korea. Camp Stewart re-opened in August 1950. Facilities were again repaired and National Guard troops were brought in for training.
On Dec. 28, 1950, Camp Stewart was designated as the 3rd Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery Training Center for intensive training of Soldiers destined for service in Korea began. In late 1953, Camp Stewart’s role was changed to include armor and tank firing as well since the Communist forces didn’t seriously challenge control of the air in Korea. When the Korean Conflict eventually cooled down, it was recognized that our country would be required to maintain a ready and able military force to deal with any potential threat to the free world. Camp Stewart had a role to play in that mission. The decision was that the post would no longer be viewed as a temporary installation.
On March 21, 1956, Camp Stewart was re-designated as Fort Stewart. Its role continued to evolve in response to specific needs and world events. In 1959 Fort Stewart was re-designated as an Armor and Artillery Firing Center since its old anti-aircraft ranges and impact area were better suited for this purpose than for the new age of missiles. By 1961, there was a feeling that Fort Stewart may have served its usefulness, and there was movement to deactivate the post again. However, the age of missiles brought with it new threats and a new place for Fort Stewart.
In 1962, on the outset of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1st Armored Division was ordered to Fort Stewart for staging and in the short span of two weeks, the population of the post rose from 3,500 personnel to over 30,000.
The country prepared for the worst, but in the end a compromise was reached, and the crisis passed. President John F. Kennedy visited Fort Stewart shortly after the crisis ended. He arrived at then Hunter Field and flew to Donovan Parade Field at Fort Stewart where he reviewed the entire 1st Armored Division. From there, he was taken to the new conference room dedicated to him where he was briefed on armed forces readiness to respond to the Cuban missile crisis then he visited troops in nearby training areas.
After the Cuban missile crisis passed, the Cold War situation kept Fort Stewart in an active training role. During the late 1960s another developing situation brought about yet another change in Fort Stewart’s mission. With tensions growing in the divided country of Vietnam, the United States found itself becoming increasingly involved in that conflict. The Vietnamese terrain and the type of war being fought there demanded an increased aviation capability through the use of helicopters and light, fixed wing aircraft. In response to a need for aviators, an element of the United States Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Ala was transferred to Fort Stewart in 1966. Helicopter pilot training and helicopter gunnery courses became Fort Stewart’s new mission.
In an ironic twist, now instead of training Soldiers to shoot down aircraft, they were training Soldiers to fly them. When the Air Force closed their base at Hunter Field in Savannah in 1967, the Army promptly assumed control and in conjunction with the flight training being conducted at Fort Stewart, the United States Army Flight Training Center came into being. The helicopter pilot training was rapidly accelerated and pilots were trained and soon sent to duty all over the world, with a large percentage seeing active duty in Vietnam.
In 1969, President Nixon planned to reduce American involvement in Vietnam by training the Vietnamese military to take over the war. In conjunction with this, helicopter flight training for Vietnamese pilots began at the Training Center in 1970 and continued until 1972. Gradually, America’s involvement in Vietnam dwindled and by mid-1972 the flight training aspect of Fort Stewart’s mission was terminated and both Hunter Field and Fort Stewart reverted to garrison status. The following year Hunter was closed entirely and Fort Stewart sat idle with the exception of National Guard training, which continued to be conducted at the installation.
It appeared as if Fort Stewart had again reached the end of its usefulness and questions were raised about its status and future. The end of the Vietnam conflict meant a new focus for the United States Army, and a new life for several of the Army’s historic units would mean new life for Fort Stewart.
On July 1, 1974, the 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) parachuted into Fort Stewart and was reactivated the following month. They were the first Army Ranger unit activated since World War II. Hunter Army Airfield was once again reopened to support the training and activities of the Rangers.
24th Infantry Division finds home at Fort Stewart
In October 1974, Headquarters, 1st Brigade of the 24th Infantry Division was activated at Fort Stewart. This historic unit, which had seen active and arduous service in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean War, had been inactive since 1970. The 24th Infantry Division, or “Victory” Division, as it was known, would make Fort Stewart uniquely its own.
With the reactivation of the 24th Infantry Division, the post entered a new phase in its history. Facilities were upgraded and new permanent structures replaced many of the old wooden buildings from the days of Camp Stewart. On Oct. 1, 1980, the 24th Infantry Division was designated a mechanized division and assigned as the heavy infantry division of the newly organized Rapid Deployment Force. This designation was the fruition of that potential first realized by those who served at the post during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 24th Infantry Division began intensive training over the expanse of piney woods and lowlands of the post and conducted live-fire exercises on many of the old Camp Stewart anti-aircraft ranges.
Additional deployment training and exercises took division units from the Georgia woodlands to the National Training Center in California, as well as to other areas of the world such as Egypt and Turkey. Their training was continuous. The mission of the Rapid Deployment Force was to be prepared to deploy to practically any point on the globe at a moment’s notice to deal with whatever threat might be discerned.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded and overran neighboring Kuwait and threatened to do the same to Saudi Arabia. The Savannah port worked around the clock to load and ship the division’s heavy equipment while aircraft shuttles from Hunter Field flew the division’s personnel to Saudi Arabia. Within a month, the entire division had been reassembled in Saudi Arabia to face the possible invasion of that country by Iraqi forces. Fort Stewart saw a growing influx of National Guard and Reserve units that were being mobilized to support the operations in Saudi Arabia and to assume the tasks at the post, which had formerly been accomplished by division personnel.
In many ways, Fort Stewart appeared to be almost a ghost town, as never before had the entire division been deployed from the post at one time. Within eight months, the crisis in the Persian Gulf had concluded and the 24th Infantry Division triumphantly returned to its home in coastal Georgia. On April 25, 1996, the 3rd Infantry Division was activated at Fort Stewart. This began a new chapter in the history of Fort Stewart.
THE ROCK OF THE MARNE
As units on either side of the division were driven back, men of the 30th and 38th Regiments held their positions, defeating the German’s bid for victory. This feat of arms, in which they stood their ground like a rock at the Marne...
The 3rd Infantry Division was born at Camp Greene, N.C. on Nov. 21, 1917. The 3rd Division (later re-designated the 3rd Infantry Division) was comprised of the 4th, 7th, 30th, and 38th Infantry Regiments, along with the 10th, 18th and 76th Field Artillery, and 6th Engineers. The division’s 28,000 Soldiers reached France in April 1918 as part of the World War I American Expeditionary force, prepared to defeat the last wave of German offensives.
At Chateau-Thierry, along the Marne River, as French troops retreated from the German onslaught, men of the 7th Machine Gun Battalion of the 3rd Division were rushed to Chateau-Thierry and set up a defensive position along the Marne River. Maj. Gen. Joseph Dickman, the division commander, issued his famous order: “Nous resterons la” - “We’re staying there.”
The rest of the division moved into positions along the Marne, and on July 15, took the brunt of what was to be the last German offensive of the war, the famous “Peace Storm.” As units on either side of the division were driven back, men of the 30th and 38th Regiments held their positions, defeating the German’s bid for victory. This feat of arms, in which they stood their ground like a rock at the Marne, was called by Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing, “...one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history” and earned the 3rd Infantry Division the name: the “Marne Division.”
That historic stand set the 3rd ID on the offensive, fighting their way through the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne. Nearly 16,500 Marne men were killed or wounded by the end of World War I, but they had established a place for the 3rd Infantry Division in the pages of American military history. After the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the division undertook occupation duty in the vicinity of Coblenz, along the Rhine River, where it remained until August 1919. The division returned to the United States in 1919 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Lewis, Wash.
In 1946, it left the United States again for duty in World War II. The 3rd Infantry Division entered the war at Fedala, North Africa, just north of Casablanca, as part of the “Torch” invasion, the first American campaign against Germany. The division moved across Morocco to Bizerte, Tunisia, where it embarked for Sicily, the next Allied objective in the Mediterranean. The division spearheaded the American drive on Palermo and was among the first American units to reach Messina. On September 3, 1943, the Allies invaded the Italian mainland at Salerno. The 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Italy on Sept. 18, and was fighting up the Volturno River when it was detached for an amphibious operation designed to break the stalemate in the Italian campaign. The assault was at Anzio.
The Allies landed at Anzio on Jan. 22, 1944. Hitler directed that the beachhead be eliminated. From January to May, the Germans launched numerous attacks in an attempt to drive the Allies from the beach. As at the Marne, the 3rd Infantry Division proved to be an immovable rock of resistance. The Anzio beachhead hung on, and in May, the Allies broke out. Rome was reached on June 4, 1944. At Anzio, the division suffered more casualties in one day than any other unit in the war, as it defeated three German divisions.
The 3rd Infantry Division was again called on for an amphibious assault, taking part in the invasion of Southern France, and after bitter fighting in the Vosges Mountains, it reached Strasbourg in November. In the winter of 1944-45, the division was called upon to reduce the “Colmar Pocket,” completing the operation in February 1945. The Rhine was crossed on March 26, 1945 and a speedy advance northeast to Bad Kissingen and a loop south, brought the division to Nuremberg in April. After a four-day fight, the city fell.
One unit from the division, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, reached Berchtesgaden and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest May 4. The war ended May 7. From Fedala to Berchtesgaden, the 3rd Infantry Division’s odyssey was over, emerging as the most decorated division in the U.S. Army. At war’s end, the 3rd Infantry Division would count 35,000 casualties suffered in 10 of the war’s more hard fought campaigns. History records some of the most heroic individual achievements of the war by 35 Medal of Honor recipients. Among these men was Audie Murphy, the most decorated Soldier in World War II.
Stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., after WWII, the Marne Division deployed from there and entered the Korean War in September 1950 and was brought up to strength with Republic of Korea replacements and the addition of the “Borinqueneers” from the 65th Infantry Regiment from Puerto Rico. In a surprise move on Nov. 23, 1950, China entered the war and the massive weight of the Chinese army was felt all along the front. As the Allies were forced to retreat, the 3rd Infantry Division fell back to the port of Hungnam.
From Nov. 30 until Dec. 24, the division Soldiers conducted the most massive beachhead evacuation in American Military history: 105,000 troops, 100,000 refugees, 17,500 vehicles and 750,000 tons of cargo. In March 1951, elements of the 3d Infantry Division helped to recapture Seoul. By April, the Chinese were pushed back to the 38th parallel, but immediately undertook an offensive to retake Seoul. The brunt of the attack fell upon the Marne Division’s sector, but the Rock of the Marne became the Rock of Seoul, as the Chinese attack was defeated.
After clearing the “Iron Triangle” of Chinese resistance, the 3rd Infantry Division settled into front line duty, engaging in patrol actions and defending against Chinese attempts to seize strategic positions. The war ended in July 1953, and in October 1954, the division returned to Fort Benning. The Marne Division Soldiers had seen action in eight campaigns in Korea. More than 8,000 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers were wounded or killed. In 1958, the 3rd Infantry Division was re-stationed in Germany. Rock of the Marne stared down the threat of Soviet communism as the first line of Western defense in Europe from 1958 to 1991. They watched with unwavering determination as the Berlin wall went up in 1962 and stood victorious as it was torn down in 1989.
In 1991, the 3rd Brigade of the Marne Division was called to action in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Fighting as the lead element of the 1st Armored Division, they penetrated deep in Iraq, rapidly destroying any and all opposition. When the cease-fire was called in the 100th hour, the 3rd Brigade of the Marne Division drove far into Kuwaiti territory, displaying with speed and devastation, the full force of their combat power. Victory was achieved and the 3rd Brigade would return to Germany.
On April 25, 1996, the colors of the 3rd Infantry Division finally returned stateside. The 3rd Infantry Division makes Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Hunter Army Airfield its home, serving as the iron fist of XVIIIth Airborne Corps. Since Sept. 11, 2001 units have been sent to Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries to support the War on Terrorism. Early in 2003 the “deployability” and fighting capability of the Marne Division was highly visible worldwide when the entire division deployed in weeks to Kuwait. It was called on subsequently to spearhead Coalition Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, fighting its way to Baghdad in early April, leading to the end of the Saddam Hussein government-imposed tyranny over the people of Iraq.
In January 2003, Soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) were officially informed that they were headed for the Middle East to do their part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Throughout the early months of the year, a multitude of flights proceeded to carry the Marne Division’s more than 20,000 Soldiers to the Middle East, where they continued to train in preparation for the possibility of war.
The 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) began deploying to Kuwait in January in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although some elements of the division were in country as early as September, the majority of Marne Soldiers arrived shortly after the New Year. With tensions increasing and President George W. Bush and Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein in a standoff, neither willing to back down, the 3rd Infantry Division trained hard in Kuwait for the war that loomed on the horizon. The division units conducted regular physical fitness training, desert tank tables, hot refuels and road marches, military operations on urbanized terrain, artillery live-fires, enemy prisoner of war, sniper, nuclear, biological and chemical attack, trench, and engineer training. Despite the uncertainty of not knowing when or whether there would be a war, Marne Soldiers stepped up to the plate to prepare themselves for whatever might happen.
As part of the training the division practiced “jumping” — quickly breaking down, relocating and building — its tactical operations center in preparation for rapid movement through Iraq. Soldiers also conducted extensive maintenance on vehicles and equipment, since the desert sand was hard on tracks and weapons. Meanwhile, hundreds of care packages flooded in for Soldiers from Family Members and supporting citizens. Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities included performances by visiting entertainers, boxing smokers, an FMWR tent complete with wide screen television and phone and Internet cafes so Soldiers could stay in touch with loved ones.
Finally, after months of training and waiting to see what would happen, the call came. On March 20, the division began to cross the border from Kuwait to Iraq, beginning Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Operation Iraqi Freedom adds Historic Milestone to Marne Division
Raiders (1st Brigade) Lead the Way
The 1st Brigade Combat Team arrived in Kuwait, uncertain of what the future held, with many questions yet to be answered. Their mission was simple — deter Iraqi aggression in the region. By March, following countless training exercises in the Kuwaiti desert and an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein from our commander-in-chief, the future seemed clear.
On the night of March 20, the questions were answered. Led by Task Force 3/69 Armor, the Raiders crossed the border into Iraq around 8 p.m. and began their march toward Baghdad. In four-days time, the 1st BCT crossed the border, secured an airfield, convoyed 30 hours straight and traveled 300 kilometers. For the next eight days, the Raiders staged operations from an assembly area northwest of An Najaf. From March 25 - 27, during a sandstorm that resulted in 25-meter visibility, the brigade recon team and elements of TF 3/69 Armor and TF 3/7 Infantry fought around the clock with regular and unconventional Iraqi troops in Al Kifl — a northern suburb of An Najaf on the Euphrates River.
On April 9, Saddam Hussein’s regime officially crumbled when Baghdad fell to Coalition forces led by the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized). When President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, the Raiders were already two weeks into stabilization and support operations.
Spartans (2nd Brigade) ‘Thunder Runs’
The Spartans’ decisiveness, assertiveness and skill during Operation Iraqi Freedom started immediately after President George W. Bush addressed Americans and the world March 17, 2003 and gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to get out of Iraq. The Spartan Soldiers had their first significant enemy contact March 23. From March 23 to 25, the brigade fought Fedayeen forces as it attacked to Objective Rams. After securing this objective in order to facilitate occupation by Division and Corps support elements, the brigade continued to advance north to Objective Spartans through small arms, rocket propelled grenade, and indirect fire from conventional and irregular forces that, while at times sustained, were largely not coordinated.
‘Thunder Runs’ — quick trips from Saints to Baghdad International Airport, began on April 5. On April 7 the Spartans attacked Baghdad. A few days later, the major combat operations were over.
Sledgehammers (3rd Brigade) lend support
After spending almost all of the preceding year in Kuwait, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s Sledgehammers raced across southern Iraq to seize the 3rd Infantry Division’s first objectives in and around Tallil Air Base March 21. The brigade followed the 1st Brigade Combat Team through lanes in the berm that separated Kuwait from Iraq before 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment; 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment; and 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment attacked Objectives Firebird, Clay and Liberty, which consisted of the air base and several key roads and bridges in its immediate area. After securing the objectives, the brigade allowed the rest of the division to pass it and move toward As Samawah.
They defended several bridges and kept Iraqi reinforcements from entering the city as 2nd BCT conducted the Thunder Run April 7. The brigade fought off several Iraqi counterattacks, including an attack on its tactical operations center, over the course of April 6 and 7. The brigade was supported throughout the war by 203rd Main Support Battalion, which made sure the front line troops got the food and supplies they needed.
Vanguards (4th Brigade) round out the mission
The helicopters of 4th Brigade were with the division all the way, providing close air support, reconnaissance, re-supply and casualty evacuation to the division’s forward combat assets. The Vanguards’ mission started the minute the division crossed the international border between Kuwait and Iraq. AH-64 Apache Longbows moved forward of the division’s ground units to observe incoming artillery fire on Iraqi outposts near the border. After the artillery fire ended, the Apaches moved in and destroyed any targets that survived the initial barrage. The Apaches continued to provide close air support throughout the push to Baghdad, giving crucial support in the battles for As Samawah, Objective Peach and Baghdad. But they were not 4th Brigade’s only contribution to the fight.
UH-60 Blackhawks from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment and the 507th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) flew almost constant missions to move casualties from the front lines to medical units in the rear. The 507th alone flew 19 missions in the war’s first 24 hours. The brigade’s Blackhawks also acted as command and control platforms for Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, division commander. All the helicopters were kept operating by forward ammunition and re-supply points set up throughout the theater by the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion.
Beans and Bullets
Without “beans and bullets,” the 3rd Infantry Division could not have fought its way to Baghdad. Without fuel, food, ammunition, repair parts and the other classes of supply, there would have been no war. The division rear element followed the division main into Iraq to provide these supplies. Forward support battalions transported the supplies from the forward logistics base to the combat units, making sure the Marne warriors had what they needed to fight. Division Support Command encompassed the DREAR, along with 24th Corps Support Group. DISCOM’s mission is to support the brigade combat teams — getting logistics from V Corps down to the BCTs.
The 24th CSG mission was to primarily support non-divisional customers in 3rd Inf. Div. areas of operation, but also to augment DISCOM’s support of 3rd Inf. Div. Soldiers. DREAR, which also included many attached units, supported the division in many forms, from fuel farms — fields of 50,000 gallon fuel bags, set up at every position to supply bulk fuel for units — to water purification teams, vehicle repair, “Meals, Ready to Eat” and heat and serve meals, sundry packs, and parts for damaged equipment. Also with DREAR were psychological operations units who broadcast a radio station from each position, Civil Affairs Soldiers who interacted with and helped the Iraqi civilians, 1st Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery avengers to provide extra security, and explosive ordnance disposal teams. Wherever the division went, DREAR was right behind, providing the lifeblood it needed to maintain the fight.
Major Combat Operations were over
But the city of Baghdad, on whose streets the war was waged, was in a state of rebirth. Less than two months after the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) first rolled its tanks and Bradleys into Iraq’s capital. Its citizens were still trying to get back on their feet, and the Coalition military was there to help. After combat, Soldiers shifted focus to support and stabilization operations in an effort to rebuild the war-ravaged country. The Soldiers conducted foot patrols and mounted patrols in every sector of the city, scanning the streets for signs of danger. They also had fixed sentries outside many gas stations and mosques maintaining the peace. They arrested looters, curfew breakers, citizens with weapons and drunk and disorderly citizens. But their job didn’t just consist of policing the areas. They also spent much of their time rebuilding. Soldiers helped refurbish and reopen schools, hospitals, soccer fields, zoos and even amusement parks. They distributed hundreds of soccer balls, school supplies, air conditioners, fans, medical supplies and thousands of gallons of propane fuel.
They met with the sheiks and imams in each neighborhood, to determine what was best for its inhabitants. They also helped restore power and water to many neighborhoods. Task Force Neighborhood, a V Corps community improvement program, along with Iraqi citizens, cleaned trash and debris from neighborhoods and stadiums that were damaged both during the war and afterward, when looters ran rampant in Baghdad. The transition from wartime to peacekeeping wasn’t easy for many of the Soldiers.
“Before, just about everybody you saw wanted to do you bodily harm,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dwayne Anderson, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery fire support noncommissioned officer. “Now you see people waving and offering you cigarettes…that’s an extremely tough transition.”
One of Sgt. 1st Class Anderson’s Soldiers, Sgt. Daniel Nardy, added, “I’d rather be doing this than fighting a war.”
Reorganization in 2003 transforms Stewart
The U. S. Army embarked upon what is described as its most important and controversial reorganization in decades in an effort to improve its ability to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while defending the home front. These changes will affect virtually every Soldier in the services. The Army asked the 3rd Infantry Division to rethink how it puts brigade combat teams together to fight conflicts. Beforehand, the division assembled a mix of three armor and infantry battalions and a battalion each of engineers, artillery and support to go along with smaller units to send to the field to fight.
At that time, the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, chose to re-organize the 3rd Infantry Division first after it led U.S. forces across the southern Iraqi desert and into Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The reorganized 3rd Infantry Division would determine how the rest of the Army shapes it units to be modular. The division’s new units were organized under Gen. Schoomaker’s guidance. The changes broke some habitual relationships. In the last war, some brigade commanders had as many as nine battalions. Most maneuver Soldiers don’t notice much of a difference, at least for two or three levels above them.
For instance, instead of the division’s 3rd Forward Support Battalion normally being associated with the 1st Brigade commander, the 1st Brigade now has two combat maneuver support battalions, one reconnaissance squadron, one support battalion with transportation, supplies and maintenance specialists, according to Maj. Gen. William Webster, 3rd Infantry Division commander under whom these changes occurred. The unit also has artillery, engineer, and military police. And they are a permanent part of this organization, so the team can build itself for a contingency without doing what has been done so much in the past.
In the past the team was organized by task and sent separate units to meet selected mission goals. Now there is a generic unit that is capable of doing almost any task. The present notion is of having two kinds of combat brigades, light and heavy armor. The 3rd Infantry Division is mostly focused on the heavier units because it’s a mechanized army division already. However, the 4th BCT was transformed into a light infantry brigade in 2008.
The division has the capability of bringing in modular elements, such as chemical warfare, long range fires and sustainment forces, if needed. Also staying put in 1st HBCT, 2nd HBCT and 3rd HBCT are the division’s tanks and Bradley’s. The division, however, now has some lighter-skinned vehicles, such as the Stryker wheeled vehicle. The tanks and Bradley’s will be a part of the Army’s complement for a while, especially in Iraq, where insurgents and guerillas had a tendency to target softer-skinned vehicles.
The installation was not expected to lose a lot of Soldiers. The Stewart population was expected to remain the same and troop strength levels were expected to remain steady for the next couple of years. The division would grow two to three years after the transformations took root and when the Training and Doctrine Command cames up with recommended improvements. Reorganization occurred at different timelines because the division had to train Soldiers to fight inside a new structure and also equip these new forces at the same time. Modularity is really about redesigning the whole Army, Webster said.
3rd Infantry Division Returns for Operation
Iraqi Freedom 3
With the major conflicts of 2003 recorded in the history books, the 3rd Infantry Division again marked another chapter by returning to the scenes of Iraq for OIF 3. The 3rd Infantry Division officially jumped back into action February 27, 2005, when a Transition of Authority ceremony was held to hand over the command of Task Force Baghdad from Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, 1st Cavalry Division “First Team” commander, to Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., 3rd Infantry Division commander, at the Sahet Alihtifalat Alkubra (Ceremonial Circle) parade grounds. The 3rd ID became the first Army division to serve a second tour in Iraq.
Upon taking command of Task Force Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Webster acknowledged the responsibility being given to him and the Marne Soldiers and accepted the mission at hand. The division immediately began to conduct full-spectrum operations. As a part of Task Force Baghdad’s multi-force division, operations included everything from peacekeeping and presence patrols on foot or armored humvees, all the way up to high intensity combat with tanks, Bradley’s and attack helicopters when necessary.
They were responsible for conducting offensive and defensive operations for stability and security and for conducting civil military operations for the Iraqi people. All of this was designed to defeat the insurgents to help the Iraqi government stand up on its own and have a secure environment for the Iraqi people to live.
During this deployment, the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team was organized and became the first cohesive brigade combat team sent directly into combat by the Army. The 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment from the California National Guard served as one of its two infantry battalions, and there was an attachment from the Hawaii National Guard, the 2/299th Infantry. The 48th BCT from the Georgia National Guard also served with the 3rd ID, covering the area south of Baghdad.
The 3rd ID redeployed to Fort Stewart and Fort Benning in January and February 2006, then in November, the Army announced the 3rd ID was scheduled to return to Iraq in 2007, making it the first Army division to serve a third tour in Iraq, this time to lead “The Surge.”
3rd Infantry Division leads The Surge
In a January 2007 speech to the nation, President George W. Bush said he was committing an additional 20,000 troops to the Baghdad area in order to “…help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.” Although the plan was officially called, “The New Way Forward,” it would come to be known as “The Surge.”
The need for the surge was self-evident. Iraq was in a state of civil war, due to a Sunni/al-Qaeda alliance bent on bringing down the mostly Shia-led government. Although this alliance would be short-lived, its effect on the country was already devastating. Iraq’s infrastructure was in shambles. Roads, bridges and whole city blocks were destroyed. Schools and hospitals were closed. The economy was also was terrible, with joblessness leading to more unrest. Police forces were corrupt, at best, and some were downright criminal in their activities. Order was needed, and the 3rd ID was just the unit to get the job done. Following the president’s “surge” speech, the unit’s mission changed. The 3rd ID was to form the Multi-National Division – Center.
Marne Division returns to Iraq
The 1st Brigade Combat Team, “The Raiders,” was the first unit from the 3rd ID to return to Iraq, deploying in late January 2007 to join forces with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the most western part of the Anbar Province, near the towns of Ramadi and Fallujah.
In April 2007, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, “the Sledgehammer Brigade,” became the first Marne Division brigade to become part of Multi-National Division – Center, led by 3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch. The Sledgehammers set up shop in the open desert on the east bank of the Tigris River on the northern edge of the Anbar Province. By the end of May, the 2nd BCT “Spartans” and the 3rd Sustainment Brigade joined other Marne units, setting up in a desert region southeast of Baghdad. Soon, the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade “Falcons” would become part of the MND-C. The 4th BCT, “Vanguard Brigade” joined the rest of the Marne Division in November 2007, replacing the 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
By the end of March 2008, the Raider Brigade had cased its colors in Ramadi and was headed home after 15 long, hard-fought months. The area once claimed by al-Qaeda as an Islamic caliphate was now quiet and peaceful. Throughout the summer, each of the 3rd ID’s battle hardened brigades would case their colors and come home to Families and supporters eager to see and hug each of its Soldiers.
The government of Iraq was now conducting independent military operations against state enemies, regardless the location or sectarian affiliation. In 15 months of operations, Task Force Marne had completed 13 division-size operations as the MND-C, detaining more than 5,000 extremists and clearing more than 1,800 improvised explosive devises. The division helped the Iraqi economy with over $190 million and nearly 1,500 building projects, to include hospitals, health clinics and schools. Most important, there had been a 90 percent reduction in all forms of attacks, with a 23 percent decrease in civilian casualties and 80 percent decrease in MND-C casualties.
A new mission and another reorganization
After its troops returned from block leave following their redeployment, the 1st BCT’s Raiders received a new mission. In December 2008, the Raiders were tasked as one of five active duty brigades to serve as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive first responders. Known as CBRNE units, the 1st BCT was the first active duty unit tasked to support civilian authorities in the event of a terrorist attack.
Following their return from Iraq and time with Families, the 4th BCT began training for a new mission that included reorganization. The Vanguards were being transformed from a heavy brigade combat team to a light infantry brigade combat team. The unit said goodbye to its Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, replacing them with lighter, faster vehicles that can move its 3,500 Soldiers to battlefield environments heavy infantry cannot access. The unit was officially re-designated as a light combat infantry brigade in September 2009.
3rd Infantry Division Returns for 4th Iraqi deployment
Beginning in October 2009, the 3rd Infantry Division re-deployed to Iraq for a fourth time, with other units deploying to Afghanistan. The 3rd HBCT, along with the Special Troops Battalion and elements of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade were the first units to begin deploying. The 2nd HBCT followed after their sister unit in November with 1st HBCT after them in December. The 3rd CAB began deploying to Afghanistan by late 2009 with 4th IBCT scheduled to deployed there in late spring 2010. By summer 2010, the entire division will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.