Story by: Maj. Gen. John B. Richardson IV and the 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs Office
On Sept. 13, 2021, America’s First Team held a birthday celebration to honor the division’s centennial anniversary. Over the past 100 years, the 1st Cavalry Division has demonstrated courage, audacity, and emerged victorious on the battlefields of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 1st Cavalry Division was activated in 1921 at Fort Bliss, Texas as a horse-mounted division. In 1942 the division turned in its horses for service in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The 1st Cavalry Division distinguished themselves as the “First Team” by being the first in Manila in February 1945 to free a group of civilian internees during World War II; the first to lead occupational forces into Japan making it the “First in Tokyo” in September 1945; the first to close in on the North Korean capital city, Pyongyang, in October 1950; and the first into Cambodia in May 1970 during the Vietnam War.
Over the past century, 1st CAV Troopers fought on horseback and as dismounted infantry conducting amphibious landings during WWII and Korea, and operationalized the vertical maneuver with air mobile infantry during the Vietnam War. In 1991, the division received the first M1 Tanks, which they used to crush Iraq’s Republican Guard during the Gulf War. In 2003, the division adapted to support counterinsurgency operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In our 100 years of service, 44 Troopers who served with the division were recognized with our Nation’s highest military accolade, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for courageous actions during combat operations. Forty-six campaign streamers and unit awards are also proudly displayed on the division’s Colors as a testament to the service and sacrifice demonstrated by First Team units over the past century.
Today, the division continues to seek opportunities to honor our legacy and legends of the past. Following the closure of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum, in June, the command team unveiled Heritage Hall, located at the south entrance of the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters. This newly remodeled section of the building includes an audio narration of the division’s rich history and traditions which accompanies interactive displays of artifacts, equipment and mannequins representing the units’ Troopers past and present donated by the U.S. Army Center for Military History. For the next year, the original Medal of Honor award presented to 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment Trooper, Cpl. Tibor Rubin, by President George W. Bush in 2005, will be among the displays for all new teammates and visitors to view.
Over the past year, the division also took time to rebalance priorities including investing in their Soldiers while continuing to provide tough, realistic training and leader development opportunities. In October 2021, the First Team inaugurated Pegasus Troop, a reception and integration company focused on welcoming new Troopers and their Families into the “First Team.” All incoming personnel take part in an eight day integration process which includes an introduction to personnel services and programs offered by the division and the Fort Hood installation. Participants also complete an Army Combat Fitness Test, physical training with the division command team and take part in interactive classroom training on the 1st Cavalry Division history and traditions; as well as, essential programs like sexual harassment and assault prevention and equal opportunity. While going through this extended reception period, newcomers and their families are given time to handle any outstanding administrative, childcare or housing issues enabling them to report to their units fully ready to support the mission. At the conclusion of the integration process, Troopers take part in a patching ceremony where their future leaders place the big yellow 1st Cav patch on the left side of their uniforms.
Currently, the division is globally engaged with Troopers conducting operations or participating in exercises in the Middle East and Europe. Following successful training rotations at the National Training Center where both 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, “BLACK JACK” and 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, “GREYWOLF” returned to Fort Hood, Texas ready to deploy and support any exercise or mission.
On May 13, the U.S. Secretary of Defense ordered the deployment of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team to the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command area of operations to assure NATO allies, deter Russian aggression and to be prepared to support a range of other requirements in the region.
During the past month, approximately, 4,100 Troopers deployed with their assigned equipment and vehicles to train and work alongside the other U.S. units already in Europe supporting the NATO Response Force.
The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, recently completed their modernization period. The brigade is receiving and training with the newest tanks, artillery and mission command systems. They are also maintaining readiness through unit-level training including gunneries and field exercises in preparation for a larger training exercise next summer at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.
During the next few years, the 1st Cavalry Division will undergo a cutting-edge modernization process that will include restructuring the division headquarters, armored brigade combat teams, engineer units and artillery formations. These changes are in response to emerging threats and the Army’s decision to refocus the division as the unit of action- an adjustment from the previous brigade-centric operations in support of counterinsurgency missions.
The 1st CAV will look similar to what it does today, with three armored brigade combat teams, a division artillery brigade, a sustainment brigade, and a combat aviation brigade but will add additional capabilities to enable the division to fight as a division during Large Scale Combat Operations.
The division has already began fielding latest armor equipment, vehicles and advanced weapons systems including the new Mobile Short Range Air Defense System (M-SHORAD) M1A2SEPv3 Abrams Tank, M109A7 Paladin, and the new Joint Lightweight Tactical Vehicle, which will replace the HMMWV. Currently the division is also experimenting with robots and unmanned vehicles both aerial and terrestrial. These equipment and structural changes will make the First Team the most modern Armored Division in the Army with the capability to compete and fight against peer adversaries.
On June 24, the division re-activated the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery, which will provide air defense capabilities against the threat of enemy aircraft, drones and cruise missiles. This re-activation includes the fielding of the M-SHORAD, which will bring enhanced capabilities to the Division.
The division is also participating in a pilot program for the restructuring of reconnaissance and security formations within the Army’s Armored Divisions. This includes re-establishing a Division Cavalry Squadron and reducing the BCT recon elements from Cavalry Squadrons to Armored Cavalry Troops. This pilot program is one of the ways the First Team is adapting to the Army’s shift in focus from brigade-centric counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations to large scale combat operations.
As the Nation’s premier armored force, the 1st Cavalry Division will always train and be ready to fight and win at the point of contact while continuing to invest in their Troopers, building cohesive teams, and honoring the selfless service and sacrifice of past Troopers who contributed to the prestigious CAV legacy we aim to represent each day.