The Texas Army National Guard's 36th Combat Aviation Brigade was mobilized to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom from Feb. 1, 2006, through September 2007. In all, 2,800 soldiers from 44 states came together to form the brigade that became the first fully transformed National Guard combat aviation brigade to serve in the War on Terror.
The Texas units-the 36th CAB's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, the 1-149th Aviation Regiment and the 449th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB)-were joined by the 1-131st Aviation Regiment (Assault) from Alabama, the 1-108th Aviation Regiment (Assault) from Kansas and the 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB). In Iraq, a battalion of fixed-wing aircraft, Operational Support Airlift Command (OSACOM) joined the brigade.
The brigade's pilots and flight crews flew three primary aircraft: the AH-64 series Apache attack helicopter, the UH-60 series Blackhawk helicopter and the CH-47 series Chinook helicopter. The brigade also provided MEDEVAC support with specially equipped Blackhawks outfitted with medical gear. The fixed-wing crews from OSACOM piloted C-12 Hurons, C-23 Sherpas and a UC-35 executive plane.
After pre-mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas, the brigade arrived in Iraq in the summer of 2006. The 36th CAB was headquartered at Balad Air Base, which was part of Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda, a large U.S. military installation about 68 miles north of Baghdad and northwest of the Iraqi city of Balad. While Balad became the soldiers' home away from home, the brigade's major duty was to provide air support for Multi-National Corps-Iraq. That meant the brigade's pilots and flight crews conducted missions all across the country, from Baghdad to Tikrit to Mosul, Basra, Ramadi and Fallujah.
The brigade proved to be instrumental in the successful troop build-up known as "The Surge," which began in early 2007. The 36th CAB also played a vital role in the sustained effort to bring peace to the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. During the 18 months that the brigade was mobilized, its flight crews flew 9.9 million miles in order to deliver 310,000 passengers and 22.8 million pounds of cargo. They logged 89,327 flight hours.
For their success, the soldiers of the 36th CAB received more than 4,000 individual awards and together earned the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) Aviation Unit of the Year Award. The 2-135th GSAB was chosen as the Army National Guard Aviation Unit of the Year Award. OSACOM captured the LTG Ellis B. Parker Outstanding Army Aviation Unit Award.
The 36th CAB's successes did not come without a price. Easy 40, a Blackhawk from the 1-131st Aviation Regiment, was shot down on Jan. 20, 2007. All 12 onboard the aircraft died, including four soldiers from the brigade- MAJ Michael Taylor, SGM William Warren and 1SG John Brown were from the 1-131st Regiment and CPT Sean Lyerly was from the 36th CAB Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC).
The members of the 36th CAB continue to honor the memories of their fellow comrades, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Each soldier sacrificed in his or her own way to help the brigade secure its place in history, alongside the brave men and women who came before-and those who have yet-to answer the call.
By: James Dietz