A Brief History of the 25th Infantry Division
The 25th Infantry Division was activated on 1 October 1941 at Schofield Barracks, Territory of Hawaii. Only two months later the Division would see its first combat on 7 December 1941. While the Division itself was brand new, the majority of its assigned components were well-trained professional Regular Army units, which had served at Schofield Barracks for decades with the Hawaiian Division.
The Hawaiian Division, activated in 1921, was organized under a square structure of the World War I divisions. In 1941 its major units consisted of the 21st Infantry Brigade, comprised of the 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments; the 22nd Infantry Brigade comprised of the 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments; and the 11th Field Artillery Brigade, comprised of the 8th, 11th, and 13th Field Artillery Regiments. (Elements of all seven of these regiments would eventually serve with the 25th Division).
In 1940 as war threatened, the Army concluded that the square division was too cumbersome for modern warfare and adopted a new triangular division design of three infantry regiments, four field artillery battalions plus support troops. At Schofield Barracks on 1 October 1941 the Army activated two triangular divisions, designated the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, using the units of the Hawaiian Division.
The 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments and the 11th and 13th Field Artillery were assigned to the 24th Division. The 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments and the 8th Field Artillery were assigned to the 25th Division. The Hawaiian Division’s support units composed primarily of the 3rd Engineer Regiment, the 11th Quartermaster Regiment and the 11th Medical Regiment were reorganized and redesignated as separate battalions and assigned to the two new divisions.
To provide the third infantry regiment the 25th was assigned the 298th Infantry Regiment of the Hawaiian National Guard called to federal service in 1940. The first Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division was Major General Maxwell Murray who as a Brigadier General commanded the 11th Field Artillery Brigade of the Hawaiian Division. 25th Infantry Division Commanding Generals 1941 to Present.
WORLD WAR II
On December 7th 1941 the 25th Infantry Division and its sister division the 24th Infantry Division, had the distinction of being the first U.S. Army divisions to see combat in WWII when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and other military installations including Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. See The 25th Infantry Division on December 7th 1941 for details on the actions taken and eye-witness accounts.
On 3 August 1942 the 298th Infantry Regiment was replaced by the 161st Infantry Regiment of the Washington National Guard which had been in route to the Philippine Islands when the Japanese attacked and was diverted to Hawaii. In November 1942 the Division underwent intensive jungle and amphibious warfare training and sailed for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands to relieve the 1st Marine Division. The 25th operating as part of the XIV Corps commenced offensive operations against the Japanese on 7 January 1943. In less than a month and against a determined enemy who offered fierce resistance the 25th Division wiped out the Japanese dug in on Mount Austin and conducted an envelopment through the jungle to cut off retreating Japanese forces. For its valor on Mount Austin the 35th Infantry Regimental Combat Team consisting of the 35th Infantry Regiment, the 64th Field Artillery Battalion and the 25th Reconnaissance Troop was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The operations of the 25th Division on Guadalcanal were impressive, earning it the nickname of “Tropic Lightning”.
The 25th as part of the XIV Corps was then committed to operations to seize the remaining Japanese held islands in the Northern Solomons. From 3 July 1943 through 6 October 1943 the Tropic Lightning participated in the seizure of the islands of New Georgia, Vella LaVella, Sasavele and Kolombangara. Upon the conclusion of the Solomons campaign the Division was sent to New Zealand for rest and training and then moved to New Caledonia on 8 February 1944 to prepare for the invasion of the Philippines.
The War Department had decreed that the 24th Division would inherit the lineage as well as the shoulder sleeve insignia of the Hawaiian Division. This left the 25th Division without a shoulder sleeve insignia. Various designs were proposed; our photos page shows one of the early prototypes. The final design, approved by the War Department on 25 September 1944, was a red and yellow (the colors of the Hawaiian royalty) taro leaf to recognize the 25th Division’s ties to Hawaii and the old Hawaiian Division with a lightning bolt superimposed, representative of the Division’s nickname.
On 11 January 1945 the 25th Division, now assigned to the Sixth Army, landed on Luzon at San Fabian. Attached to the I Corps the 25th met fierce resistance from Japanese forces as it liberated key towns along the left flank of the Sixth Army. To secure the left flank of the Sixth Army as it drove for Manila, the 25th attacked Japanese forces in the Caraballo Mountains beginning on 21 February 1945. In some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific war, the Tropic Lightning Division fought its way through the Japanese defenses on one hill after the other with the key Balete Pass falling to the Division on 13 May 1945. Mopping up operations continued until the 25th was taken off the line on 30 June 1945. The Division had suffered the most casualties of any division of the Sixth Army in its record establishing 165 days of continuous combat. The Division was in rehabilitation near Tarlac when the war ended. The 25th was credited with participation in four campaigns of the Asiatic-Pacific Theater: Central Pacific, Guadalcanal, Northern Solomons and Luzon. Six Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.
See the Chronology of Division operations in WWII.
OCCUPATION AND THE COLD WAR
In late September 1945 the 25th Division was ordered to Japan to serve as occupation forces on the main Japanese island of Honshu with headquarters in the city of Nagoya. The 25th Division departed by ship from the Philippines in late September 1945 and began landing at Nagoya in early October. The division immediately undertook the missions of disarming all Japanese forces in its area and destroying all Japanese military equipment in its area of responsibility.
On 1 November 1945, in what was essentially a redesignation and a change of colors, the 161st Infantry was inactivated and was replaced by the 4th Infantry Regiment. Beginning in January 1946 the 25th Division’s area of responsibility was greatly increased when it was ordered to assume the occupation areas formerly under the control of the inactivating 33rd and 98th Infantry Divisions. To better control its expanded area of responsibility the 25th Division headquarters and its service support units moved to the city of Osaka in January 1946. Throughout the 25th Division’s area most Japanese were amazed and grateful for the kindness and helpfulness displayed by Tropic Lightning soldiers. It was in Osaka that the 27th Infantry and the 8th Field Artillery adopted a children’s orphanage and received worldwide recognition for their generosity.
By 1946 the Cold War had begun, with the Soviet Union establishing an Iron Curtain across Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic Seas. And in the Far East the Korea was divided at the 38th parallel with the North Koreans vowing to unite the peninsula under Communism.
Commanders in Japan faced a continuing struggle to balance occupation duties with maintaining combat readiness and for the most part occupation duties took priority. For example, when a serious epidemic of typhus erupted in Osaka the 4th Infantry Regiment was used to deploy some three hundred teams to work with the Japanese authorities in successfully eliminating the disease among the Japanese using DDT and inoculations.
Later, as the Cold War intensified the United States focused on Europe and began strengthening the Armed Forces there. In the Far East the opposite was happening. The Army divisions occupying Japan were reduced in strength and were left with old and often unserviceable equipment left over from WW II.
In the case of the 25th Division, only the 24th Infantry Regiment, which replaced the 4th Infantry on 1 February 1947, was kept at full strength. Both the 27th and 35th Infantry had only two battalions and the field artillery battalions had only two firing batteries. The division tank battalion had only one company active and it was equipped with light instead of heavy tanks because of the fragile Japanese road system. It was under such conditions that the 25th Infantry Division was to enter combat against the North Korean army in July 1950.
The North Koreans launched a surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950. U.S. Army divisions stationed in Japan were rushed to the defense of South Korea. The 25th Division was ordered to South Korea on 5 July 1950. By mid July the Division was fully deployed and ready to engage North Korean forces. On 20 July 1950 the 3rd Battalion 24th Infantry conducted the first combat action of the Division when it attacked and destroyed a well-dug in North Korean force which had seized the critical road hub of Yechon. The recapture of Yechon was considered the first sizable American ground victory of the war. Forced back into what became known as the Pusan Perimeter the American and South Korean forces fought stubbornly to halt the North Korean advance. The 27th Infantry became a fire brigade for the Allied forces moving to whatever part of the perimeter was threatened to repel the North Koreans. The 35th Infantry was equally effective and would soon, become one of the best regiments in the Eighth Army. By 8 September 1950 the North Koreans southward advance had been stopped.
The Tropic Lightning Division was a vital contributor to the successful breakout from the Pusan Perimeter and the subsequent link up with the X Corps that had made the Inchon landing. The United Nations forces drove to the 38th Parallel, destroying the North Korean Army in the process. Crossing the 38th Parallel, the 25th Division, along with the rest of the Eighth Army, advanced into North Korea. In October 1950 the Chinese sent large numbers of troops across the Yalu River in support of the North Koreans.
On 26 November 1950 the Chinese launched a massive offensive that drove the United Nations forces back below the 38th Parallel where the Chinese were finally halted. By June 1951 the UN forces had driven back slightly north of the 38th Parallel and here the war stalemated into a battle of hills and ridgelines.
In the fall of 1951 several changes in the units of the Division took place. On 1 October 1951 the 24th Infantry was inactivated and replaced by the 14th Infantry “Golden Dragons”. The 69th Field Artillery Battalion replaced the 159th Field Artillery Battalion. The 79th Tank Battalion, assigned to the 25th in 1949 (redesignated the 755th in August 1951), was inactivated on 14 November 1951 and was replaced on that date by the 89th Tank Battalion.
The Korean War would drag on in a series of limited operations designed to enhance each side’s military positions in anticipation of a conclusion of the truce talks underway at Panmunjom. Finally on 27 July 1953, a truce agreement was signed effectively ending the Korean War. See official condensed histories of the Korean War campaigns.
The 25th Infantry Division greatly distinguished itself in the 37 months of combat of the Korean War. The Division received two South Korean Presidential Unit Citations and was credited with participation in all ten Korean War campaigns. Elements of the 27th Infantry, 35th Infantry, 79th Tank Battalion, 89th Tank Battalion, and the 8th, 64th, 69th, 90th and 159th Field Artillery Battalions received U.S. Presidential Unit Citations for their heroism. Fourteen Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. See the chronology of 25th Division operations in the Korean War.
See Korean War Veteran’s Historical Project.
COLD WAR – PACIFIC GUARDIAN
During the 1950s and early 60s the Cold War reached new heights of tension, with NATO and Warsaw Pact forces standing toe-to-toe in Europe. On the Korean peninsula, the end of the war in 1953 resulted in a still divided and tense situation along the 38th parallel. In addition, the threat of nuclear war hung over the world.
By the fall of 1954 the situation had stabilized sufficiently in Korea for the Army to return the 25th Infantry Division to its birthplace of Schofield Barracks after a twelve-year absence. Upon arrival, the Tropic Lightning Division quickly assumed its new Cold War mission of being the strategic reserve for the Pacific and the Far East. The 25th undertook vigorous training and numerous deployments to the Philippines, Thailand and other areas to test operational plans and concepts. Mobility was stressed throughout the 25th to include the assignment from 1960 to 1961 of the 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 503rd Infantry stationed on Okinawa to give the division a quick-reaction highly-mobile forward deployed force. The Tropic Lightning also relearned its jungle warfare skills of World War II. And counter-guerilla warfare was incorporated into the jungle training. The emphasis on this type of training through the late 50’s and early 60’s would serve the division well in Vietnam.
In 1957 the Army concluded that the infantry regiment was no longer a tactically viable organization in the era of nuclear warfare. Consequently the Army reorganized all infantry and airborne divisions under the Pentomic concept. Instead of three infantry regiments, there would be five infantry battle groups each commanded by a colonel. Each division would also have a cavalry reconnaissance squadron, an armor battalion and an aviation company. To preserve the lineages of the historic regiments the Army established the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS).
The 14th, 27th and 35th Infantry were reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Battle Group 14th Infantry, 2nd Battle Group, 19th Infantry, 2nd Battle Group, 21st Infantry, 1st Battle Group, 27th Infantry and 1st Battle Group, 35th Infantry. Thus with the exception of the 14th Infantry, the infantry component of the 25th mirrored the old Hawaiian Division.
The reconnaissance squadron was designated the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry. (The 4th Cavalry had previously served at Schofield Barracks from 1913-1919.) The 89th Tank Battalion was returned to its mother regiment when it was redesignated the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor. (In 1963 it was redesignated 1/69 Armor.)
The Army had combined the air defense and field artillery into the Artillery branch. Thus by 1960 the 25th Division Artillery had the 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, 2nd Battalion, 9th Artillery, 7th Battalion, 11th Artillery, and 3rd Battalion, 13th Artillery. With the exception of the 9th Artillery (which had been activated at Schofield Barracks in 1916), the 25th Division artillery component also mirrored the old Hawaiian Division.
In 1963, the Army decided that the battle group was not the answer and again reorganized the infantry and airborne divisions, replacing the battle groups with a quasi-regimental structure consisting of three brigades of three infantry battalions each. In August 1963 the 25th Division activated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades. For cost-savings purposes the Army only authorized the 25th to have seven infantry battalions. The 1st Brigade consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 14th Infantry. The 2nd Brigade was assigned the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry and the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 27th Infantry. The 3rd Brigade had the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 35th Infantry.
The 3rd Brigade was the first 25th Division element alerted for Vietnam service. The 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry was transferred to the 3rd Brigade as its third battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 9th Artillery was attached as the direct support artillery battalion as well as Troop C, 3/4th Cavalry as the brigade’s reconnaissance element. On 28 December 1965 the 3rd Brigade began arriving at Pleiku in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Called Operation Blue Light, it was the largest airlift of U.S. ground forces ever undertaken up to that time. The 1st Battalion, 69th Armor in May 1966, joined the 3rd Brigade. The brigade engaged North Vietnam regulars along the Cambodian border and then Viet Cong main-line forces in Quang Ngai province for which it received a Valorous Unit Award.
The rest of the 25th Division began arriving at Cu Chi northwest of Saigon in January 1966. Last to arrive was the 1st Brigade on 29 April 1966. Before leaving Hawaii the brigade received two battalions from Alaska, the 4th Battalions of the 9th and 23rd Infantry to bring it up to strength. During the period from the summer of 1966 to the spring of 1967 the 25th Division was the largest division in Vietnam with four brigades under its command, the division’s 1st and 2nd Brigades as well as the 3rd Brigade, 4th Division and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. From September through November 1966 these units participated in Operation Attleboro in War Zone C east of Tay Ninh City. It was up to that time, the largest major unit operation of the war and after intense fighting in November resulted in the defeat of the 9th Viet Cong Division. Lessons learned were successfully applied by the Tropic Lightning in Operations Cedar Falls and Junction City conducted in War Zone C in early 1967. For an additional description of Operation Attleboro see the introduction of the official U.S Army historical study of operations Cedar Falls-Junction City.
In April 1967 the 196th was transferred to Chu Lai in I Corps, thus reducing the division to three brigades. On 1 August 1967 Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade less personnel and equipment rejoined the 25th Division. Its battalions remained in the central highlands and were reassigned to the 4th Division. Based at Dau Tieng, the 3rd Brigade, 25th Division assumed command of the former 3rd Brigade, 4th Division units, the 2/12th Infantry, 2/22nd Infantry (Mechanized) and 3/22nd Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, 77th Artillery was assigned to the 25th Division Artillery. In exchange the 4th Division at Pleiku assumed control of the units formally with the 25th Division’s 3rd Brigade except for Troop C, 3/4th Cavalry and several other company-level support elements which rejoined the division at Cu Chi less personnel and equipment.
From 1966 to 1970, the Division fought the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong north and west of Saigon. During the 1968 Tet Offensive the 25th stopped the Viet Cong attempts to seize Tan Son Nhut airfield and participated in the defense of Saigon. The Tropic Lightning consistently defeated the Communists forces where ever they found them in the Iron Triangle, Boi Loi Woods, HoBo Woods, Hoc Mon, Tay Ninh, War Zone C and Cambodia. See videos of the 25th Infantry Division combat operations.
The Vietnamization of the war and the withdrawals of U.S. forces began in 1969. On 8 December 1970, the 25th Infantry Division departed Vietnam at color guard strength for Schofield Barracks less its 2nd Brigade which became a separate brigade under II Field Forces control. The 2nd Brigade operated in the Long Binh and Xuan Loc areas east of Saigon until its departure at color guard strength for Schofield Barracks on 30 April 1971. The 25th Infantry Division served gallantly for 1,716 days in Vietnam receiving participation credit for twelve Vietnam campaigns and being twice awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. Eight Tropic Lightning units were awarded Presidential Unit Citations and eleven received Valorous Unit Awards. 21 Tropic Lightning soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.
During the Vietnam war a requirement existed to maintain a strategic reaction force for contingencies in the Pacific area other than Vietnam. Originally the 29th Infantry Brigade of the Hawaii National Guard had been federalized to serve in that capacity. On 6th December 1969 the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division was activated for that mission and placed under the command of the U.S. Army Pacific. The brigade consisted of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry, 3rd Battalion, 14th Infantry, 3rd Battalion, 27th Infantry, 5th Battalion, 13th Artillery, Troop H, 10th Cavalry, 76th Engineer Company and the 425th Support Battalion. It was inactivated upon return of the 25th Division from Vietnam on 15 December 1970 with its personnel and equipment used to bring the 1st Brigade up to strength.
Historian Eric Bergerud focused on the experiences of Tropic Lightning soldiers in Vietnam in his book, “Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning: The World of a Combat Division in Vietnam”.
THE COLD WAR – PACIFIC GUARDIAN II
For a period of almost two years the Army’s strategic reserve in the Pacific consisted of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. In 1972 the Army directed that the 25th Division be increased in strength in order to be able to more effectively carry out its Cold War missions. The 2nd Brigade which had been reduced to zero strength in Vietnam in 1971 was brought back up to full strength in 1972 along with the remainder of the division except for the 3rd Brigade which was inactivated after having been held at zero strength since returning from Vietnam. The 29th Infantry Brigade was designated to serve as the division’s “round-out” brigade in case of national emergency. The two active brigades were composed of the 1st Battalions of the 5th, 14th, 19th, 21st, 27th, and 35th Infantry Regiments. The 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry was reorganized as an air cavalry reconnaissance squadron.
The 25th Infantry Division was back in business as the “Fire Brigade of the Pacific”. The 25th undertook numerous training exercises and deployments throughout the Pacific and the Far East working with Allied forces in developing contingency planning and undertaking joint training exercises. On an annual basis beginning in 1976 and continuing into the 1990s elements of the 25th Division participated in Operation Team Spirit, a U.S. Armed Forces exercise to test the capability of quickly reinforcing South Korea. While no longer in combat the soldiers of the 25th continued to play a critical role in protecting and defending the national interests of the United States during the remainder of the Cold War.
In 1985 the Army ordered the conversion of the 25th into a full strength light infantry division. As light infantry, the 25th would be more rapidly deployable by air and at full combat strength would have maximum effectiveness for executing any mission assigned to it in the Pacific area and the Far East. The 3rd Brigade was reactivated and nine infantry battalions were assigned to the division, two battalions each of the 14th, 21st, 22nd and 27th Infantry and one battalion of the 87th Infantry. The reconnaissance squadron was reflagged as a squadron of the 9th Cavalry.
In 1982 the Army introduced a revised and expanded regimental system designed to allow for a soldier’s career to largely be spent serving in elements of the same regiment. This led to a massive reassignment of regiments throughout the Army with the 25th receiving elements of the 22nd and 87th Infantry, the 7th Field Artillery and the 9th Cavalry. In return the 25th lost all elements of the 5th, 19th and 35th Infantry, the 13th Field Artillery and the 4th Cavalry. By 1995 the Army had concluded that the personnel rotation aspects of the regimental system were not feasible and returned many of the regiments to their traditional divisions. The elements of the 22nd and 87th Infantry and 9th Cavalry left the 25th Division and elements of the 5th, 24th and 35th Infantry and 4th Cavalry were returned.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union the Unites States officially declared the Cold War to be over on 26 December 1991. While still maintaining its capabilities for operations in the Pacific and Far East if so directed, the 25th Division found itself like many Army units undertaking far flung peacekeeping duties around the world. From January through June, 1995 close to four thousand personnel of the division deployed to Haiti in Operation Uphold Democracy. The division headquarters served as the Multinational Force staff furnishing support and direction to the United Nations force composed of members of 27 countries with the 2nd and 3rd Brigades and other division elements furnishing security in several parts of the country. As directed by the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt a force of peacekeepers furnished by United Nations members was to be stationed in the Sinai. In response, a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) was set up separate from United Nations command. Beginning in 1982 member states of the UN to include the United States voluntarily furnish troops and civilian observers to the MFO. Since that time, the US Army including the 25th Infantry Division has provided the United States military contingents for six month tours with the MFO. In 2002 elements of the 25th served as part of the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first time the Tropic Lightning has served in Europe. In addition to its peace keeping duties the 25th continued to conduct training and deployments throughout the Pacific often along side the forces of Allied nations.
The Army under took a realignment of forces after the Desert Storm draw down. In the case of the 25th Division, it resulted by 1995 in the reassignment of the 1st Brigade and other elements of the division from Schofield Barracks to Fort Lewis Washington less personnel and equipment. The inactivating 1st Brigade, 7th Infantry Division (Light) was reflagged as the 1st Brigade of the 25th. The 1st Brigade was assigned the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry and the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry. The 24th Infantry was returning to the 25th, having served with the Tropic Lightning during the occupation of Japan and in the Korean War. The 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery became the direct support artillery battalion and the 25th Support Battalion the brigade’s forward support battalion. Company A, 65th Engineer Battalion and Company A, 125th Military Intelligence Battalion were also attached to the 1st Brigade.
The Army’s evaluation of Desert Storm recognized the need for a rapidly deployable organization that could fill the operational gap between initially deployed light forces, which lack staying power, and the slower deploying heavy armored forces. Originally known as the Interim Brigade Combat Team it is now known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team. It is an infantry brigade mounted on some three hundred Stryker 19-ton wheeled armored vehicles in ten different configurations with significant upgrades in firepower and capable of being transported in C-130 aircraft. The transformation began in 1999 with the conversion of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis to a Stryker Brigade. As part of the reorganization, the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry was reassigned to the brigade from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
Starting in the spring of 2002 the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division began to reorganize from a light infantry brigade to the Stryker configuration. As part of that transformation a third infantry battalion was assigned to the 1st Brigade. The 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry which served with the 25th Division from 1986-1995 was reactivated on 16 March 2002 at Fort Lewis. Also activated on 16 May 2002 was the brigade reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition squadron, the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry. Company D, 52nd Infantry was added to the brigade as a TOW missile equipped anti-tank company on 16 July 2002. The 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery remained as the brigade’s direct support field artillery battalion. The 25th Support Battalion was reorganized as separate brigade support battalion. Both Company A, 65th Engineer Battalion and Company A, 125th MI Battalion which were supporting the 1st Brigade were replaced with the 73rd Engineer Company on 16 June 2002 and the 184th MI Company on 16 May 2002. In addition the 176th Signal Company and the 125th Combat Service Support Companies were assigned. The 1st Brigade was certified as operational in mid-2004. From October 2004-2005 the 1st Brigade Combat Team (Stryker) served in Iraq (see below).
On 12 July 2001, the Army announced that the 2nd Brigade, 25th Division would also reorganize as the fifth of the Army’s six planned Stryker Brigades. On 17 December 2003 Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gave final approval to converting the 2nd Brigade to the Stryker configuration. The conversion of the 2nd Brigade to a Stryker brigade combat team began in 2005. By late 2007 the brigade had received its full complement of Stryker vehicles and became combat certified.
The tragic events of 11 September 2001 have led the nation into a War on Terrorism. Once again the United States Army is engaged in combat in far-flung areas of the world. Since 1941 the 25th Infantry Division has steadfastly served America in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and Peacekeeping. Now Tropic Lightning soldiers are contributing to the conduct of the war on terrorism.
In the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom approximately one hundred Tropic Lightning soldiers augmented various participating Army organizations. In August 2003 the Army directed that the 2nd Brigade would deploy to Afghanistan beginning in February 2004 followed by the 3rd Brigade in August 2004. Both brigades would serve six month tours of duty. In November 2003 these orders were changed.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment deployed to Iraq in January 2004. The 2nd Brigade Combat team was attached to the 1st Infantry Division and was based in and around the city of Kirkuk, where it relieved the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team was responsible for security in the city of Kirkuk and the surrounding area. The 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment supported operations in and around the capital of Baghdad.
During its tour of duty in Iraq the 2nd Brigade Combat Team operated as five task forces. The 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry task force not only served in the 2nd Brigade’s Kirkuk area of operations but also conducted combat operations outside of it in Tall Afar, Najaf, Samarra and Mosul. The 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry task force had a multi-faceted stability mission within the city of Kirkuk itself. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry task force had responsibility for a large area of operations in which it conducted two battalion air assaults and some 60 battalion-level operations. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry received a Valorous Unit Award for its conduct in combat actions against insurgent forces. The 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery task force supported brigade operations with direct fire support. Its counter-fire program significantly affected the insurgent’s mortar and rocket fire. The 225th Support Battalion task force effectively provided full spectrum logistic and medical support to all brigade operations. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s one year tour of duty was extended one month to furnish security for the Iraqi elections. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for its service in Iraq. The brigade returned to Schofield Barracks in late February 2005.
The 1st Battalion (Attack), 25th Aviation Regiment was based at Camp Taji and flew over 6,000 combat missions in support of the 1st Armored, 82nd Airborne and 1st Cavalry Divisions. In executing those missions, the battalion amassed a total of 25,000 flying hours while maintaining a readiness rate of 84 percent of its 24 OH-58D helicopters. The 1-25th Aviation flew reconnaissance and close combat attacks in support of ground operations as well as performing air security missions to protect flights in and out of Baghdad Airport. The battalion’s tour of duty was extended one month to furnish aerial security for the Iraqi elections. The 1-25th Aviation returned to Wheeler Army Airfield in late February 2005.
The 25th Infantry Division Headquarters, Division Artillery Headquarters, the Aviation Brigade, Support Brigade and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Afghanistan in February-April 2004 for a one-year tour of duty.
The 25th Infantry Division Headquarters was stationed at Bagram Airfield and served as the Headquarters, Combined / Joint Task Force 76, Operation Enduring Freedom -V with command responsibility for all Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. Major General Eric T. Olsen, Commanding General, 25th Infantry Division served as CJTF-76 commander supported by the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. The 25th Division’s Support Command assumed duties as the Joint Logistical Command for the entire CJTF and was also headquartered at Bagram Airfield. Headquarters, Division Artillery became Combined Task Force Thunder and took over responsibility for Regional Command East consisting of sixteen provinces in eastern Afghanistan. Three infantry battalions including the 2-27th Infantry were placed under its operational control. In September, 2004 CTF Thunder relocated to Khowst Province. Headquarters, Aviation Brigade was located at Bagram Airfield and served as the Headquarters, JTF Wings, directing aviation assets and operations in support of CJTF-76. Aviation Brigade units were located at both Bagram and Kandahar Airfields. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team was located at Kandahar Airfield as Combined Task Force Bronco with responsibility for Regional Command South. The 3rd Brigade had operational control of five battalions including 2-5th and 2-35th Infantry, 3-7th FA and 3-4th Cavalry.
Upon arrival in country the 25th Infantry Division units took over Operation Mountain Storm primarily designed to curtail the insurgent’s efforts to disrupt preparations for the scheduled October Afghan elections. This effort was continued with Operation Lightning Resolve beginning in July 2004 which successfully resulted in the failure of insurgent efforts to prevent 8.5 million Afghans from voting in the 9 October 2004 national presidential election. During the winter months Operation Lightning Freedom was initiated to continue combat actions against insurgent militias as well as furnishing support to Afghan reconstruction and the training of Afghanistan security forces. Beginning in March 2005 the 25th Infantry Division began the process of turning over its responsibilities for CJTF-76 to the Southern European Task Force and 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy and returning home to Schofield Barracks, with the last division elements returning to Schofield Barracks in June 2005.
While the Schofield Barracks elements of the 25th Infantry Division returned home after highly successful tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Tropic Lightning remained actively engaged in the War on Terror with its 1st Brigade Combat Team (Stryker) from Fort Lewis Washington participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 1st Brigade arrived in Iraq in September 2004 for a one year tour of duty. Its operational area comprised the northern city of Mosul and its surrounding area where the brigade distinguished itself in significant combat actions against the insurgents. By September 2005 all 1st Brigade Combat Team elements had returned to Fort Lewis. The 1st Brigade Combat Team was reflagged as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) and transferred to Vilseck, Germany in June 2006. The 1st Brigade Combat Team (Stryker) was reactivated on 16 December 2006 at Fort Wainwright Alaska.
In July 2006 the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, the Combat Aviation Brigade and the Division Headquarters of the 25th Infantry Division deployed to Iraq. On 13 September 2006 Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division assumed command of the Multinational Division-North from the 101st Airborne Division and was located at Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher in Tikrit. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Infantry), 25th Infantry Division was located at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warrior in Kirkuk and the Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division was split-based at COB Speicher and FOB Warrior.
Multinational Division-North was responsible for a 47,000 square mile region of northern Iraq. To conduct operations in such a vast area HQ, 25th Infantry Division had under its operational control the division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) and its Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) and BCTs from the 1st Cavalry, 2nd Infantry and 82nd Airborne Divisions as well as elements of the Marines, Air Force, Navy and National Guard, a total of some 23,500 personnel.
Known as Task Force Lightning, these units conducted combat operations against insurgents, trained and equipped almost 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and police and upgraded the operational capability of four Iraqi Army divisions. The units of Task Force Lighting also implemented over 1,800 reconstruction projects that included building schools, medical facilities, water and sewage projects and increasing oil pipeline capacity. Specifically the 3rd BCT conducted over one thousand combat operations together with Iraqi Army units and completed over one hundred civic improvement projects. The CAB flew over 200,000 flying hours in transporting troops and cargo on more than 30,000 missions.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) began a fifteen month deployment to Iraq in October 2006. The brigade was based at Forward Operating Base Kalsu at Iskandariya forty kilometers south of Baghdad and conducted security and stability operations in some of the most violent areas of the country in Babil, Karbala and Najaf provinces. In addition, two of its battalions also served for a considerable part of the fifteen months away from the brigade. The 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry served with the Marines in Anbar Province and the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry with the 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad. The 4th BCT returned to Fort Richardson in December 2007.
From December 2007 to March 2009 the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Stryker) served a fifteen-month tour of duty in Iraq. It served with the Multi-National Division-Baghdad and was based at Camp Taji northwest of Baghdad. The brigade was responsible for the rural areas northwest and west of Baghdad successfully operating with Iraqi security forces in eliminating terrorist cells and locating and destroying numerous weapons caches, earning its second Meritorious Unit Commendation and credit for the Iraq National Resolution campaign.
From August 2008 to August 2009 the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment served in northern Iraq as Task Force Saber with a helicopter lift company and an aviation support company attached. The task force supported operations of the Multi National Division – North, receiving participation credit for the Iraqi Surge and Iraqi Sovereignty campaigns.
In September 2008 the 1st Brigade Combat Team (Stryker) began a twelve-month tour of duty in Iraq. The 1st BCT, stationed in Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad, served in the Multi National Division-North’s Task Force Lightning. The brigade successfully conducted combat operations in partnership with Iraqi security forces against insurgent elements as well as implementing numerous civil action projects aimed at improving the quality of life within the province. The 1st BCT earned participation credit for the Iraqi Surge and Iraqi Sovereignty campaigns and returned to Fort Wainwright in September 2009.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team returned to Iraq in October 2008 for a twelve month tour of duty. The 3rd BCT was stationed in Salah ad Din Province in northern Iraq. The 3rd BCT successfully accomplished its missions of partnering with the Iraqi Forces in increasing province security as well as its mission to improve the quality of life in the province. Particular success was achieved in expanding schools, improving access to water and electricity and increasing business opportunities. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team earned participation credit for the Iraqi Surge and Iraqi Sovereignty campaigns and returned to Schofield Barracks in October 2009.
In November 2008, Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division began a twelve month tour of duty in Tikrit, Iraq; once again assuming command of Multilateral Division-North (MND-N), the same mission HQ, 25th ID performed in 2006-2007. MND-N was responsible for the seven northern-most provinces of Iraq. Task Force Lightning, the operational element of MND-N included the 25th Division’s 1st and 3rd BCTs.
In February 2009 the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) deployed to eastern Afghanistan for a twelve-month tour of duty. This was the first time a 25th Infantry Division element had served in Afghanistan since 2005. The 4th BCT conducted security, stability and reconstruction missions along the Pakistan border in the provinces of Paktika, Paktiya and Khost with the two infantry battalions operating in Paktika, the cavalry squadron in Paktiya and the field artillery battalion in Khost. The 4th BCT earned participation credit for the Afghanistan Consolidation II campaigns and returned to Fort Richardson in February 2010.
From August 2009 to August 2010, the Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division deployed to Iraq for a twelve month tour. The 25th CAB operated out of Contingency Operating Base Speicher located at the former Iraqi airbase outside the northern city of Tikrit in support of U. S. Division-North and Iraqi Security Forces. As Task Force Wings, it provided command and control over six aviation battalion task forces and an aviation support battalion. These elements conducted full spectrum aviation combat and support missions, flying over 141,000 mission hours. The CAB earned participation credit for the Iraqi Sovereignty campaign.
In July 2010 the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Stryker) began a twelve month tour in Iraq. The 2nd BCT operated from Forward Operating Base War Horse in Baquba, the provincial capitol of Diyala Province, with the mission of advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces and supporting reconstruction efforts within the province.
In late November 2010, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 25th Infantry Division deployed to Iraq for the third time. The battalion was stationed at Camp Liberty, Baghdad. On 20 December 2010 the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion took command of the U.S. Division – Center relieving the Headquarters, 1st Armored Division. The U. S. Division – Center is the operational command for U.S. elements conducting advise and assist support to Iraqi security forces in the Baghdad area.
On 5 March 2011 the 6-17th Cavalry begin another tour of duty in Iraq. The squadron was based at Forward Operating Base Diamondback located at the Mosul Airbase. Again organized as Task Force Saber, the squadron had the mission of supporting stability operations of the US Division- North. As part of the final withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, the 6-17th Cavalry returned to Fort Wainwright on 6th December 2011 where it is attached to the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. With this deployment, the squadron earned participation credit for the New Dawn campaign.
The 3d BCT returned to Afghanistan after an absence of six years in April 2011 and on 3 May 2011 as part of Regional Command- East, assumed responsibility from the 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division for security and stability operations for Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan provinces located along the border with Pakistan.
On 8 May 2011, the 1st BCT began its first deployment in Afghanistan. As part of Regional Command – South, the 1st BCT assumed responsibility for security and stability operations in Kandahar Province from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Partnered with the Afghan 1st Brigade, 205th Atal Corps as well as Afghan police elements, the capabilities of the 1st BCT significantly enabled Afghan and ISAF forces to conduct offensive operations that resulted in a major reduction of insurgent attacks in the province.
In June 2011, the 2nd BCT completed its twelve month deployment of advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces in Diyala Province earning campaign participation credit for the Iraqi Sovereignty and New Dawn campaigns.
As part of the final withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 25th Infantry Division returned to Schofield Barracks in December 2011. It was the last US Army division headquarters to have served in Iraq. With this deployment It received participation credit for the New Dawn campaign.
In December, 2011 the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) began a nine month deployment to eastern Afghanistan. The 4th BCT is the first 25ID BCT to deploy under the new nine month deployment duration now specified for all Heavy, Stryker, Infantry and Airborne brigade combat teams.
In January, 2012 the Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division began a twelve month deployment to Afghanistan. It is based at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan where it provides full spectrum aviation support to Regional Command South of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A shortage of Army-wide aviation assets currently requires that CABs will continue to deploy for twelve months.
The 3rd BCT completed its twelve month deployment to Afghanistan effective 8 April 2012 and returned to Schofield Barracks. For this deployment, the 3rd BCT earned participation credit for the Consolidation III and the Transition I campaigns.
In May 2012 the 1st BCT returned to Fort Wainwright from its twelve month deployment to Afghanistan. For its Afghanistan service the 1st BCT received campaign participation credit for the Consolidation III and Transition I campaigns.
In October 2012 the 4th BCT officially ended its nine month deployment to eastern Afghanistan. On 6 October 2012 the 4th BCT turned over operational responsibility for Forward Operating Base Salarno and Paktia and Khost Provinces to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. By the end of October all elements of the 4th BCT had returned to their home station at Fort Richardson, Alaska. For this deployment the 4th BCT earned Afghanistan campaign participation credit for the Consolidation III and Transition I campaigns. On 16 January 2013 the Combat Aviation Brigade officially ended its twelve month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan and returned to Wheeler Army Airfield. For its service, the CAB received participation credit for the Afghanistan Transition campaign.
Since January 2004 the six major elements of the 25th Infantry Division—the division headquarters, the four brigade combat teams and the combat aviation brigade—have made a total of twenty-one combat deployments, of which eight were to Afghanistan and thirteen to Iraq. In addition, three Tropic Lightning battalion-sized aviation task forces deployed to Iraq. For the first time in some eight years, all six elements of the 25th Infantry Division are at their respective home stations.
The high standards set by the 25th Infantry Division in its conduct of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq effectively demonstrates the division motto “Ready to Strike, Anytime Anywhere” and such traditional high standards set by the Tropic Lightning in four wars will continue in its service in the War On Terrorism.
Reorganization of the 25th Infantry Division
Beginning in 2004 the United States Army undertook its biggest reorganization since before WWII. Known as Modular Conversion, the Army has transformed from a division-centric army to a brigade-centric army designed to increase the number of cohesive deployable units that would be more adaptable to integration with other joint forces in pursuing the War On Terrorism campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 25th Infantry Division reorganized during the period 2005-2007. For further details see Reorganization of the 25th Infantry Division.