The roots of the 15th Support Battalion can be traced back to 23 March 1925, when its predecessor, the 1st Medical Squadron which was constituted in the Regular Army of the United States and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. On 01 June 1926, the unit was organized and activated at Ft. Bliss, Texas. In July 1928, the distinctive insignia, coat of arms and the original motto "Standing By" were adopted. Over the years, the squadron performed normal garrison duties of training and operation of dispensaries at Ft. Bliss, Texas. The training it received was a special type peculiar to mounted units. With the advent war, the unit was assigned the additional duty of training newly organized hospital units.
In February 1943, the entire 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for an overseas assignment as a dismounted unit. An impatient 1st Cavalry Division was dismounted and they were processed for movement to the Southwest Pacific theater as foot solders. In mid June 1943, the last troops of the division departed Fort Bliss, Texas for Camp Stoneman, California and later on 03 July, boarded the "S.S. Monterey and the S.S. George Washington" for Australia and the Southwest Pacific.
On 26 July, three weeks later, the division arrived at Brisbane and began a
fifteen mile trip to their new temporary home, Camp Strathpine, Queensland,
Australia. The division received six months of intense combat jungle warfare
training at Camp Strathpine in the wilds of scenic Queensland and amphibious
training at nearby Moreton Bay. In January 1944 the division was ordered to
leave Australia and sail to Oro Bay, New Guinea. After a period of staging in
New Guinea, it was time for the 1st Cavalry Division to receive their first
baptism of fire.
Just after 8:00 on 29 February, the 1st Cavalry troopers climbed down the nets of the APD's and into the LCM's and LCPR's, the flat bottomed landing craft of the Navy. The task force, including the 1st Collecting Troop and "B" Troop, 1st Medical Squadron, landed at Hayane Harbor took the Japanese by surprise.
On 18 May 1944, the Admiralty Islands campaign officially ended. Japanese
casualties stood at 3,317 killed. The losses of the 1st Cavalry Division
included 290 dead, 977 wounded and 4 missing in action. Training, discipline,
determination and ingenuity had won over suicidal attacks. The First Cavalry
Troopers were now seasoned veterans.
On 26 January, conveys were formed and departed for the Lingayan Gulf, Luzon Island, the Philippines. Landing without incident on 27 January, the division assembled in an area near Guimba and prepared for operations in the south and southwest areas. One of the First Team's most noted feats was accomplished during the fighting for Luzon. General MacArthur issued an order "Get to Manila!". The resulting mission, and the participating units, was dubbed a "flying column" by General Mudge. The rescue mission, lead by Brig. General William C. Chase, was divided into three "serials", of which included "A" Troop, 1st Medical Squadron. On 03 February 1945, lead elements of the rescue column crossed the city limits of Manila at 6:35 PM, covering the 100 miles of rough terrain in approximately 66 hours. The first of many "Firsts" was recorded in history;
1946 was welcomed as a new dawning of peace for the 1st Cavalry Division. The days of privation, hardship, suffering and death were over for the first time since 07 December 1940. The following years of the occupation found the 1st Cavalry Division in control of Tokyo and vicinity, the capital of the war-built Japanese Empire. On 25 March 1949, the 1st Medical Squadron was redesignated as the 15th Medical Battalion, consisting of a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, "A" Company (Ambulance) and "B" Company (Clearing). 1950 called for an increased training to improve the ever-increasing combat effectiveness of the division, which was soon to be tested.
The ROKs had eight divisions, but only four deployed along the 38th parallel, and they only partially. Much worse, they had no air force, only 2.36 inch rocket launchers, no recoilless rifles, no heavy mortars, no medium artillery and no armor. The T34s, arguably the best tanks developed in WWII, advanced in a line-ahead formation. After scores of ROKs died under their treads, trying desperately to stop them with satchel charges and grenades, the tanks began moving through the survivors as though they were not there. At the same time, their infantry formations attacked in an inverted Y formation, sweeping around ROK opposition with the arms, encircling them, and finally crushing them.
The decision of the United States to send immediate aid to South Korea came two days after the fast moving North Korean Army broke through the Republic of Korea (ROK) defenses and sent tanks into the capital city of Seoul. In addition to the US Air Force, Navy and Marines, a 1,000 man battalion from the 24th Infantry Division, including many specialists and noncommissioned officers transferred from the 1st Cavalry Division arrived 30 June. More help was on the way. "A" Company of the 71st Heavy Tank Battalion, previously assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, arrived in Korea early in July and was immediately attached to the 24th Infantry Division and experienced its first combat at Taejon.
On 06 July, General MacArthur called Major General Hobart Gay, Commanding
General, 1st Cavalry Division and informed him to make plans for the 1st
Cavalry Division to make an amphibious landing at Inchon. In a questionable
state of readiness, the 1st Cavalry Division had been weakened by the earlier
transfer of approximately 750 noncommissioned officers to the 24th and 25th
Divisions to strengthen combat capabilities in Korea.
Their baptism of fire came on 23 July. They were hit by heavy artillery fire and mortar barrage, and North Korean infantrymen swarmed toward their entrenched positions. The Pusan Perimeter continued to hold. With added reinforcements, Pusan became a staging ground and depot for United Nations supplies and soldiers from around the world. The defenders now outnumbered the attackers and they had the equipment and firepower to go on the offensive.On 09 August, the North Koreans hurled five full divisions at the Naktong defenders near Taegu. They gained some high ground - but not for long. the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry moved against them, hitting their flanks with coordinated artillery and air strikes. In seizing hill 268 known as "Triangulation Hill" the troopers accounted for 400 enemy dead. With added reinforcements, Pusan became a staging ground and depot for United Nations supplies and soldiers from all around the world. Solders of the United Nations forces became First Team troopers. The defenders soon outmbered the attackers and they had the equipment and firepower to go on the offensive.
The turning point in this bloody battle came on 15 September 1950, when MacArthur unleashed his plan to go around the advancing North Korean Army, Operation Chromite - an amphibious landing at Inchon, far behind the North Korean lines. In spite of the many negative operational reasons given by critics of the plan, the Inchon landing was an immediate success allowing the 1st Cavalry Division to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and start fighting north, crossing the 38th parallel on 09 October 1950. The 7th Cavalry rounded up 2,000 prisoners. In one of the ironic moments of the war, troopers took into custody a small North Korean cavalry unit and all its horses. The troopers of the 1st Cavalry crashed into Pyongyang, capturing the capital city of North Korea on 19 October 1950. This event marked the third "First" for the Division.
In late October 1950, orders came from I Corps to saddle up the rest of the division and move north. The Korean war seemed to be nearing a conclusion. The North Korean forces were being squeezed into a shrinking perimeter along the Yalu and the borders of Red China and Manchuria. By now, more than 135,000 Red troops had been captured and the North Korean Army was nearly destroyed.
On 25 October 1950, the Korean War took a grim new turn. The sudden
intervention of Communist Chinese forces dashed hopes of a quick end to the
war. In the morning of 01 November, patrols from the 1st and 2nd Battalions,
8th Cavalry, clashed with soldiers clearly identified as Red Chinese. By 28
December, the true extent of the enemy buildup had become clear. There was at
least 20 Red Chinese divisions poised for a drive on Seoul. Now there was
almost a million and a half Chinese and North Korean troops on the Korean
On 27 November, the advance party from the division, left Korea and by late
January 1952, all units had arrived on Hokkaido, under the command of Major
General Thomas L. Harrold. Arriving in the port of Muroran, each unit was
loaded on trains and moved to the new garrison areas. Three camps were
established outside Sappro, the Islands capital city. The division controlled
a huge training area of 155,000 acres. The mission of the division was to
defend the Island of Hokkaido and to maintain maximum combat readiness.
In September 1954, the Japanese assumed responsibility for defending Hokkaido and the First Team returned to the main Island of Honshu. For the next three years the division guarded the northern sections of Honshu until a treaty was signed by the governments of Japan and the United States in 1957. This accord signaled the removal of all U.S. ground forces from Japan's main islands.
On 20 August 1957, the First Cavalry Division, guarding the northern sections of Honshu, Japan was reduced to zero strength and transferred to Korea (minus equipment). With the advent of the Pentomic Organizational Structure, on 22 August 1957, the 15th Medical Battalion was assigned to the forerunner of the present Divisional Support Command, the Divisional Trains. Although the concept of "Trains" under a controlling headquarters was new to the infantry divisions, it had been utilized by the Armor during World War II. The lifeline through which the combined administrative and technical support is provided by the trains. The organic units, at the time of activation of the Trains on 22 August 1957, included the 15th Aviation Company, 15th Administrative Service Company, 15th Medical Battalion, 15th Quartermaster Company, 23rd Transportation Battalion and the 27th Ordnance Battalion.
In ceremonies held on 15 October, the colors of the 24th Division were retired and the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were passed to the Commanding General of the old 24th Division, Major General Ralph W. Zwicker. "The First Team" had returned to Korea, standing ready to defend the country against Communist aggression.
On 01 November 1957, the Trains were activated in Korea. The redesignated and reorganized First Cavalry was assigned the mission of patrolling the "Freedom's Frontier" (DMZ). In addition to their assigned duties of patrol along the southern border of the DMZ, training remained a number one priority for the troopers and unit commanders. In January 1958, the largest training exercise in Korea since the end of hostilities, Operation Snowflake, was conducted. This exercise was followed by Operation Saber in May and Operation Horsefly in August. In June 1965 the 15th Medical Battalion began rotation back to the United States along with other units of the 1st Cavalry Division.
The Geneva Accords stated that the division was to be temporary, and that national elections in 1956 would reunite the country. But the United States did not want to see Vietnam turn into a communist state, so the US supported the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which provided defense for South Vietnam.
North Vietnam, then called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, wanted a communist state, and South Vietnam, then called the Republic of Vietnam, wanted a non-communist state. In 1956, Ngo Dihn Diem, an anti-communist, won the presidential election in South Vietnam. But communist opposition in the south caused Diem numerous problems. And in 1959, southern communists decided to implement greater violence to try to oust Diem. This led to the formation of the National Liberation Front (NLF).
The NLF was a group of communists and non-communists who opposed diem and sought his ouster. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent a group to South Vietnam to determine what actions the US needed to take to assist them. When the group returned, they proffered recommendations in what became known as the "December 1961 White Paper" that indicated a need for an increased military presence; but many of the advisors of Kennedy wanted a complete pullout from the country.
In the end, Kennedy compromised and decided to increase the number of military advisors, but with the objective of not to engage in a massive military buildup. But in 1963, the government of Diem quickly began to unravel. The downfall began when Diem's brother accused Buddhist monks of harboring communists -- his brother then began raiding Buddhist pagodas in an attempt to find these communists
The Buddhist monks immediately began protesting in the streets, and in Saigon
on 05 October, 1963, one monk died by self-immolation. This incident caused
international outrage and Diem was soon overthrown and killed. On 02 August,
1964, North Vietnam attacked an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin that
resulted in congress enacted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted the
president broad war powers.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the president at the time, and the Gulf of Tonkin
incident and the resultant resolution marked the beginning of the major
military build up of America in the Vietnam War. In 1965, massive bombing
missions by the US in North Vietnam, known as Operation ROLLING THUNDER,
quickly escalated the conflict.
In 1965, the 15th Medical Battalion accompanied the Division Support Command
when it was deployed to Vietnam, arriving on 12 September. As Cavalrymen
underwent their baptism of fire, the advantages of an aero-medical evacuation
became more and more edivent. The organization participated in all major campaigns and distinguished itself in battle,
writing new chapters in its history.
The move south to III Corps in 1968 brought many changes in methods of operation for many skytroopers, but not for the medical battalion personnel. Their job remained the same; help those in need and help they did. The Headquarters Service Company located in Phuoc Vinh, conducted daily sick call, ran a dental clinic and administered to local nationals. Companies of the battalion were colocated at the three brigade headquarters of the division so that forward area personnel could get routine medical aid.
26 March 1971, officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the majority of the 1st Cavalry Division. On 29 April, the Support Command along with the 15th Medical Battalion departed Vietnam for Fort Hood, Texas.
On 21 September 1975, the 15th Medical Battalion was reorganized into a Headquarters and "A" Company and three identical medical companies, "B", "C" and "D", in support of an armored division. On 22 June 1976, the battalion motto was changed to "Service above Self". Headquarters and "A" Company was redesignated Headquarters and Service Company. On 16 September 1980, "D" Company was deactivated.
On 16 May 1984 Headquarters and Service Company was reorganized into Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and "A", "B" and "D" Companies to support an armored Cavalry Division. On 01 October 1984, the entire structure of the Division Support Command which included the 15th Medical Battalion, underwent a dynamic change in order to best support the logistic requirements of the division by the activation of the 2nd Forward Support Battalion which incorporated elements of the 15th Medical Battalion.
Following the evolution of the 2nd Forward Support Battalion into a full time Forward Support Battalion which supported the 2nd Brigade, the 15th Medical Battalion was inactivated at Fort Hood, Texas on 15 September 1985. Under the initial support concept, the 2nd Forward Support Battalion had no history or lineage, only generic colors. The problem of no identity was corrected by realignment of all support battalions by the Army and the Institute of Heraldry. On 01 May 1987, the 2nd Forward Support Battalion was given the full lineage, honors and colors of the 15th Medical Battalion, and redesignated as the 15th Support Battalion (FWD).
With the activation of the 15th Support Battalion (FWD), the "fuel, arm and fix forward" combat service doctrine was inaugurated. This concept is the linchpin that keeps combat units operating continuously on the Air-Land Battlefield. The battalion is organized with a multifunctional staff, a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and three diversified company-sized units. As an aggregate, the battalion provides responsive fuel, ammunition, rations, medical support and direct support maintenance the requirements of a combined arms maneuver brigade in combat or in garrison.
In August 1990, the 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for deployment to
Southwest Asia as part of the joint forces participating in Operation Desert
Shield. The focus at that time was the defense of Saudi Arabia against
potential Iraqi attack. In October 1990, the 15th Support Battalion deployed
in support of Desert Shield and provide critical logistical support to the
soldiers of the 2nd "Blackjack" Brigade. In January and February 1991, the
efforts of the Division Support Command were key in carrying out the fast
moving ground war.
This operation was an unqualified success. The enemy reacted as anticipated. Iraqi divisions focused on the coalition threat in the Wadi, and the First Team froze them. The deception worked, in that it tied down four Iraqi divisions, leaving their flanks thinned and allowed the VII Corps to attack virtually unopposed, conducting a successful envelopment of Iraqi forces to the west. The 2nd Brigade withdrew south to join the division for the subsequent series of final attacks.
The 15th's action of providing resupply of fuel and ammunition was critical to the 2nd Brigade's successful 300 kilometer advance in 24 hours into Southern Iraq to cut off and stop the Republican Guard. In March, the 15th Support Battalion (FWD) along with the balance of the DISCOM Units, joined the assembled division on the plain of the Wadi al Batin. Desert Storm was over. In April 1991, the division brought all its soldiers safely home to Fort Hood, Texas.
Since redeployment from Saudi Arabia, the 15th Support Battalion (FWD) has been involved in numerous field exercises, including multiple highly successful deployments to the National Training Center with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, annual deployments in support of the Mississippi National Guard Annual Training and a no-notice deployment to Kuwait for Intrinsic Action 95-03.
In August 1995, the battalion deployed again to Kuwait on 48 hours notice for "Operation Intrinsic Action" in response to aggressive actions by Iraq. The battalion returned to Ft. Hood after providing exceptional Combat Service Support to the Black Jack Brigade.
In November of 2001, as a direct response to terrorist attacks on the United States, the battalion deployed "no-notice", as a part of Task Force Black Jack to North-Western Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. For six months the battalion provided critical logistical support to the Brigade in support of itís deliberate defense arrayed on the Iraqi border to further deter Iraqi aggression.
In January 2004, the battalion deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For 14 months, the battalion conducting Combat Service Support, Combat Health Support, Civil-Military and Combat Operations in Baghdad, An Najaf, Al Falluja and Northern Babil. During this deployment the motto was returned to the original "Standing-By" March 23, 2004. The Gamblers returned from Iraq in February 2005 having not lost one trooper in 14 months of combat operations.
On 15 July 2005, as part of the Army's transformation towards a modular force, the 15th Forward Support Battalion was inactivated along with the rest of the Division Support Command (DISCOM). As part of the modular transformation, assets previously held at Division level, but habitually assigned to its brigades during operations were made organic to those brigades. The unit was reorganized, redesiganted, and reactivated, with 5 additional companies, as the 15th Brigade Support Battalion and assigned to the similarly reorganized and redesiganted 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
In September 2005, the battalion deployed to New Orleans in support of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. During Operation SOUTHERN BELL the battalion supported the 2nd Brigade out of Algiers Naval Base providing excellent food, water, supply, fuel, maintenance support, and medical care.
Today the most decorated support battalion in the Army stands ready to once to provide unequaled combat service and combat health support to the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade. The long and valorous history of the 15th Support Battalion (BSB) demonstrates that they truly "Live the Legend".
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