227th Aviation Regiment
Iraqi Freedom - I
"POWER"; or "CAN DO"

On 07 January, the reality of the "Digital Battlefield" loomed on the horizon as elements of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 68th Chemical Company and supporting detachments (slice) of the 615th Aviation Support Battalion and 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment received orders to prepare for deployment to SouthWest Asia, under the control of US Central Command, Tampa, FL. The 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation, one of the first units to be equipped with the AH-64D Apache Longbow Attack Helicopters, has the primary mission to seek out and destroy enemy armored vehicles. After moving the equipment of the battalion to port over the weekend of 18 January, the two main bodies of the 1st Battalion departed on charted aircraft to Kuwait on 12 & 16 February.

As part of the overall "backfill" plan of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment, North Carolina Army National Guard (NCARNG), had been preassigned to the Aviation (Warrior) Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division to replace the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment. Operating out of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport at Morrisville, in central North Carolina, with AH-64A Apache milti-mission attack helicopters, the battalion usually served with the 18th Airborne Corps assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC. On 19 January, the 1st Battalion (Panthers) of the, 130th Aviation Regiment, held a farewell ceremony for the activated soldiers and their families, having received their mobilization orders on 09 January.

The deployment of the 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment to Ft. Hood, TX was made in two moves, the first on 21 January, from Raleigh to Ft. Bragg, NC where they were mobilized and all equipment received a readiness inspection check. The second move was made following the receipt of final destination deployment orders issued on 05 March, Their equipment was shipped separately to Ft. Hood, TX and on 19 March, personnel flew from Ft. Bragg, NC to Ft. Hood, TX. where they began training with other units of the Aviation Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and at some time in the near future, if the Division is deployed, they will deploy with them.

On 14 February the lead body of the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment arrived in theater and closed on Camp Udari, a built up airfield in the northwest portion of the Kuwait desert, near the Iraq border, and was attached to Task Force 11th Aviation operating under the command of the US Army V Corps.

The 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation aircraft and equipment, leaving the Port of Houston on 22 January arrived in Kuwait on 25 February was downloaded within two days (faster than any other unit in theater), inspected and convoyed in four hours to Camp Udairi. Once all equipment was in place, a key set of Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (ROSI) events were executed as the battalion was integrated into the 11th Aviation Regiment (AHR). Primary exercises carried out were Night Vision Goggle (NVG) driver's training, Longbow hellfire missile, 30mm, rocket firing at the Udairi range, and Military Decision Making Processes (MDMP) planning.

The first action, in preparation of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF-1), began by crossing the Kuwait/Iraq International Border and executing a 500 kilometer (300 miles) tactical roadmarch, mostly over open desert, to establish the 11th Aviation Regiment Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) at Objective RAMS. This movement was made in four stages:

At the on-set of hostilities, the battalion had 375 personnel present in theater, with 18 AH-64D Longbows, and 72 ground prime movers. The first tactical mission planned as an attack on the 11th Infantry Division in the vicinity of (IVO) An Nasirya near Tallil Airfield, Iraq was not executed due to low ceilings experienced enroute by the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, the lead squadron, approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Kuwait border. The battalion next postured and planned for a two battalion simultaneous attack to destroy the 2nd Armored Brigade of the Medina Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard in the vicinity of the city of Karbala. The third attack squadron, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment had a be prepared to (BPT) attack mission in support of the operation.

The 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment conducted its initial attack on the night of 23 March. The battalion launched the attack from Camp Udairi and refueled at Objective RAMS occupied by TF III/V. After a quick stabilator brief conducted by the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, the battalion took off at 0122 hours (local) on 24 March and fought through arms fire as far south as 25 kilometers (15 Miles) away from the enemy action of a fierce battle with units of Iraq's Republican elite Medina Division units between the cities of Karbala and al Hillah, about 96 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

The attack, started after midnight, lasted about three hours. One of the elements of the opposing force struck was Iraqi T-72 battle tanks, the most advanced tank used by the Iraqi forces. The Republican Guard was estimated to have at least 90 of those tanks, along with "multiple" pieces of field artillery and armored personnel carriers, The Apache unit went up against the 2nd Armored Brigade of the Medina Division, which is part of the Republican Guard, the troops most loyal to Saddam Hussein. Many Apaches were hit by arms fire, but managed to destroy 10 Iraqi tanks before cutting off their attack. They also attacked positions between Karbala and Hillah, which straddle the Euphrates River south of Baghdad.

There were many heroic actions as the battalion reacted to a coordinated air ambush that night. The battalion did, however, have one aircraft shot down with 16 of the remaining 17 aircraft receiving varying amounts of battle damage The aircraft of the battalion met determined Iraqi opposition but were still able to accomplish most of its tasks for the mission. The downed helicopter (99-5135) of "C" Company, 227th Aviation Regiment received a hit which damaged the Flight Management Computer. Losing control, the pilot had to make an emergency landing and come down in a field near Karbala, about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad, close to the site where the fierce predawn battle took place. The attack force had not expected such strong Iraqi resistance from what they thought were mostly civilian populated areas.

Iraqi Soldier Guards Downed Apache
During the battle, two attempts to rescue the pilots were aborted due to heavy fire. The next day, al-Jazeera, the Arab world's TV broadcast in Iraq showed the downed AH-64 helicopter sitting upright on the ground in an open field. From appearances, it did have any external battle damage to indicate that it had been shot down as reported by the al-Jazeera narrator. The helicopter was quickly located by Coalition aircraft and destroyed so that none of the classified electronic on-board systems would be salvaged and examined by any foreign agents.

After their Apache helicopter came down, Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young jumped in a canal and swam a quarter-mile but were caught by armed farmers who spotted them in the moonlight when they tried to run for cover in a stand of trees. The villagers beat them with sticks and were threatened at knife point. Afterwards the two men were thrown in the back of a pickup truck and driven around "to show all the other people that they had captured Americans. Originally, the Army classified the two men as "missing in action", but later in the day, the Iraqi Government showed them on local and national TV channels and announced that the two pilots had been captured and would be treated as prisoners of war.

Through Battle Damage Assessment Reports (BDAR) and outstanding efforts of the battalion maintenance crews, 6 aircraft were flyable within 96 hours, 9 were full mission capable (FMC) 96 hours after that and 12 full mission capable within two weeks. The battalion reconstituted/refit after the mission and returned to full combat power within 30 days. By 25 March, the battalion's maintenance status had recovered enough from the attack of 23 March for the unit to continue the conduct combat operations in support of V Corps and 11th Aviation Regiment (AHR) as part of the Corps reserve.

The next missions of the battalion,conducted from 04 through 14 April, were Route Security and Reconnaissance in support of the 82nd Airborne Division in the vicinity of As Samawah and north to the Karbala Gap, the 101th Airborne Division, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and Reconnaissance and Security of Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) VICKSBURG. These close, decisive operations and netted outstanding results in support of the ground maneuver commander's plan.

277th POWs Escorted by Marines
On Palm Sunday, 13 April, as the Marines were closing on Tikrit and nearing Samarra, 58 kilometers (35 miles) south of Kikrit, they were contacted by an Iraqi citizen indicating that they would shortly "come in contact with a number of Americans". Soon afterwards they were taken to a house were they found the seven missing US POW soldiers. They appeared to be unharmed and in a healthy condition and were immediately transported to an airfield about 50 miles south of Baghdad in ambulances where all ran or walked, although two of them had gunshot wounds, to a C-130 transport plane to take them to Kuwait. Two walked with a limp and one of those was a woman, One of the seven raised his hand in victory, and the woman was carrying her own equipment. Marines nearby applauded as they passed by them.

The Defense Department did not release the names of those rescued until their families were notified, but two were identified in a press pool photograph caption as the two Apache helicopter pilots from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando, FL and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, GA, who had made an emergency landing due to a mechanical failure and were captured 24 March during heavy fighting with the 2nd Armored Brigade, Medina Division, Iraqi Republican Guard.

On Saturday, 19 April, the seven former US prisoners of war smiled and waved to a crowd of well-wishers Saturday as they boarded a C-17 in Germany that was carrying them home to their families in the United States. About 30 well-wishers waving American flags and one bearing a banner that read "Proud of Our Warriors" gathered beside the plane to see the seven off and to wish them a safe journey home. The destination of the trans-Atlantic flight was Ft. Bliss, TX, where five of them were stationed with the US Army's 507th Maintenance Company. The two other former POWs, Apache helicopter crewmen, with the 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, continued to their home base at Ft. Hood, TX.

1st Cavalry Division - A First Team
Upon landing at Ft. Hood, the two crew members of the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment were escorted down a red carpet and were met with chants of "Hoo-ah!" from their comrades and to a swarm of overjoyed friends and relatives who exchanged hugs, tears and handshakes with them. The crowd cheered and clapped amid the tumult of a brass band's military tune of "Garryowen".

Overall during operations, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the 1st Battalion, 227th Attack aircrews flew over 450 combat hours, destroyed over 100 pieces of enemy equipment and an estimated 300 personnel. additionally, the battalion's drivers traveled over 2,750 miles conducting convoys, establishing Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARPs), and logistical functions. On 22 April, as the battalion prepared to move north to Balad Airfield, it received orders to redeploy the battalion back to homestation. The1st Battalion, 227th Attack conducted retrograde operations with all assigned personnel and equipment. In total the battalion flew over 680 hrs in theater moving, prepping and executing combat operations. It expended over 100 hellfire missiles (shot or damaged), 800 rockets, and 14,000 30mm rounds while consuming over 100,000 gallons of JP8 fuel. Remarkably, the battalion completed operations in Iraq without a single serious incident or accident, either on the ground or in the air.

On 24 April the battalion began redeployment back to Camp Udairi closing on the redeployment Assembly Area (RAA) on 26 April. On 17 May the battalion began movement to the port in Kuwait and redeployed personnel on Wednesday, 21 May. Back home at West Ft. Hood, TX, hundreds of family members waited late into the night at Robert Gray Army Airfield to welcome home the troopers of Task Force 227 who returned to Ft. Hood, TX after fighting in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. As the families waited, children were running around the airfield ramp waving flags and smiling in anticipation of their parents' return. "Welcome home" signs and balloons filled the hangar with a patriotic flavor.

Although the first plane carrying Task Force 227 landed at 2050 hours and the battalion's hangar was filled with family members, they would have to wait until a few hours later for the soldiers from the second aircraft to land before they could be reunited with their loved ones. At 2300 hours, the last aircraft of the Task Force arrived to the tumultuous cheers of their loved ones. The almost 300 soldiers were from three 1st Cavalry Division units: the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment. As the public announcer said the last unit was two minutes away, family members crouched at the edge of the hangar doors, then from out of the darkness the formation of soldiers clad in desert Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs) marched into a riotous welcome from their families.

Stopping short of the red carpet laid on the tarmac, the task force was greeted by Colonel Jim McConville, 4th Brigade Commander.1st Cavalry Division, and Chief Warrant Officer-2 David Williams, After an exchange of salutes, Williams then rejoined his unit.

In a short welcome speech by Brigadier General Thomas Bostick, Assistant Commander, 1st Cavalry Division, said "This is a great day for our Army and our nation as the first team soldiers deploy to combat and then returned safely. As we celebrate and rejoice today, let us not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who continue to serve". After the general's comments, the soldiers were dismissed and were turned loose into the waiting arms of their families.

On 06 June, the battalion executed a change of command ceremony and is currently updating the Regeneration Plan to bring the battalion's personnel and equipment back to the highest combat ready status. All equipment was returned to Ft. Hood on 25 & 29 June.

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 14 Sep '11 SpellChecked