12th Combat Aviation Brigade History

The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade first organized as the 12th Aviation Group at Fort Benning, Georgia, on 18 June 1965. The unit deployed to Vietnam in August as a command element for non-organic Army aviation units, and by November 1965, the group consisted of 11,000 personnel and 34 aviation units. Assigned to the III Military Region in Vietnam, the 12th Group was the largest unit of its type to serve in combat. Its colors, emblazoned with 18 campaign streamers, give lasting testimony to its role in the Vietnam War. The unit earned the Meritorious Unit Citation, two Vietnamese Crosses for Gallantry with Palm, and the Vietnamese Civic Action Medal, First Class while in Vietnam.

Upon its return in March 1973, the 12th Aviation Group became a major subordinate command of the XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In November 1979, the 12th Aviation Group deployed to Lindsey Air Station, Wiesbaden, Germany as a major subordinate command of the V United States Corps, providing command and control of aviation units throughout the V Corps area of operation. In April 1984, Headquarters Company, 12th Aviation Group moved to Wiesbaden Air Base.

Following the bombings of the Embassies and Marine Barracks in Lebanon in 1984, US Army Europe’s V Corps sent medium and heavy lift aviation assets to Cyprus to support the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. This operation, known as the Beirut Air Bridge, provided Embassy personnel with safe passage in and out of Beirut on U.S. Military aircraft, as well as the continued flow of supplies necessary for the Embassy’s continued operation during the conflict there. UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters deployed to Cyprus in company-sized and smaller elements on a rotational basis. The Beirut Air Bridge continued until 1998 when the country began to stabilize following the start of the Israeli phased withdrawal from South Lebanon.

In October 1987, under army-wide restructuring, the 12th Aviation Group was re-designated as the 12th Aviation Brigade, along with its subordinate units: 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment; C Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment; and B Company, 6th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. In the latter part of 1988, the Brigade re-structured again when the 5th Squadron (AH 64), 6th Cavalry Regiment arrived in Europe.

On August 16, 1990, only two weeks after Iraqi forces crossed the Kuwait border, the 12th Aviation Brigade deployed to Saudi Arabia to take part in Operation Desert Shield, initially attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). When Desert Shield transitioned into Desert Storm, the brigade became a major subordinate command of XVIII Airborne Corps and provided aerial combat and logistical support through the Corps’ sector. Shortly after the end of Desert Storm, V Corps’ aviation assets deployed to Turkey in order to support Operation Provide Comfort. Attack helicopters, stationed in Incirlik, Turkey to enforce the no fly zone in Northern Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Kurdish people.

On 15 June 1992, the 5th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment was de-activated as part of the downsizing of USAREUR. The 3rd Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment (Air Traffic Services) joined the Brigade on 16 June 1992.

At the end of the Cold War, the Brigade played a major role in America’s peacekeeping operations. In December of 1992, 12th Aviation Brigade deployed to provide an interim aviation task force to support the 10th Mountain Division in Somalia during the early days of Operation Restore Hope. The Brigade also deployed Soldiers to Hungary and Bosnia in 1995 to enforce the peace during Operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard.

In April 1999, the Brigade deployed to Tirana, Albania as part of Task Force Hawk in support of NATO Operation Allied Force. With the declaration of peace in June of 1999, the Brigade transported elements of the 82nd Airborne Division into Macedonia and Kosovo less than 48 hours after the signing of the Military Technical Agreement. The Brigade flew in support of operations in Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo with CH-47 and Air Traffic Control elements supporting Task Force Falcon until March of 2001 and June 2000 respectively.

After returning from Task Force Hawk and Task Force Falcon, the 12th Aviation Brigade prepared for re-structuring and re-stationing initiatives. USAREUR Movement Directive 5-00 directed all of the Aviation Brigade elements stationed at Wiesbaden Army Airfield to move to Giebelstadt Army Airfield. On 30 June 2000, 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, the largest aviation battalion in theater consisting of 840 Soldiers, split into two separate battalions, 3-158 Aviation Regiment and 5-158th Aviation Regiment. On 31 August 2000, all units from Wiesbaden closed on Giebelstadt Army Airfield. 

Following the September 11th attacks in 2001, the 12th Aviation Brigade’s first contributions to the war on terror were a joint effort with the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. UH-60 Blackhawks from 3-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion participated in the fleet’s Maritime Interdiction Operations, launching from the decks of U.S. Navy ships to conduct aerial surveillance of ships and to carry boarding parties during raids on suspect vessels. Also in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Soldiers from 3-58 Aviation Regiment deployed to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003 in order to perform the Air Traffic Control mission in the south of that country.

Starting in October 2002, the 12th Aviation Brigade deployed to Kuwait in anticipation of war with Iraq. With the addition of an Attack Battalion from 1st Cavalry Division, the 12th Aviation Brigade conducted patrols along the Kuwait-Iraq border until the beginning of the ground war in March. When the invasion began, these units were the first non-Special Operations helicopters to cross the border in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The brigade continued to operate in Iraq until early 2004.

In February 2005, the 12th Aviation Brigade deployed to Afghanistan as Task Force Griffin operating as two task- organized battalion task forces, Sabre and Storm, in the regional commands east and south. In November 2005, an Earthquake struck the Kashmiri region of Pakistan, causing nearly 75,000 deaths and injuring more than 100,000 people in Pakistan. Cut off from assistance by the damage, more than 120,000 people created a very complicated international relief effort. The 12th Aviation Brigade dispatched CH-47 Chinook helicopters to aid in the crisis, delivering much needed food and medical supplies, and transporting victims to safety from remote areas in the mountains of Pakistan.

In early 2006, V Corps consolidated units from the 11th Aviation Regiment and 12th Aviation Brigade. The 11th Aviation Regiment was inactivated. During the realignment process, the second Israeli-Lebanon war started, and the 12th Aviation Brigade again sent helicopters to Cyprus to support the evacuation of civilians from Lebanon in a second Beirut Air Bridge.

On August 6, 2006, the units of 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division combined with units of both the 12th Aviation Brigade and the former 11th Aviation Regiment were re-designated as the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Following the transformation into the 12 CAB, the brigade continued to support the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 12 CAB deployed for the first time as a named Combat Aviation Brigade to Iraq in July 2007. The headquarters operated from Balad as the Multi-National Corps-Iraq’s Corps Aviation Brigade over a four-month period before relocating to Taji along with 3-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB) and a Forward Logistical Element (FLE) from the 412th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB). Additionally, the 2-159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB) and 5-158th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB) went to work as the Aviation Brigade under Multi-National Division-Baghdad. The remainder of 412th, along with 2-159th ARB and 5-158th GSAB remained in Balad under the command of Task Force 49 from Alaska. During this period, 3- 58 Aviation Regiment (Air Traffic Services) was reflagged 3-58 Airfield Operations Battalion (AOB). The Brigade returned to Germany after 15 months of combat in support of the surge operations in Iraq.

The 3-159th ARB deployed separately to Iraq in August 2008 attached to Task Force 34, operating out of Balad and Baghdad. The 3-159th conducted a hand-over with 2-159th and assumed the same mission as the 12 CAB redeployed. The 3-159th returned to Germany a year later, just in time for the rest of the Brigade to deploy to Iraq one last time.

In November 2009, while much of the CAB deployed to Iraq, 5-158th GSAB, and a company from 2-159th ARB, which deployed separately to Shindand Afghanistan, and 3-159th ARB and a majority of 1-214th GSAB remained in Germany. Most of 2-159th ARB was in Northern Iraq, while 3-158th AHB found its forces assigned to both Balad and to Baghdad. Some elements of 1-214th operated from Balad as well. 3-58th AOB conducted its mission from Basra, while 412th ASB and the 12th CAB Headquarters were in Tallil, Iraq. Only the 412th ASB remained under the operational control of the 12th CAB Headquarters during the deployment. Every other deployed element was under the command of another military headquarters. 12th CAB did have operational control of several guard and reserve units, including the 1-130th ARB (National Guard from North Carolina), 2-285th AHB (National Guard from Arizona), C Company 3-238th GSAB (National Guard from New Hampshire), and B Company 5-159th GSAB (Reserve unit from Virginia). The brigade returned to Germany in July 2010.

As the bulk of the CAB returned to Germany, Charlie Company 1-214th Aviation deployed to South-West Afghanistan to provide Air Ambulance capability for U.S. Marines fighting there from July 2010 to August 2011, with one platoon remaining in the fight until November. During 214th’s redeployment, one company from 3-159th ARB deployed separately to Tarin Kowt to augment forces already operating in Southern Afghanistan.

In February 2012, a sudden winter storm struck Montenegro, leaving hundreds of people stranded in the mountains of the Eastern European country. While the bulk of the Brigade was preparing for an upcoming deployment, 1-214th GSAB sent two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, with pilots, aircrews, and medical personnel to respond. While there, the crews worked with Montenegrin pilots and civilians and combined efforts with helicopters from Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece to deliver food and livestock feed, as well as to transport injured civilians to medical facilities there.

In May 2012, the CAB deployed five of its seven battalions to Afghanistan, while at the same time sending one attack battalion, 3-159th ARB, to Kuwait to support Operation Spartan Shield in the Persian Gulf. Only 1-214th remained in Germany. The aviation battalions were organized into similarly equipped task forces, each capable of providing the same mission and support to units operating in RC East, RC West and RC North. 3-58 AOB, known as TF Guardian, deployed to manage the airfield at Tarin Kowt in RC South. While the brigade headquarters redeployed in September as part of the drawdown of surge forces, the battalion task forces Storm, Gunslinger, Guardian, Ready and Pirate remained in Afghanistan providing direct support to units across the country. Task Force Pirate, an Air National Guard unit from Utah joined the Griffin Brigade for this deployment, providing seamless integration with their active duty counterparts in RC North. At the height of the deployment, 12 CAB had Soldiers and helicopter crews operating from more than 30 different locations.

In March 2013, for the first time since 2007, the entire 12 CAB returned to Germany where they continued to train and operate in support of EUCOM and AFRICOM contingency missions. G/52nd Aviation Company relocated to Wiesbaden from Manheim in 2013 and joined the 1-214th Aviation Regiment along with the VIP Company, Combat Aviation Detachment (CAD). 1-214th operated detachments in SHAPE, Belgium, Stuttgart, Germany, and a MEDEVAC company in Landstuhl Germany. By 2015, CAD, SHAPE, G/52nd along with the platoon in Stuttgart deactivated as the 1-214th began reorganizing and restructuring as a modern GSAB. The MEDEVAC Company, C Co. 1-214th relocated to Grafenwoehr and the CH-47s once part of 5-158th Aviation Regiment on Katterbach was re-designated as B Co. 1-214th GSAB.

In 2015, the 12 CAB began to draw down its formations. The 412th Aviation Support Battalion, 3-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 5-158th General Support Battalion, along with the 3-159th Attack Aviation Battalion was inactivated and restructured leaving the 1-214th GSAB as the only organic unit of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade. After the Russian aggression in Crimea, an immediate halt to the drawn down led to the assignment of 1-3 AB to the 12 CAB.

The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade’s headquarters, based in Bavaria’s Ansbach Community, and its battalions reside at Katterbach, Grafenwoehr, and Wiesbaden Army Airfields. The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade currently consists of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 12 CAB, 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion, and 1-3 Attack Battalion.

Since its organization in 1965, the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade has served as a key member of the combined arms team, dedicated to the preservation of peace. The Brigade’s motto, “Wings of Victory,” continues to exemplify the standard by which the brigade conducts its missions in support of the United States of America.