- The 82nd Airborne Division has 3 infantry brigade combat teams as part of its structure.
- The brigades are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams.
- In addition to the 3 brigades, the division has an artillery brigade, aviation brigade, and sustainment brigade.
- The 82nd Airborne specializes in rapid deployment and joint forcible entry operations.
- It is required to respond anywhere in the world within 18 hours if needed.
The 82nd Airborne Division occupies an elite and storied place within the United States Army. Nicknamed the “All-American” division, its paratroopers are renowned for their airborne assault capabilities and can swiftly deploy on short notice to hotspots worldwide. But how is this crucial division organized and what is its brigade structure? This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the unit composition and brigades that make up the 82nd Airborne Division.
Understanding the 82nd Airborne’s brigade makeup offers valuable insight into how the Army structures its forces for rapid reaction missions. The brigade configuration is specifically tailored to enable the division’s airborne assault, forcible entry, and global crisis response functions. Examining the infantry, artillery, aviation, and sustainment brigades in the 82nd Airborne illuminates how the different elements integrate to create a cohesive, flexible fighting force.
With its distinguished history of valor and distinction, the 82nd Airborne Division remains a vital component of America’s fighting strength. The analysis below will elucidate the brigade structure underpinning the unit, shedding light on the 82nd Airborne’s capabilities and readiness to serve as the Global Response Force. Whether you are a military buff or simply curious to learn more about this storied division, this article provides an authoritative reference on the brigade makeup of the 82nd Airborne.
Overview of 82nd Airborne Division
The 82nd Airborne Division is an active airborne infantry division of the United States Army that specializes in joint forcible entry operations. Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, it is part of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The 82nd Airborne has a distinguished history dating back to World War I.
According to the U.S. Army, the 82nd Airborne Division is specifically designed and prepared to conduct forcible entry operations such as airborne assault into denied areas. The division is unique in its ability to rapidly deploy anywhere around the globe within 18 hours if activated. This sets it apart from most U.S. Army units and gives the 82nd Airborne an invaluable rapid reaction capability.
What Are the Main Brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division?
The 82nd Airborne Division consists of seven main subordinate brigades tailored toward airborne operations, mobilization, and forced entry missions. The core brigades include:
1. Three Infantry Brigade Combat Teams
1st Brigade Combat Team
2nd Brigade Combat Team
3rd Brigade Combat Team
The infantry brigade combat teams (IBCTs) are the 82nd Airborne’s primary maneuver elements and warfighting brigades. The IBCTs each contain several infantry battalions and have over 4,000 soldiers. They provide the main firepower, mobility, and shock action of the division on the battlefield.
2. One Artillery Brigade
18th Field Artillery Brigade
The 18th Field Artillery Brigade provides crucial fire support. It consists of two cannon battalions along with a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion totaling 12 launchers.
3. One Army Aviation Brigade
82nd Combat Aviation Brigade
The 82nd CAB operates helicopters to transport and support airborne assault operations. It contains three helicopter battalions with a mix of utility, attack, and medical evacuation aircraft.
4. One Sustainment Brigade
82nd Sustainment Brigade
This brigade provides logistics, maintenance, transportation, supply, and medical services to support and sustain the 82nd Airborne’s demanding operational tempo.
Role and Structure of Infantry Brigades
As the principal fighting formations, the 82nd Airborne’s three infantry brigade combat teams are organized and trained to execute the division’s airborne assault missions. The core purposes of the IBCTs include:
- Conducting forcible entries – The IBCTs specialize in parachute drops and air assaults to gain access to restricted or hostile territory. This enables the 82nd Airborne to seize objectives like airfields vital for follow-on forces.
- Securing footholds – After entry, the IBCTs fight to take control of initial lodgments and footholds for additional forces to flow through. Their training focuses on early phases of forced entry missions.
- Mobile combat operations – With their airborne mobility, the IBCTs can deploy anywhere rapidly and move fast on the battlefield. This enhances the 82nd’s flexible response timelines.
The IBCTs each contain three battalion-sized infantry units with over 700 soldiers, for a total brigade strength of approximately 4,100 personnel. These battalions wield substantial firepower including mortars, anti-armor weapons, and reconnaissance elements. Given their large size and lethality, the IBCTs deliver the principal close combat capabilities within the 82nd Airborne Division. Their specialized organization provides the “tip of the spear” for forcible deployments.
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Artillery Brigade Provides Vital Fire Support
The 18th Field Artillery Brigade furnishes essential fire support to back up the 82nd Airborne’s infantry brigades during forced entry and seizure operations. Artillery is needed to pave the way for airborne assaults and provide sustained fire against dug-in enemy forces.
The 18th Fires Brigade contains two 105mm cannon battalions equipped with 18 M119A3 lightweight towed howitzers. It also has a battalion fielding 12 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers. These massed artillery and rocket assets can deliver high-volume fire to destroy enemy defenses and troops.
With its supporting firepower, the 18th Fires Brigade is a source of strength for the 82nd Airborne’s infantry brigades. During combat drops, the artillery brigade’s guns are parachuted in using special platforms to provide immediate indirect fire where required. The brigade enhances the division’s lethality and survivability in forcible entry missions against prepared opposition.
Aviation Brigade Essential for Air Assault Ops
Airborne operations require substantial aviation support to deliver paratroopers and equipment into landing zones. The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade furnishes this vital mobility for the 82nd Airborne’s missions. It comprises three battalions and over 2,500 soldiers operating almost 100 helicopters.
The attack helicopter battalion fields AH-64 Apache gunships to provide armed overwatch and suppressive fire for air assaults. The lift battalions utilize UH-60 Black Hawks to transport troops and supplies into secured landing zones. The medevac battalion evacuates wounded personnel using HH-60M medical helicopters. This robust rotary-wing fleet enables the 82nd Airborne to undertake complex vertical envelopment operations and projected forced entries behind enemy lines.
The 82nd CAB also contains supply crews and mechanics to keep the helicopters maintained and reloaded with fuel, ammunition, and spares during continuous operations. As the aviation backbone of the division, the CAB is indispensable for mobilizing the 82nd Airborne anywhere in the world within hours. Its helicopters ensure the paratroopers retain their strategic mobility and shock action capabilities.
Sustainment Brigade Provides Vital Support
The 82nd Sustainment Brigade handles the critical logistics, supply, maintenance, and health service support functions to keep the division functioning in combat. Airborne operations depend on dedicated sustainment efforts to keep troops fed, fueled, sheltered, and equipped for intense battles after insertion behind enemy lines.
Specific sustainment capabilities of the brigade include:
- Transportation units to move personnel, weapons, and materiel.
- Quartermaster and field feeding elements to distribute provisions and water.
- Medical companies to provide trauma care and evacuation.
- Maintenance teams to repair weapons, vehicles, and electronics.
- Supply distribution, ammunition control, and myriad other logistics tasks.
The brigade contains a sustainment command along with distribution, field services, transportation, and maintenance battalions. It also has an attached combat support hospital for advanced trauma surgery and care. Keeping the 82nd Airborne in the fight despite its remote deployments and challenging battle spaces falls to the sustainment brigade.
In summary, the 82nd Airborne Division contains a tailored brigade structure to achieve its core mission as the U.S. Army’s Global Response Force. It is organized into three infantry brigade combat teams that provide the main maneuver elements for forcible entry operations. These are augmented by field artillery, aviation, and sustainment brigades furnishing firepower, air mobility, and logistics support. The brigade composition enables the 82nd Airborne to rapidly deploy worldwide and execute airborne assaults into denied territory within 18 hours of notification. This aligns with the division’s strategic role of being continually ready for no-notice crisis response contingencies across the globe. The brigade makeup provides unrivaled speed, flexibility, and combat power to serve as the leading edge of the U.S. military.