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America's First Brigade Celebrates 100 Years
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Warren Wright
July 25, 2017

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For 100 years, the Soldiers of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division have been at the forefront of service to the United States, participating in nearly every campaign since the First World War.

Serving under America’s first division, America’s first brigade was initially organized on May 24, 1917 under the newly formed First Expeditionary Force in preparation for combat operations in Europe during World War I. Soon after, the brigade arrived in France, where it saw some of the toughest battles of the war.

July 4, 1917 - Soldiers from the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, march through the streets of Paris on their way to the Picpus Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)
July 4, 1917 - Soldiers from the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, march through the streets of Paris on their way to the Picpus Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

The brigade was involved in “hard fighting in three of the most difficult and important American campaigns of World War I,” said Paul Herbert, the executive director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park.

Those battles included Soisson, St. Mihiel and the Meuse Argonne. The Meuse Argonne, also known as the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was the largest and bloodiest battle of World War I, lasting 47 days and claiming the lives of more than 50,000 Soldiers on both sides of the front.

During World War II, elements of the First Brigade distinguished themselves during the D-Day invasion of Europe when Soldiers of the 16th Infantry Regiment assaulted Omaha Beach, and, after a very vicious battle, broke through enemy defenses and established a foothold for follow on units to land and move through.

Later in its history, the brigade would also distinguish itself during service in Vietnam, most notably with the defense of Firebases Julie and Rita in October 1968. In recognition of the brigade’s contribution in Vietnam, the unit received two Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal.

Thereafter, the brigade would continue to answer the nation’s call, serving in Desert Storm where the brigade was responsible for the destruction of the Tawakalna Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard, conducting counter insurgency operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, organizing and training military transition teams for Operation Enduring Freedom, conducting bilateral security cooperation support for Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait, and most recently deploying for nine months to South Korea as the rotational brigade combat team assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division.

January 1, 1969 - A M48 Patton tank from 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division conducts a patrol while serving in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)
January 1, 1969 - A M48 Patton tank from 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division conducts a patrol while serving in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

“The First Brigade has been a key component of the compelling history of the 1st Infantry Division since 1917,” Herbert said.

For the “Devil” brigade Soldiers, being a part of America’s oldest brigade is a point of pride.

“It’s awesome being a part of America’s oldest brigade,” said Spc. Joseph Proscia, an infantryman with 1st ABCT. “There’s a lot of history in the First Brigade and there’s a lot of stuff people don’t know about the brigade. You want to know who you’re fighting with and what your unit represents – it’s a mark of pride.”

Proscia wants to learn more about his brigade’s history and share his knowledge with the Soldiers he serves with.

“We have patches on our shoulders that show the pride we have in our units,” he said. “It’s important to have that history and show that the First Brigade and the 1st Inf. Div. are as awesome that we’re known to be.”

Herbert believes it’s important for Soldiers to not only remember their history, but celebrate it as well.

“Every Soldier wants to be part of something bigger than himself,” Herbert said. “Knowing that he or she is part of an important unit with a distinguished history and legacy adds to the satisfaction of being a Soldier and is a combat multiplier. People will work hard to uphold the honor of something they’re proud of.”

May 5, 2017 - Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct counter weapons of mass destruction training during exercise Warrior Strike 7 at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pochoen, South Korea. (Photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire, 1st ABCT Public Affairs)
May 5, 2017 - Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct counter weapons of mass destruction training during exercise Warrior Strike 7 at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pochoen, South Korea. (Photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire, 1st ABCT Public Affairs)

And it’s not only the Soldiers of 1st Brigade that take pride in their legacy and value the importance of honoring their history; it’s the senior leaders as well.

"The Devil brigade has had a long and rich history of service to the 1st Infantry Division and to the nation," said Col. Timothy Hayden, the brigade's commander. "The strength of the brigade comes from its Soldiers, and over the past 100 years they have embodied what it means to be a Big Red One Soldier by living the motto of 'No mission too difficult. No sacrifice too great. Duty first!'"

The brigade’s Soldiers continue to make history as they near the end of their current mission in South Korea. During their time in South Korea, the “Devil” brigade has participated in multiple training exercises designed to strengthen the U.S. and South Korea alliance while enhancing security on the Korean peninsula.

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Warren Wright
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2017

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