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 A Summary History of the XVIII (18th) Airborne Corps



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"Sky Dragons"

(Updated 6-26-08)

The XVIII Airborne Corps is the corps size element of the United States Army designed for rapid deployment anywhere in the world. Referred to as "America's Contingency Corps," it is the largest warfighting organization in the U.S. Army. It is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and controls approximately 88,000 soldiers.

Currently assigned to the Eighteenth Corps is the 3rd Infantry Division, 10th Mountain, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 108th Air Defense Artillery, the 18th Aviation Brigade, the 229th Aviation Regiment, the 20th Engineer Brigade, the 525 Military Intelligence Brigade, the 16th Military Police Brigade, the 35th Signal Brigade, the 1st Corps Support Command, the 44th Medical Brigade, the 18th Finance Group, the 18th Personnel Group, and the Dragon Brigade.

The XVIII Airborne Corps was originally activated as the II Armored Corps on January 17, 1942. When the armored corps concept proved unnecessary, the unit was re-designated as the XVIII Corps at the Presidio of Monterey, California on October 9, 1943. Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comThe current XVIII Airborne Corps celebrates its birthday as August 25, 1944 when the blue airborne tab was added. On that day in Orbourne, St. George, England, the XVIII Airborne Corps assumed command of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Within a month the Corps sent their divisions onto a combat jump in the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden.

After the Battle of the Bulge all airborne units in the U.S. Army were placed under the command of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The Corps planned and executed Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine River into Germany, which included the 17th Airborne Division and the British 6th Airborne Division. The Sky Dragons were returned to the United States in June of 1945 and deactivated at Camp Campbell, Kentucky on October 15, 1945.

The XVIII Airborne Corps was reactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on May 21, 1951 as part of the army buildup for Korea and the Cold War. Ever since, the XVIII Airborne Corps has been the primary strategic response force for the United States. The Corps and its various subordinate units have participated in over a dozen major operations in both the combat and humanitarian roles.

During Operation Power Pack the Corps deployed to the Dominican Republic on April 30, 1965. The Sky Dragons served as the headquarters for U.S. forces sent to restore law and order, prevent a communist takeover of the country, and to protect American lives. For Operation Urgent Fury, which began on October 25, 1983, the XVIII Airborne Corps invaded the island nation of Grenada. The Corps provided the bulk of land forces sent to rescue medical students and other stranded Americans. In this operation the Corps participated with our Caribbean allies in an international peacekeeping effort.

During Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989, the XVIII Airborne Corps was placed in operational command of Joint Task Force South. The Operation simultaneously struck twenty-seven targets and conducted town night parachute assaults to seize critical terrain. Operation Just Cause set the stage for a freely elected government to be established in the country.

Operation Desert Shield began on August 9, 1990. The XVIII Airborne Corps rapidly deployed to Saudi Arabia as the first ground force in theater to spearhead efforts to deter aggression and assist in the defense of friendly nations. This was the largest deployment of American troops since WWII. The Persian Gulf War started with Operation Desert Storm in February of 1991. The Sky Dragons were responsible for covering VII Corps' northern flank. The XVIII Airborne Corp launched the first ground assault into Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division and the attached French 6th Light Armored Division. The largest, and farthest, air assault in history was conducted by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). A mounted attack was also made by the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. In less than 100 hours the XVIII Airborne Corps had effectively sealed off the occupying Iraqi Army and destroyed major elements of the elite Republican Guard.

During the 1990s the XVIII Airborne Corps has deployed countless Corps soldiers to more than twenty-seven countries that include Bosnia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Haiti. They have also directed countless Joint Exercises that involve all of the services.

The XVIII Airborne Corps' most recent deployments have been in support of America's Global War on Terrorism, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. From January 2005 through January 2006, the Corps was deployed to Baghdad, where it served as the Multi-National-Corps-Iraq. The Sky Dragons deployed again to Iraq in November of 2007.

The XVIII Airborne Corps is superbly trained in tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war. They are capable of exercising the nation's ability to conduct strategic forced entry operations anywhere in the world on 18 hours notice. Those soldiers and veterans who have worn the Sky Dragon shoulder patch are a proud group of men and women who truly served their country on the cutting edge.


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