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 A Summary History of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment

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"Brave Rifles"

(Updated 7-7-08)

The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, is at present the only heavy Armored Cavalry Regiment in the U.S. Army. The other two regiments that make up the "Lucky 16," the 2nd SCR and 11th ACR, have been organized as brigade combat teams. The regiment operates independently over wide areas and is a highly mobile force that can conduct reconnaissance, security, offensive, and defensive operations. It has over 320 armored vehicles (M1A1 Abrams tanks and M3A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles) and over 80 aircraft (including the AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter). The regiment has a total strength of over 4,700 soldiers. The 3rd ACR is part of the U.S. Army's contingency force and can rapidly deploy in the event of emergency situations around the world.

The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, whose nickname is the "Brave Rifles," is currently deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their mission there is to conduct area security and counterinsurgency operations, develop a credible and capable Iraqi Security Force, and enable economic and political development in a secure and stable Iraq. The current deployment began in the fall of 2007.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comThe Regiment's history began on May 19, 1846, when it was formed as the "Regiment of Mounted Riflemen" at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The Regiment was organized into the regular army for "establishing military stations on route to Oregon" but the Mexican War diverted the Mounted Riflemen from their original mission. As fate would have it, the Regiment lost most of its horses in a storm at sea during the crossing to Mexico from New Orleans. As a result the Regiment avoided the usual cavalry assignments of the period such as chasing guerrillas and protecting supply lines. Instead the Regiment fought as infantry in six campaigns during the Mexican War.

It was in the Mexican War that the 3rd Cavalry Regiment earned their moniker of "Brave Rifles" and their motto of "Blood and Steel." Legend has it that as the men of the Regiment lay bloodied and exhausted from fierce fighting at Contreras, Mexico, the General of the Army, Winfield Scott approached to order them into another tough fight. As General Scott approached, each man stood at attention. The General was so overcome by their display of valor that he removed his hat, bowed, and then proclaimed, "Brave Rifles! Veterans! You have been baptized in fire and blood and have come out steel!"

At the end of the Mexican War, the Regiment returned to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and began the grueling 2,000 mile march to the Oregon Territory to accomplish the mission for which it had originally been organized - the establishment of military outposts on the route to Oregon. In December of 1851, the regiment was ordered to Texas, and for the next four years operated against the Indian tribes living in that area. In 1856, Indian troubles in the New Mexico Territory required additional troops, and the Regiment moved further west, marching through and also garrisoning in Fort Bliss, Texas.

The beginning of the Civil War brought the reorganization of the mounted arm of the United States Army. In August of 1861, the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen was re-designated the 3rd United States Cavalry Regiment. The 3rd Cavalry remained in New Mexico Territory as security against hostile Indians and possible Confederate incursion. Confederate forces out of Texas did start a campaign to take New Mexico and Colorado Territories early in the war. They were defeated by Union forces that included the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, near Santa Fe, in March of 1862. This defeat caused Confederate forces to withdraw back to Texas.

In December of 1862, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment moved to Memphis, Tennessee to join the western theater of the war. During the Civil War the 3rd Cavalry fought in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina, participating in the Chattanooga Campaign as part of the advance guard of Sherman's Army. After the war, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment was again sent to New Mexico to help settle the frontier and participate in the Indian Wars.

From 1866 until 1871 the 3rd U.S. Cavalry participated in operations against the Apache in New Mexico and Arizona. In late 1871 the Regiment was transferred north to the Department of the Platte, which covered an area that covered the states of Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska. The Regiment participated in the Little Big Horn Campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne. On June 17, 1876, ten companies of the 3rd Cavalry fought in the Battle of Rosebud Creek. This was the largest battle between the Army and the Indians in the history of the American West. The final surrender of Geronimo to elements of the 3rd Cavalry in 1886 signaled the end of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment's participation in the Indian Wars.

In April of 1898, the 3rd United States Cavalry found themselves assembled at Camp Thomas, Georgia as an element of a provisional cavalry division, part of the army gathering for the invasion of Cuba and the Spanish American War. During the Spanish-American War, the 3d Cavalry Regiment participated in the attacks on San Juan and Kettle Hills, placing the first American flag at the points of victory. After the war, the Regiment was ordered to the Philippines, this time for garrison duty. At the outbreak of World War I, the Regiment was transferred to Europe. Arriving in France in November 1917, the Regiment was scattered, and its squadrons operated remount depots for the duration of the war. In 1919, the Regiment returned from Europe and was stationed throughout the Eastern United States. The Regiment executed a garrison mission until the beginning of World War II. Although one historical footnote is that in July of 1932, Major George S. Patton, under order of Douglas MacArthur, led the 3d Cavalry against the Bonus Army during the veteran's protest in Washington D.C.

During the Second World War, the Regiment was re-designated the 3rd Cavalry Group (Mechanized). The Cavalry Group landed in France in August 1944 and became the spearhead of the XX Corps. The Regiment was the first unit of the 3rd Army to reach the Meuse and Moselle Rivers. Troopers of the 3rd Cavalry Group were also the first elements of the 3rd Army to enter Germany. The 3d Cavalry Group was the first military unit to cross the Alps since Hannibal. The 3d Cavalry accounted for over 43,000 enemy troops killed, wounded or captured. After World War II, the Regiment returned to the United States and resumed its garrison activities. It was after WWII that the 3d Cavalry Group was re-designated the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, the name it bears today.

During the Cold War the 3rd ACR was a major part of American military readiness. The first time the 3d Cavalry served on the Iron Curtain was in August, 1955, when it replaced the 2nd Cavalry as part of the Army's Gyroscope plan that rotated entire units between Germany and the United States. The Brave Rifles rotated home in February of 1958. In 1958 the Regiment became part of the Strategic Army Corps, or STRAC, and received four streamers for superior readiness and training. In November of 1961, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment again deployed to Germany in response to the Soviet threat during the Berlin Crisis. The regiment remained in Germany conducting border operations until 1968 when it was re-deployed to Fort Lewis, Washington. In July of 1972 the 3d ACR moved to Fort Bliss, Texas. Here they became a major REFORGER unit and trained for the defense of West Germany in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion.

During this time, in Nuremberg, Germany, the 2nd and 11th Cavalry Regiments began a close working relationship resulting in a tradition called the "Lucky 13." These two cavalry units trained together and often confronted one another in exercises. Lucky 13 conferences were about war and war fighting and included seminars on fielding new systems, maneuver techniques, and training. When the 3rd Cavalry joined the 2nd and 11th in the General Defense Plan of Europe, the regiments became known as the "Lucky 16." Whenever two of the Lucky 16 Regiments are in the same location the Lucky 16 convenes.

On August 7, 1990, the Regiment was alerted to move overseas in defense of Saudi Arabia. In September 1990, the Regiment arrived in country as part of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and moved into defensive positions south of the Kuwaiti border. On January 22, 1991, elements of I Troop engaged in the first ground combat of the XVIII Airborne Corps. On February 22nd, F Troop led the Regiment across the berm into Iraq. In 100 hours, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment moved over 300 kilometers, and left remnants of three Iraqi Republican Guard Divisions in its wake. As quickly as they deployed, the Regiment deployed back to the U.S. arriving April 5, 1991. In April of 1996, the Regiment completed its move to its new home at Fort Carson, Colorado.

In August 1998, the Regiment was notified that it would participate in the Bosnian peace-keeping mission as part of Stabilization Force 7 (SFOR 7). When the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment deployed, beginning in February of 2000, it represented 75 percent of the American contribution to the Multinational Division North (MND-N), part of Task Force Eagle, and constituted the bulk of the American maneuver element. There were no major incidents or violent demonstrations in the Brave Rifles area of responsibility during their deployment. All nits came home to Fort Carson by October 7, 2000.

Beginning in August 2002, the Regiment began to prepare for operations in the Central Command Area of Operations (CENTCOM AOR). The preparations included a National Training Center rotation, Warfighter exercises with III Corps and V Corps, intensive individual and collective training, weapons qualification, and lane training at Fort Carson.

The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment is now on their third tour in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terror. In 2003, the Regiment was to invade Iraq from Turkey, but was forced to enter Iraq from Kuwait after Turkey denied the United States permission to launch an attack from its territory. This delayed the 3d Cavalry's entry into the war. Once the Brave Rifles arrived in Iraq in late April 2003, it assumed an economy of force mission to secure and stabilize the western province of Al Anbar. This area had been by-passed during the advance to Baghdad, and the Regiment had little intelligence on what would be found there. The Regimental Area of Operations covered one third of the country, or about 140,000 square kilometers. This was the largest single operational area of any unit, including divisions, in the theater and it included the "Sunni Triangle", the part of Iraq that Saddam Hussein, his family, and the senior leaders of the Ba'ath Party called home. Al Anbar was home to 48 primary and 14 sub-tribes and it shared a 900 kilometer western border with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment became the nucleus of a Regimental Combat Team named Task Force Rifles. Task Force Rifles included 8,300 soldiers assigned. During this tour 31 cavalry troopers and 18 soldiers of units attached lost their lives. The 3d ACR rotated back to Fort Carson in March of 2004.

In less that eleven months after returning home, the Brave Rifles deployed again to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. The lead elements of the Regiment arrived in February of 2005. The Regiment served from South Baghdad province to Western Ninewa Province in Northwestern Iraq. In September, 2005, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment conducted Operation Restore Rights to defeat an insurgent stronghold in the city of Tal Afar. The Third Armored Cavalry Regiment lost forty-four troopers during its deployment that ended in late February, 2006.

In July 2005, the Army announced that the Regiment would re-station to Fort Hood within months of returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment officially departed Fort Carson, Colorado in July 2006.

In October of 2007, the 3rd ACR began its third tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 1st and 3rd Squadrons are deployed in the Ninawa Province: 1st Squadron in Qayarrah, and 3rd Squadron in Mosul. The 2nd Squadron is currently attached to 4/2 ID and serving in the Diyala Province. The 4th Squadron is serving in Baghdad.

The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment celebrated its 162nd birthday on May 19, 2008 from their deployed bases in Iraq. Under various names the Regiment has seen action during ten major conflicts: the Indian Wars, the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, World War I, World War II, the Persian Gulf War, SFOR in Bosnia, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Through it all the cavalry troopers have lived their motto of "Blood and Steel" and each time earned the Regiment's nickname of "Brave Rifles"!

 

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