11th Airborne Division – To be Reactivated in Alaska?

11th Airborne Division Alaska

The Army is thinking of bringing back the 11th Airborne Division. Two brigades and other units currently based in Alaska could be renamed as part of a historical paratroop unit with an extensive history during World War II and extending into the Vietnam era. The reactivation of the 11th Airborne Division would bring back a unit that was deactivated almost 60 years ago.

Soldiers may be wearing their new patch as early as this summer. US Army Alaska (USARAK) headquarters would form up the divisional staff and provide support units. Much of the future unit is based in Alaska and is part of the 25th Infantry Division base in Hawaii. Currently the members of these units are wearing the “Tropic Lightning” patch.

The news of the reactivation came during a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday (May 5). Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff General James McConville delivered the news.

The missions and training for the division in Hawaii and the brigade elements based in Alaska are very different. This will forge a ‘new identity’ for those Alaska-based 25th ID members. The two brigades currently in Alaska would be designated as the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams of the 11th Airborne Division. One of the brigades, 4-25th ID, is already airborne. The division would be the twelfth operational division headquarters in the Army.

The division was first activated in 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina. It took part in battles against the Japanese in New Guinea and the Philippines. It then was part of the occupation of Japan. Later, elements of the division fought in Korea in the early 1950s. The division later became a training and test unit in the United States for air assault and airmobile operations before being disbanded in 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Currently the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Italy are the Army’s only airborne units – along with the 75th Ranger Regiment and the many airborne units of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). The 101st Airborne Division is actually airmobile, focusing on air assault and air mobility, but keeps its historical name.

The Department of Defense, including the U.S. Army is looking at increasing its presence and capability in the Arctic region. Climate change is having an effect on the north region – the opening up of sea lanes, new mineral resources being discovered, and recent access to oil fields among other factors. This makes the region an area of competition among nations in the region – including Russia.

The Army, looking forward at the Arctic region as an area of competition, announced a new Army Arctic strategy in March 2021 with the publication of a document entitled Regaining Arctic Dominance. The special operations community is also paying increased attention to the Arctic region and conducts periodic training exercises like Arctic Edge to refine and develop their Arctic capabilities.

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References:

11th Airborne Division – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Airborne_Division_%28United_States%29


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