Dear Members and Friends,
In the backwoods near the Cumberland River that borders Tennessee and Kentucky nests the ‘Screaming Eagles’ 101st Division, one of our nation’s most prestigious armed forces units. The ‘Screaming Eagles’ have a historic past that includes D-Day, the turning point of WW-II, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. They remain the premier air assault fighting division in the world today and are a one of a kind maneuvering air assault military force that can deliver promptly anywhere in the globe.
Attached to this iconic American division are elements to support their Global Response Force (GRF) that must move with them when they are called at anytime and anywhere. This includes the highly decorated U.S. Army 2-44 Air Defense Artillery Battalion (ADA) that also has a prestigious history in WW-I and the Siege of Bastogne as part of the larger Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
The 2-44 ADA is an AVENGER Air Defense System based off of the Stinger missile. Each vehicle holds a rotating platform that shoots eight Stinger missiles and is operated by a two member crew. This vehicle and platform is called an Avenger. There are 12 Avengers in a single battery and there are three firing Avenger batteries in the battalion. Along with the Avengers are the 360 degree AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radars that track and target incoming air breathing targets for the Avenger shooting platforms. Two Sentinel radars, generators, and the fire control vehicle are also attached to one firing Avenger Battery.
These air and missile defense systems are put in place to protect high valued areas and assets from enemy helicopters, air planes, cruise missiles, and UAVs. The systems are essential for the 101st division’s GRF’s maneuvering force as potential enemies and threatening countries are developing more and more cruise missiles and UAVs in their inventories. These growing inventories along with Ballistic missiles are becoming a poor man’s Air Force because of their ability to project force cheaply and massively.
The 2-44 ADA at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in conjunction with its GRF mission, also maintains a duel mission to support the air and missile defense mission of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) under the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command. In essence this battalion would be called in prior to conflict and/or heightened tensions in the Middle East to defend and protect missile defense assets such as the AN/TYP-2 forward based radars, the Patriot systems, and the THAAD systems deployed there. Their capability would provide a limited short range defense around these systems from cruise missile and UAV threats.
The 2-44 ADA battalions’ role will continue to increase its value as it moves toward Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) capability and eventually a MLS (Multiple Launch System) type system for cruise missile defense. The conversion of two of the 2-44’s three batteries in 2014 has been ordered by the Chief of the U.S. Army this past February. C-RAM is a counter rocket, artillery, and mortar defense that uses a sea-based computerized Gatling gun for point protection of highly deemed forward operating bases. Each firing battery will have eight guns and continue with the use of Sentinel radars.
The 2-44 ADA Battalion joins the 5-5 ADA Battalion at Fort Lewis and the Echo Battery of the 6-52 ADA in Korea as the only operating U.S. Army Avenger Units.
Clearly, with the limited capabilities of the quantities of these Army Avenger Batteries and the limited range that they have against the growing threats, there remains increasing risk to manage that should be addressed in order for the battalions to fulfill their full missions with confidence and reliability.
It is however, more important to recognize the selfless service of the soldiers, NCOs and Officers of the 2-44 ADA whose battalion crest is a cardinal and gold shield layered with a Bastogne brand and a camellia on top with the Latin words Per Ardua (through difficulties) below. The men and women of this unit have been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 10 years while executing multiple missions that range from training Afghanistani police to protecting convoys. They go above and beyond their scope of air and missile defense. They are true team players, playing for the team and team’s needs of them. We thank them for their service, aptitude, resiliency, and team play.
It was a true honor to be with these young men and women over the past few days at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.