“Wildhorse” concludes wild ride

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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment turned another page in the unit’s history with the de-activation of “Wildhorse” E Company, 2nd Battalion.

Lt. Col. John Evans, Commander, 2nd Bn, with the company’s command team, Maj. Kenneth C. Cole and 1st Sgt. Mark B. Baker, cased E Co.’s colors for the last time during a ceremony here July 31.

“The passing and folding and unfurling of faded pieces of cloth has always stood as a symbol of our readiness and our willingness to defend,” Evans said. “Today, however, is not about the E Company emblazoned guidon that you see before you; today is about people.”

He told the Soldiers, Civilians and Families in attendance that the ceremony was to honor a unit whose “contribution to our nation and our mission is invaluable.”

The “Wildhorse” has a short but significant modern day history. It was re-activated at K-2 Airbase, Daegu, Republic of Korea, on May 15, 2001.

1st Sgt. G. Michael Dove, one of the original crew chiefs assigned to E Co. and currently serving with the 2nd Bn., said the company evolved from humble beginnings. At the time of activation, the company had a commander, first sergeant and trailer for an office. As Soldiers started getting orders to E Co., the company grew to six Chinook helicopters, 25 crew chiefs and about 20 pilots. When the company deployed to its duty station in Korea, it had grown to 100 Soldiers and 50 contractors accompanying the Chinooks overseas.

“It was like a mini-battalion in the company,” he said, explaining that they were designed to be self-sufficient even at their smaller size. “It had aviators and crew chiefs and the support personnel like maintenance, motorpool, logistics, aircraft life support equipment and a headquarters platoon.”

The Soldiers experienced growing pains like any new organization, but Dove said they really came together before that first deployment in 2002. It may have had something to do with their training together in a typhoon during a readiness exercise in Okinawa or maybe it was the unity Soldiers experience before going to battle. But the Soldiers were ready.

“In January 2002, we received word to deploy to the Philippines and we left on the 21st,” he recalls. “We self-deployed from Dageau to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. It was the longest over-water deployment in history.” The crews flew for 12 continuous hours.

According to the unit’s history, Soldiers from E Co. spent eight months in the Philippines during that first deployment. During this time, ten Warriors – eight Night Stalkers and two Air Force Airmen – made the ultimate sacrifice when their helicopter crashed during operations.

E Co. went on to deploy multiple times in support of the Global War on Terror over the next five years, providing special operations aviation support in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In light of changing battlefield and training requirements, E Co. was re-located from Korea back to Fort Campbell during the beginning of the 160th’s re-organization in 2006. Soldiers and equipment assigned to E Co. have been re-located within the regiment to fulfill other critical positions in the 160th's future organizational structure.

“Today, the Wildhorse concludes its wild ride,” said Cole. “The men standing before you today represent the very best of our nation and our Regiment. I feel honored to have stood in your ranks.”

Evans told the audience that as the guidon was folded today, it should be secured safely, but not too far from reach.

“We must remain ever mindful that when our nation is in need there will always be men like the men of E Co., 2nd Bn., 160th. And I have no doubt that one day the Wildhorse will ride again.”

“Wildhorse” Company History

With nicknames including “The Gunslingers” and “Pachyderms,” E Company, 160th SOAR can trace its history back to Vietnam. Soldiers of this company flew numerous combat missions in Vietnam and for the Global War on Terror in support of operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. They also pioneered modern night time aviation capabilities and techniques.

Born at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1966, the company later became part of the 159th Aviation Battalion assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. In 1980, elements of the 159th were part of Task Force 160 – the origin of the 160th SOAR.

On January 16, 1985, the first special operations Chinook company was formed with the activation of E Co., nicknamed “Darkhorse.” The regiment continued to evolve and grow over the next five years. On June 28, 1990, E Co. was deactivated as the 2nd Bn., 160th SOAR, was formed. The new Chinook battalion kept the company tradition alive by assuming the battalion nickname as “Darkhorse.”

Ten years later, as the need arose for Army Special Operations Aviation support for U.S. Pacific Command, E Co. was called back to work. Nicknamed “Wildhorse” and dedicated E Co., 160th SOAR, the company was organized as a small battalion and was equipped with the latest MH-47E Chinook helicopters. The Wildhorse Soldiers deployed to Osan Airbase, Republic of Korea, in 2001.

When the 160th next re-organized to meet the growing demands for support to special operations forces, it was determined that E Co. would return to Fort Campbell under 2nd Bn. The Wildhorse Soldiers and their equipment returned in late 2006 and the company was officially de-activated in a ceremony at Fort Campbell on July 31, 2007. The Soldiers and aircraft assigned to the company will move to fill other critical roles in the 160th's new organization.

The Wildhorse history includes combat and training successes that will have a lasting impact on the 160th SOAR and the future of Army Special Operations Aviation.
 
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