Historic unit reactivated for Iraq mission - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Historic unit reactivated for Iraq mission

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Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005 6:38 pm | Updated: 9:09 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - The 101st Airborne Division on Thursday reactivated a historic unit whose actions during World War II and Vietnam were the subject of the book "Band of Brothers."

The 506th Regimental Combat Team - also known as the "Currahees," a Cherokee Indian word meaning "stands alone" - returned to the division just as its soldiers were completing final preparations to return to Iraq.

"Our Currahees have trained hard and are ready to join their brothers," Col. Thomas Vail, said as the unit's 3,500 soldiers stood behind him. "They are ready to sacrifice their personal comfort and safety to answer a call to duty."

The reactivation is part of the 101st Airborne Division's recent expansion from three to four brigade combat teams under a Pentagon plan to reorganize the Army into smaller, easily deployable units.

The 506th was among the first to land in Normandy during World War II. The Army deactivated and reactivated the unit several times, sending its soldiers to Korea and Vietnam, where the unit was critical to winning the battles on Hamburger Hill.

First Sgt. Edward Lawrence, the brigade's rear detachment commander, said the reactivation brings instant identity to a brigade whose current members have yet to be tested.

"It gives these young soldiers the history that they know about. It gives them something to base all further accomplishments on," he said.

While long famous for its missions inside the military, little was known about the unit until Stephen E. Ambrose published "Band of Brothers" in 2001. The book was later adapted for an HBO miniseries.

Veterans attending the reactivation ceremony applauded when the brigade accepted the 506th flag.

"The unit's colors stay alive," said Brice Bickerton, of Clairton, Pa., a Vietnam veteran from the unit.

The deployment to Iraq later this fall will be the division's second; more than 60 soldiers based at Fort Campbell have died in the war.

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