173rd Airborne Combat Patch Ceremony

Close up of 173rd Airborne combat patch.

When soldiers walk past each other, first they look for officer/enlisted insignia and then their eyes gravitate towards the right shoulder sleeve in search of a combat patch; the patch worn on the left sleeve is worn as the unit patch.  It wasn’t until I was assigned to an Army unit, I became aware of this phenomena and the importance of the combat patch was explained to me.  Unlike the Air Force who stopped wearing their combat patches in 1950’s, the Army proudly wears them on their uniform like a badge of honor.  These patches identify which combat unit they have or are assigned to.  The combat patch signifies their unit’s active participation or support of ground combat operations against hostile forces in which they have been exposed to the threat of enemy action or fire, either directly or indirectly.

Brigade teammates standing at attention for combat patch ceremony.

Today was an opportunity to see my new teammates being awarded their combat patch in a ceremony held next to the camp’s flag poles.  Most of these members already wore a combat patch but this was a symbolic service held for those who didn’t have one or were newly assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat

Brigade CC presents Sgt Major his combat patch and Army Major tacks it on.

Team.  The 173rd is currently headquartered in Vicenza, Italy and has a rich history dating back to 1917.  But the “Sky Soldiers” notoriety stems from their combat action in Vietnam.  They received their official nickname (Tien Bien translates to Sky Soldiers) from the Taiwanese locals during exercises when they were parachuting in Taiwan.  The 173rd was the only major conventional airborne operation (Operation Junction City….82 days) during Vietnam War.  Since Vietnam, they have been actively participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.  On 26 March 2003, 1,000 Sky Soldiers parachuted opening up the northern front in Iraq.

You might have recognized the 173rd combat patch in Hollywood films, such as Apocalypse Now and Lethal Weapon.  Country duo Big & Rich sang about them in their hit “8th of November.”   This song was a tribute to the 48 Sky Soldiers who died in Vietnam when their brigade was ambushed by 1,200 VC soldiers. 

more about “8th Of November ( Big & Rich )“, posted with vodpod

These country singers also performed live to help raise donations for the 173rd Airborne Memorial being built near Fort Benning, Georgia.  This memorial will honor the 1,790

Is that an Air Force guy helping to unfurl the 173rd's unit banner?

Sky Soldiers lost in Vietnam and the 69 lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan so far.  In addition, legislation was passed naming former Illinois Route 173 as the 173rd Airborne Brigade Highway.

Prior to the ceremony, my team inspected the vehicles.  It was only 8 1/2 months ago, that I found myself in the same position as them.  But

Tow bar attached to HMMVW.

this time, instead of being the student, I was the teacher and explaining about the MRAP’s engine and functions.  Before long, they will assume all of our responsibilities and duties after we finish our year long deployment.  One of our HMMVWs was inoperable and we had to connect a tow bar to it.  This is the primary method of towing these types of vehicles.

Hey Captain, do you do windows too?

Lastly, “my Captain” has returned from his R&R.  He also got stuck in Kuwait for a few days, but has since returned.  It just wasn’t the same without him here.  He and I make a great team and since his return, he has motivated me to go to the gym with him.  Upon returning home, my wife Liisa and I have decided to go hiking in Acadia National Park in Maine, so I need to get back into hiking shape.  Liisa is also training, because when we hike, we search out for difficult trails to test our endurance.  Also, some of nature’s best sights can only be viewed after a grueling hike to them.   Training at this elevation should transform me into a billy goat …. lol.

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11 Responses

  1. Sir,

    My son is with the 1-503rd, 173rd Airborne. I know how much those boys appreciate the AF for their CAS. But we at home also appreciate your blog as it brings us closer to them with each picture you send and each blog you post. :)

    God bless you and the 173rd.

    First Rock, Fix Bayonets and Follow Me!

  2. Congrats to all who received their combat patches and a HUGE “Thank You” to each and everyone for serving their country and ensuring our freedom everyday!!!!!! Thanks again, Rex and Liisa for the updates. Good luck on the training so that you can take those great hikes and adventures to see God’s great wonders together when you return home. Stay safe!!!!!

  3. My step-son just graduated from Airborne school at Ft Benning and after a brief stop in Vicenza, Italy he will be joining the 2nd-503rd, 173rd Airborne in Afghnistan. His Mother and I are very proud, and of course nervous. We look forward to updates from your blog!

  4. My son is with 1-503rd, 173rd Airborne deployed in Afghanistan. He was really proud to receive his “combat patch”. He said the battalion commander pinned it on. It is really tough duty and we are proud of him and his comrades, they are doing a great job.

  5. Dear Bobby…..sorry but this is from Mitchell who just turned 8 years old….

    Hi Bobby…Be Very Careful out there! And Please come home alive to us….

  6. ( “D” Company 1st Batt 503rd PIR – ’69, ’70 )

    Thank You!

  7. Thank you so much for your service. My brother is in C Company in the 173rd there at COP Tangi. We will be forever grateful to you guys for your service. Be safe and stay alert.
    Thank you!

  8. I was with B 3 /503 in vietnam 67-68. The Herd is near and dear to me and will be until the day I die. I am so proud of you all. Trust in God and each other and come home safe. we love you and pray for you. Doc Oliver

  9. I was with the 173rd on Okinawa,and was just wondering if the Brigade was still on jump status?

  10. Bco 1/508 173rd 1999-2004 and returning to them march2012. Good stuff, my friend. Hope to see you down range

  11. I was with the 173rd from 1962-1964 on Okinawa in Recon platoon. God Bless you all. Airborne all the way!

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