Sunday, June 17, 2012

United States Army Warrant Officer Battle Dress Uniform (1981-2005)

At the end of the Second World War, the United States Army took over a number of former Wehrmacht military installations and converted them for their own uses. 

Merrell Barracks which would eventually become headquarters for the U.S. Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment as a Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) barracks at the defeat of Germany in May 1945
 With Europe in a state of hard earned peace, the United States began the task of helping rebuild the defeated nation. As tensions arose between the western allies and the Soviet bloc, both sides prepared for the possibility of an oncoming conflict. The first of many brushes with war came with the 1948 Berlin Blockade, when Soviet armored forces encircled West Berlin in an attempt to force the western allies to surrender complete control of Berlin to the Soviets. The West countered with a massive airlift operation supplying the city completely by air. In 1949, the Soviets relented and the Blockade ended.

With the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, the United States again prepared for armed conflict when it sent a powerful show of force in the form of armored vehicles to face down a number of Soviet tanks on the East Berlin side of the construction area. 

American troops patrolling the Inner German Border zone
 During the height of the Cold War, the United States Army would position nine major combat units in western Germany to deter Soviet aggression. Eight were positioned in West Germany and the ninth was stationed in West Berlin deep inside communist East Germany. Two of these units would be positioned directly along the Inner German Border region tasked specifically with monitoring the activities of the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies.

The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment nicknamed 'Black Horse' for the distinctive black horse worn on their unit patch was headquartered at Downs Barracks near Fulda, West Germany and was tasked with monitoring East Germany's movements along the Fulda Gap of the Inner German Border. Originally designated as the 11th Constabulary Regiment in 1946, for performing occupation duties, it would be redesignated as the 11ACR in1951. The 11th ACR's motto is 'Allons' (Let's Go)

The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment nicknamed 'The 2nd Dragoons' was the longest continuously serving regiment in the Army. The unit was originally designated the 2nd Constabulary Regiment at the close of the Second World War and redesigned as the 2ACR in 1948. It would be based out of Merrell Barracks near Nuremberg, West Germany and was specifically tasked with monitoring East Germany and neighboring Czechoslovakia. The motto of the 2nd ACR 'Toujours Pret!' (Always Ready) signifying their willingness and constant state of readiness to engage enemy forces in combat.

A United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter 'shadowing' a Soviet Mi-24 Hind helicopter along the German border

These units using a network of base camps patrolled on foot and by air monitoring the activities of the Soviet forces and their allies. The units also assisted in a number of escapes by persons fleeing the East German zone in search of freedom in the West.

 The uniform shown here is the Woodland camouflaged pattern battle dress uniform worn by U.S. military personnel throughout the latter part of the Cold war. Appropriately called battle dress because of it's intended use in combat environments versus garrison uniforms, the BDU design was based primarily on the woodland colors of Northern Europe where comflict with the Soviet Union was most likely. It used shades of green, brown, tan, and black, initially printed onto cotton-nylon blend twill cloth. It was the first camouflaged uniform approved by the U.S. Army since the American withdrawal from Vietnam.

The uniform was issued with a 'soft cap' known as a patrol cap, it was often worn with the appropriate rank insignia on the face of the hat. During patrols and other combat operations, the patrol cap would be replaced with a kevlar ballistic helmet worn with a Woodland camouflaged cover to protect the wearer from hostile action.

On the collars were worn rank insignia, and in the case of officers the rank was worn on the right lapel and on the left, the insignia of the branch of service. On this uniform is displayed the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CW4) and the insignia of the United States Army Warrant Officer Corps.

On the right of the uniform over the uniform breast pocket was embroidered the name of the soldier on a name tape sewn to the uniform.

On the left of the uniform over the uniform breast pocket was embroidered the branch of service in this example U.S. Army on a tape also worn in succession over the branch tape would be specialized qualification badges awarded to the wearer.

 The BDU would be the standard American combat uniform throughout the Cold War and the end of the 20th Century. In specialized units, the patrol cap was often replaced by a beret. In airborne units the beret was maroon, in Ranger units the berets were black and in Special Forces units the berets were green. The beret was often worn with a distinctive unit crest known as a 'flash' with a unit crest emblem placed in the center for enlisted personnel or the rank insignia in the case of officers.

With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the mission of Army forces in Germany changed overnight. The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment would remain in Germany through 1992 when it's facilities were closed and it was downsized significantly redesignated as a 'Light' unit and reassigned to Fort Polk near Leesville, Louisiana in the United States.

The 11th Armored Cavalry would be deactivated in March of 1994 and reactivated again in October 1994 as the U.S. Army's Opposing Force (OPFOR) unit at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin near Barstow, California.

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