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509th Airborne Infantry Regiment
Original 1960's-80's embroidered Cut Edge Patch
old german Made
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The 509th Infantry Regiment is an airborne infantry regiment of the United States Army. Previously titled the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (509th PIR) was the first parachute infantry unit of the U.S. Army to make a combat jump during World War II. Currently its 1st and 3rd battalions are active. The 1st Battalion serves as the Opposing Force (OPFOR) at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The 3rd Battalion is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
After World War II, the colors of the 509th remained inactive until 1963, when Company A, 509th PIB was reactivated as HHC, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry, and Company B, 509th PIB was reactivated as HHC, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry. Since 1958 the 8th Infantry Division in Germany had had an Airborne component consisting of the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry, and the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 505th Infantry, as well as other supporting elements on jump status. When the division reorganized from the Pentomic structure to the new structure using brigades and battalions, 1-504th and 1-505th were replaced by 1-509th and 2-509th, respectively. Located at Lee Barracks in Mainz-Gonsenheim, Germany, the two battalions formed the infantry component of the 1st Brigade (Airborne), 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Other units of the brigade included the 5th Battalion (Airborne), 81st Artillery; Troop A (Airborne), 3rd Squadron, 8th Cavalry; Company A (Airborne), 12th Engineer Battalion; and Company B (Airborne), 8th Medical Battalion. In 1973, as the 1st Brigade's jump status was ending, a new unit with the designation of 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry (bearing the lineage of the World War II-era Company C, 509th PIB) was activated to form an Airborne Battalion Combat Team (ABCT) from elements of the existing airborne forces within the brigade. After a brief training period at Rhine Kaserne Barracks in West Germany, the unit moved to Vicenza, Italy, as a separate Airborne Battalion Combat Team. Commanded by LTC Ward M. Lehardy, it was composed of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), a Combat Support Company (CSC), three Airborne Rifle Companies, and one 105 mm towed Field Artillery Battery. The colors of 1-509th and 2-509th were reflagged as 2-28th and 2-87th. Shortly after its arrival in Italy, the 3rd Battalion, 509th PIR was reflagged as the 1st Battalion, 509th PIR. On 1 July 1975 the lineage of Co C, 509th PIB was again reactivated, this time at Fort Rucker, Alabama, as the separate Company C (Pathfinder), 509th Infantry. The company was created by reflagging the existing 5th Infantry Detachment (Pathfinder), which had served at the post since 24 June 1963. (A Pathfinder presence at Fort Rucker can be traced back to about 1960 with the activation of the Pathfinder Team, Company A, 2nd Battle Group, 31st Infantry, to support the Aviation Center.) Contrary to some erroneous accounts, Company C (Pathfinder) 509th PIR was not created by transferring Company C, 1st Battalion, 509th PIR from Italy to Fort Rucker; these companies were two separate units. There had already been a Pathfinder presence at Fort Rucker for 15 years. Even if the 5th Infantry Detachment (Pathfinder) had not already existed, the Army would not have reduced the strength of its forward-deployed Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Europe when sufficient manning was available in CONUS. Additionally, the organization and manning of an Airborne Rifle Company is different from that of an Airborne Pathfinder Company. The size of C-509th varied depending upon funding and mission requirements. For example, documents on file at the United States Army Center of Military History in Washington, DC, indicate that when the company was activated in 1975 by replacing the 5th Infantry Detachment (Pathfinder), it was authorized 4 officers and 108 enlisted soldiers. Documents dated 22 September 1987 show the unit as still having 4 officers authorized but only 77 enlisted soldiers. In 1983, 1-509th in Italy was reflagged as 4-325th to align it with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg under an Army-wide combat arms battalion rotation program. The lineage of 1-509th was reactivated provisionally in 1987 to serve as the OPFOR at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The unit was activated at Little Rock Air Force Base in a formal ceremony on 21 May 1988. The unit was stationed at LRAFB because it provided modern quarters and facilities that Ft. Chaffee lacked, and it deployed on a per-rotation basis to Ft. Chaffee. The unit served and serves as the opposing force for American and Allied light infantry. In June 1993, 1-509th moved along with the Joint Readiness Training Center to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Since moving to Fort Polk, 1-509th PIR has become an elite urban fighting training unit. On 31 May 1993, the separate Company C (Pathfinder) 509th PIR at Fort Rucker was reflagged as Company A (Pathfinder) 511th PIR, reactivating the colors of a unit that had served with the long-inactive 11th Airborne Division and the short-lived (1963–65) 11th Air Assault Division (Test). The era of a Pathfinder unit at Fort Rucker ended on 31 October 1995 when A-511th was inactivated to meet budget cut ceilings. In May 2004 Companies A and B, with attachments from Troop D of the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry at Fort Polk deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. In Iraq they conducted combat patrols in and around the Baghdad area. One member of Troop D received the Silver Star for Valor in combat. Companies A and B and attachments returned in March 2005. During the deployment, Troop D and HHC continued to support JRTC exercises.