On March 14, 2014, the 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment deactivated at Stang Field after 18-years of distinguished service since being reactivated in 1996, and set the conditions for composite artillery battalions across the 82nd Airborne Division.
The lineage of 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment begins with the Great War and ended in 1986, after 69 years of honorable and distinguished service. However, the Warrior battalion would not remain dormant for long and only ten years after its de-activation; the battalion was re-activated for service in 1996. 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery was re-designated to 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment and served as the world’s only airborne 155mm field artillery battalion in the world. Since its reactivation, the Battalion has been tasked with mastering the art and science of dropping 155mm howitzers from the sky and providing cannon fires for a forced entry operations. This unique and challenging mission has forced the Battalion to continually innovate, adapt, and become the premiere subject matter experts for airborne artillery operations.
To fulfill its mission, the Warrior battalion was tasked with learning and mastering how to air drop the massive M198 155mm Howitzer, which weighed a staggering 17,500lbs. This skill set would serve as the foundation for the spirit of the Warrior battalion, hardened by dropping the massive M198 from the sky and fearlessly descending on it to provide fires from the drop zone. Mastering these lethal skills would set the conditions for success as the field artillery adopted a lighter and more capable 155mm Howitzer, the M777, and as the Army transitioned to a modular force.
The Warrior battalion fielded the M777 in 2008 and continued to serve as the Army’s only airborne 155mm Howitzer battalion. The lighter weapon system provided many tactical and technical advantages over its predecessor that made the Warrior battalion all the more lethal. The M777 is half the weight of the M198 and required less than half of the manpower to emplace. It also provides a digital capability that greatly improves accuracy and efficiency. These added advantages proved pivotal as it coincided with a need for 155mm Howitzer support within the 82nd Airborne Division.
The unique relationship between the 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), the Warrior Battalion’s higher headquarters, and the 82nd Airborne Division enabled the Army’s only airborne 155mm Howitzer battalion to provide its specialized skill set to the Army’s Global Response Force (GRF). The ability to conduct an airborne assault with 155mm Howitzers enabled the ground force commander to engage the enemy well beyond the range of a 105mm Howitzer and shape the deep fight.
This relationship continued to grow as the Warrior battalion became a staple in the GRF package. It meant that the battalion was required to maintain the capability to deploy two howitzer sections anywhere in the world. The battalion participated in countless Joint Operational Access Displays (JOADs) and Joint Operational Access Exercises (JOAX) that highlighted the unique capability the Warrior battalion brought to the fight and validated the need for 155mm howitzers into the GRF package.
The Warrior Battalion’s role in the GRF package helped paved the way for integration of medium 155mm Howitzer into Airborne and light infantry Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). Through countless field problems, heavy drops, and airborne operations, the battalion validated the integration of light and medium artillery into a composite framework. This hybrid capability resonated so soundly with the brigade combat team commanders and Army leaders that it inevitably worked its way into an updated force modularization plan, or BCT 2020.
The BCT 2020 Concept signaled the end for the 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. While the unit Headquarters and Forward Support Company have deactivated, the unit legacy lives through its sister Battalions. The firing Batteries from the battalion re-flagged as Charlie battery for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiments, integrating the lethality and power of 155mm artillery as an internal asset to their brigade combat team
With all the firing Batteries within the battalion re-flagged as Charlie batteries by November of 2013, the Battalion quickly shifted its emphasis from being the subject matter experts on 155mm airborne operations to deactivating with professionalism and honor. In addition to this, the battalion also conducted several key events that highlight the importance of the Warrior battalion and maintain its legacy. Warrior Paratroopers conducted one final airborne operation on February 25, 2014, prior to having a passing of the regimental colors ceremony, and passed the regimental colors to its sister battalion. Lastly, the battalion conducted one final operation, which was on March 14, 2014 at 1400 hours when the unit cased its colors on Stang Field and officially deactivated. While the unit is no more, the spirit of the Warrior is lives on through the thunderous cracks of 155mm artillery exploding in the Sand Hills of Fort Bragg. The 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment Colors remain ready for when the nation calls for a storied red-leg unit to again rally Soldiers.