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Sep 18, 2017

Washington National Guard

100 Facts in 100 Days - 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team

Posted by Washington National Guard


100 Facts in 100 Days - 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team

In January 1968, LTC William Bateman, a Washington Army National Guardsman, was tasked to gather the brief history of the newly formed 81st Infantry Brigade.

It was a perfect assignment for Bateman, who began his service in the 161st Infantry, 81st Infantry Brigade in 1934.  What Bateman didn't know is he started the frame work, laid the foundation and is helping us today begin recognition of the 81st Brigade's 100 years of service to our state and nation.

In the following 100 days, we will bring you 100 facts about the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team with new facts coming each week.

We welcome you to join us as we present new facts (some you may know and some you may not) on the largest unit in the Washington National Guard!


1. Organized under the 41st Infantry Division

On April 1, 1917, the 41st Infantry Division was activated into service, just five days before the American entry into World War I. Primarily made up of Guard units from the Northwest, the 41st Infantry Division immediately brought trained Infantrymen together to deploy for Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force.

The 81st Infantry Brigade was constituted on July 18th and was organized as a part of the 41st Division on Sept. 18, 1917 at Camp Greene, North Carolina.  


2. Four States and a District

Once federally activated, four Infantry Regiments: the 3d Oregon, 2d Washington, 2d Idaho and 2d North Dakota. The 81st also included a detachment from Washington D.C. and Cavalry scouts from Washington. 


3. Where was the Field Artillery? 

Although they can trace their roots to the original militiamen that protected eastern Washington, the 146th Field Artillery Regiment was consolidated with elements of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (D.C. National Guard) to form the 161st Infantry.

However when the 41st division was being organized it became necessary to form a brigade of field artillery. Soldiers from Washington, Idaho and New Mexico serving in infantry and field artillery units of the National Guard, were brought together to form the 146th Field Artillery. Along with their sister battalion, the 148th Field Artillery (Wyoming, Colorado and Oregon) to form the 66th Field Artillery Brigade. 


4. Field Artillery was home grown 

Unlike the Second Idaho infantry and Battery "A" New Mexico field artillery, the first battalion of Washington field artillery was not in existence at the time of the declaration of war with Germany, and most of its personnel had never had previous military training. The history of its organization is unique and one that is fraught with many trying situations. The Militia bureau at Washington had authorized the organization of a field artillery unit in the state of Washington, but the adjutant general of the state had never felt justified in attempting such an organization.

Soon after the declaration of war, Paul H. Weyrauch of Walla Walla, Washington, who was a retired officer of the regular army, felt that the organization of a battalion of field artillery from the eastern part of the state of Washington was possible and should be undertaken. Plans began to recruit such an organization, but everything was blocked by a War Department order which placed Lieutenant Weyrauch on the active list and assigned him to recruiting duty in the state of South Dakota. After much correspondence and a special trip to Washington, Lieutenant Weyrauch succeeded in being relieved from active service with the regular army in order to accept a commission as major of field artillery in the Washington National Guard.


5. A training Brigade

On Jan. 9, 1918, the 81st Brigade moved to and set up camp at St. Aigman and in the Noyers area of France. Between Jan. 15, 1918 and Aug. 19, 1918 the Brigade trained and processed 295,000 replacements for battle worn soldiers.

This training proved vital due to the fact a great number of soldiers arrived to the European theater having not completed their basic training. 


6. The home team grew

While the 1st and 2d Regiments of the Washington Infantry were activated for World War I, the state had to organize a home force. This was known as the 3d Washington Infantry.

As officers and infantrymen returned home many joined the unit due to the 1st and 2d Infantry being demobilized. In 1921, the 3d Washington would be redesignated as the 161st Infantry. 


7. The Brigade Headquarters is where?

The redesignation under General Order Number 5, dated Jan. 22, 1921, assigned the 81st Brigade back to Washington state; however the Brigade was not organized until Feb. 23, 1924. Since the 81st was not organized in the state, where would it be stationed?

Well in the Brigade Commander’s home town of course!

From 1924 to 1936 the Brigade would move seven times.

Seattle – Feb. 23, 1924 to July 7, 1924
Spokane – July 7, 1924 to July 1, 1931
Walla Walla – July 1, 1931 to Sept. 3, 1932
Seattle – Sept. 3, 1932 to June 21, 1934
Spokane – June 21, 1934 to July 24, 1934
Camp Murray – July 24, 1934 to April 20 1936
Spokane – April 20, 1936 to June 10, 1937

The 81st Brigade moved back to Seattle on June 10, 1937 where the headquarters remains today. 


8. The Lumber and Mill Workers Strike

In June 1935, the Washington National Guard assembled at Camp Murray for their annual field training when a strike among lumber and mill workers threatened to jeopardize public safety and property.

Outbreaks of violence occurred in multiple cities and the local authorities felt the situation was dire and advised Governor Clarence Martin to bring in the National Guard. On June 23, 1935, the Guard was directed to assist law enforcement to restore order, protect property and preserve the peace.

The Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma was set up as a temporary Brigade Headquarters and, in just three days, the entire 161st Infantry Regiment was activated and stationed in Tacoma.

As the situation improved, the Guardsmen were deactivated and returned to their home stations, until Aug. 9, 1935 when the strike ended.


9. 62,000 soldiers!

In 1937, the 81st Brigade, in conjunction with the 41st Division, participated in the largest maneuver ever held in the Pacific Northwest. More than 35,000 National Guard and 27,000 Regular Army soldiers participated in the training exercise.


10. Summer of ‘40

In the summer of 1940, entry into war was becoming inevitable for the United States. The 81st Brigade extended their annual training from two weeks to three weeks and upon completion left their equipment and tents at camp. On Aug. 27, all 81st Brigade officers received “immediate action” letters instructing them to prepare for federal induction. Recruiting efforts throughout the 81st Brigade intensified.


11. Call to service

On Sept. 16, 1940, the 81st Brigade was called into federal service for one year. Even though training was intense, and coupled by equipment shortages and muddy living conditions, the 81st Brigade soldiers stayed positive and under the belief that they would be done with their federal mission by Sept. 16, 1941.


12. The Long December

While enjoying a weekend pass, the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor traveled over radio and 81st Brigade soldiers began filling bus terminals to return to Camp Murray. Office windows were blacked out and by mid-afternoon on Dec. 7, the 81st Brigade soldiers had taken up defensive positions on the Pacific Coast.

The Brigade Command Post moved to the Centralia Armory, with many of the troops spending the nights at the fairgrounds. 

On Dec. 12, the Brigade’s mission shifted to the defense of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Northern part of the Olympic Peninsula, the main water way to Seattle.

On Dec. 25, the Brigade Command Post moved from Centralia to Sequim, Wash. where the 81st Brigade would serve for two months. 


13. Reorganization and Activation

On Feb. 26, 1942 the 41st Division was reorganized from a “square division” to a “triangular division.” The 81st Brigade was deactivated and reassigned to other units in the 41st Division. The 161st Infantry was assigned to the 25th Division.


14. 81st Brigade in World War II

More than 12,000 Washington National Guardsmen were federalized and pressed into service between Feb. 26, 1942 and Dec. 31, 1945.


15. The 161st Infantry redirected

With the 41st Division being reconfigured to the new triangular division, the 161st was considered excess. The War Department ordered the 161st Infantry to the Philippine Islands to reinforce American forces there in anticipation of a possible Japanese invasion. The Japanese attacked Hawaii and the Philippines before the 161st was to depart San Francisco. In reaction, the War Department directed the 161st to Hawaii to reinforce the defenses there. The regiment sailed from San Francisco on December 16, 1941, arriving in Hawaii on December 21, 1941.


16. Golden Gate in ‘48

In June 1944, a few soldiers got together in order to compile the history of the 161st Infantry during World War II. Golden Gate in '48 tells the story of the Washington National Guardsmen that served in Hawaii, Guadalcanal, New Georgia and traveled to New Zealand before returning home to Washington.

The whole story can be read at this link – Golden Gate in '48

17. Guadalcanal

On Jan. 4, 1943 the 161st arrived at Guadalcanal and placed in division reserve due to being under-strength at the time. While in reserve manning defensive positions around Henderson Airfield, the 161st was handed the assignment of eliminating a concentration of Japanese troops in what became known as the Matanikau River Pocket.

The Pocket, estimated to hold 500 enemy troops, was a dense jungle redoubt positioned between a steep hillside and a high cliff over the Matanikau River. The heavy undergrowth masked the well-camouflaged Japanese positions, both on the ground and high in the trees, and made dislodging them a slow, grim task. On Jan. 10, 1943 the offensive was launched and successfully completed by Jan. 21 with the seizure of Galloping Horse by the 27th Infantry and Mount Austin and the Gifu strongpoint by the 35th Infantry.

The second phase of the Corps offensive was to drive to the Poha River. The 161st Infantry was designated to lead the Division attack. The 27th Infantry was to conduct a holding attack on Hill 87 to tie down the Japanese units while the 161st flanked the Japanese positions from the southwest. However, the 27th found that the Japanese had withdrawn, which made the 161st flanking attack unnecessary. Because of a feared reinforcement of Japanese forces on Guadalcanal which never came, the 25th Division was ordered to guard the airfields, while the 161st Infantry was placed under corps control and ordered to continue the drive north.

On February 6, two battalions of the 161st reached the Umasani River and then crossed the Tambalego River. On February 8, they met light Japanese resistance prior to seizing Doma Cove. The next day, the 1st Battalion of the 161st linked up with a battalion of the Americal Division at the village of Tenaro, effectively ending organized Japanese resistance on Guadalcanal.


18. Northern Solomons

After securing Guadalcanal, attention was turned to the Northern Solomons, where the 161st was selected to lead the invasion into New Georgia with the 37th Infantry Division.

On July 22, 1943 the “Highlanders” landed in New Georgia and operations began immediately. 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry took heavy resistance while departing for the attack on Japanese forces. On July 25, 1943, the 161st took the first of numerous ridgelines that led to the successful occupation on New Georgia by Aug. 25, 1943.


19. Dark Rifles

From 1942 to 1945, the men of the 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry, fought alongside their sister battalions through three campaigns, Guadalcanal, the Solomon Island and the Philippine Islands.

The unit adopted the name Dark Rifles, which sticks even today because of the darkness the soldiers experienced in the jungles of the South Pacific. Often attacked in the dark of night, the 3rd Battalion would fight back, bringing the fight to the enemy in the same thick brush and dark forests.


20. Luzon

In 1899, soldiers of the 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry were deployed to the U.S.-controlled Philippine Islands taking part in the Philippine Insurrection. Those citizen-soldiers participated in the Manila campaign, seeing action against Filipino insurgents on the island of Luzon.

46 years later, the 161st Infantry Regiment, Washington National Guard traveled to Luzon, not to fight their Filipino counterparts, but to liberate them from their Japanese invaders. After being away from combat for more than a year, the 161st was tasked to liberate multiple populated areas, including the town of San Manuel, which was heavily fortified by Japanese forces.

Through the six days of battle, 2nd Battalion, 161st Infantry took on heavy causalities, but were able to defeat and turn back more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers, liberating the town on Jan. 28, 1945.

From Jan. 28 through July 4, 1945 the 161st Infantry took part in liberation of San Isidro, Digdig, Puttan, Kapintalan and Santa Fe. 


21. T/4 Laverne Parrish

T/4 Laverne Parrish, Medical Detachment of the 161st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Binalonan on the island of Luzon in the Philippines on Jan. 24, 1945. Parrish crossed open fields multiple times to bring injured soldiers to safety. He was able to treat nearly all of the 37 casualties suffered by his company, while being mortally wounded by mortar fire and shortly after was killed. The indomitable spirit, intrepidity and gallantry of Technician Parrish saved many lives at the cost of his own.

22. War is over

On Dec. 31, 1945, more than three months after the official end of World War II, the 81st Brigade units spread across the Pacific Theater were federally inactivated in Kure in in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.


23. Campaign Streamers and Decorations

The soldiers of the 81st Brigade saw extensive action in the Pacific Theater. For their hard work, the unit received campaign streamers for Papua, New Guinea; Luzon and the Southern Philippines. The unit was recognized for their outstanding work in the Philippines with a Presidential Citation.

24. 41st Infantry Reorganized

With soldiers returning home and the end of combat operations in the Pacific , the 41st Infantry Division in Washington and Oregon was reorganized. The 81st Headquarters returned to Seattle in March 1948.


25. Cold War Army

It was an interesting time in the 1950s and 1960s. The Army took note and, following a reorganization of the National Guard, the 41st Division was disbanded and the 81st Infantry Brigade was again activated.


26. The Three Infantry Battalions

The reorganization in January 1968 was based on the three Infantry Battalions of the 161st Infantry Regt. located in Washington: 1st Battalion was stationed in Spokane, where it is stationed still today, 2nd Battalion in Everett and 3rd Battalion in Seattle.


27. Building the 81st Brigade

The 161st Infantry was just a part of the newly reorganized 81st Infantry Brigade. 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment, which had been assigned to the 66th Field Artillery Group, added three line batteries and a Headquarters battery to the Brigade. The 181st Brigade Support Battalion, originally the 141st Support Battalion, was assigned to the Brigade in Seattle. Troop E of the 303rd Cavalry, located in Centralia, 286th Engineer Co. station in Bellingham and the 81st Aviation Company from Camp Murray rounded out the formation.


28. The Raven

The new Brigade was formed, but they didn’t have their symbol, the patch that would become part of the fabric of the Washington Army National Guard. In stepped Private First Class Michael L. Burns of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 81st Brigade, who designed the iconic Raven Shoulder Insignia, which was officially approved for wear on May 27, 1970.

Read more about the Raven Patch


29. Washington Rifles

On June 1, 1970, the unit insignia of the 81st Brigade was approved by the Institution of Heraldry.

Blue is the color used for Infantry. The dual nature of the pointed and pediment pointed rays, the former taken from the demi-sun of the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 41st Division, and the latter from the Philippine sun, symbolizes the organization's service in France in World War I, in the Philippines and in the Pacific are in World War II. The arrowhead with the white and blue wavy band, simulating water, commemorates the assault landing at Luzon. The colors, blue, white and red refer to the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation awarded during that period.


30. We Support the mission

On March 10, 1972, the official crest of the 181st Brigade Support Battalion was approved by the Institution of Heraldry.

Scarlet and buff (gold) are the colors used for Support. The chevron, a heraldic symbol representing the support rafters of a gable, symbolizes the basic mission of the Battalion. The chevron further alludes to snow-capped Mt. Rainier, one of the highest mountains in the state of Washington, and home area of the organization. The carabao's head refers to the water buffalo indigenous to the Philippine Islands and alludes to the area of service of elements of the 181st Support Battalion in the Pacific during World War II. The arrowheads refer to the two assault landings at New Guinea and Luzon and the colors blue, white and red symbolize the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation awarded during that period.

31. General Albert Kaye (Part I) 

Although the 81st had existed back to World War I, General Albert Kaye is credited with being the first commander of the modern 81st Brigade, taking command on Jan. 1, 1968.

32. The “Mech” Infantry

In 1971, a reorganization converted the brigade into mechanized infantry. Paying the price was the 2nd Battalion, 161st Infantry, which was replaced in the Brigade by the 1st Squadron, 303rd Armor Regiment.


33. 9th Division Partnership

In 1972, a new Army "affiliation program" began that linked the units of the brigade (for training) to sister units of the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis.


34. 4th Division back to 9th Division

When the 9th became a "high-tech test bed" in the mid-1980s, the affiliation switched to the 4th Infantry Division. Later, the 81st became an asset of I Corps (at Fort Lewis), then assigned as an organic ("roundout") brigade to its old partner the 9th Division. While in that status, it gave up its striking Raven insignia for the division patch.

35. The 1975 floods

What is still one of the worst floods to ever hit Snohomish County, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7, the residents along the Snohomish River fought rising waters from the early snow melt off and increased December rain. Members of the 81st Brigade stepped in to fill sandbags and assist with the flood response.


36. Seahawks Commercial

The Seattle Seahawks may have been a new team in the NFL and they choose one of the state’s most known groups to partner with for a PSA. Guard Ron Coder joined members of the 1-303rd Cavalry and 2-146th Field Artillery to film a public service announcement.


37. Annual Training

Annual Training for the 81st Brigade traditionally happens at the Yakima Training Center due to the large area and firing ranges. However in 1980, the Brigade was forced to move Annual Training to Ft. Lewis (now JBLM) due to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.


38. Mt. St. Helens Response

After the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, members of the 81st Brigade were called to duty to assist in the clean-up efforts and manning traffic control points.

39. Tank Crew

In 1983, the 81st Brigade was featured in a nationwide National Guard commercial.


40. General Richard Coulter

Gen. Kaye may have been the first Brigade Commander for the modern day 81st Brigade, but it was Brig. Gen. Richard Coulter, an Infantry officer for Pennsylvania, who assumed command of the 81st Brigade on Sept. 19, 1917 when the unit was called to federal service.

Gen. Coulter was relieved from federal duty on Jan. 1919 and rejoined the Pennsylvania National Guard.


41. General Albert Kaye (Part II)

Before being selected to lead the transformation of the new 81st Brigade, Gen. Albert Kaye had a pretty stellar military career that started on June 5, 1939 and included a tour in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater during World War II.

In July 1947, then Major Kaye, took a rank reduction, joining the National Guard and assumed command of the 41st Reconnaissance Troop. After being promoted to major, he was assigned as Asst. Chief of Staff G2 of the 41st Division. He would move up to the Deputy Brigade Commander position until he was selected for promotion to colonel and took command of 2nd BDE, 161st Infantry.

In October, he was assigned as the Asst. Division Commander, 41st Infantry Div. and was federally recognized at a Brig. Gen. on Dec. 7, 1965.


42. Gen. Merritt Johnson

Commander, 1970-1974

43. 1990 Floods

Members of the 81st joined others from the Army and Air National Guard to fight massive floods in 18 different counties across the state. They filled sandbags, conducted presence patrols and assisted in any way they could.

44. Kent Armory

The Kent Armory was dedicated in honor of Command Sergeant Major Ed Mangold during a ceremony on Dec. 1, 1990. During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Gary Stone, the 81st Brigade Commander, was officially promoted from Colonel to Brig. General. 


45. Gen. Lyle Buchanon

Commander, 1974-1977, served as the Assistant Adjutant General from 1959-1974.


46. Gen. Robert Westphal

Commander, 1977-1981


47. Gen. Keith Eggen

Commander, 1981-1984, served as the Adjutant General from 1985-1989


48. Gen. Dan Sullivan

Commander, 1984-1986


49. Gen. Greg Barlow

Served as the Assistant Adjutant General prior to commanding the 81st Brigade from 1986 to 1989. Gen. Barlow also served as the Adjutant General from 1989-1999.


50. Gen. Gary Stone

Commander, 1989-1992


51. Gen. Lee Legowick

Commander from 1992-1996, later served as the Assistant Adjutant General from 1996-2002.


52. Gen. Terry Reed

Commander, 1996-1999


53. Gen. Richard Read

Commander from 1999-2002, served as the Washington Army National Guard Chief of Staff from 1996-1998 prior to command. 


54. Gen. Oscar Hilman

Commander from 2002-2005. During his tenure as commander, the 81st Brigade deployed to the Middle East during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. 


55. Col. Michael McCaffree

Commander from 2005-2008, he also served as the Washington Army National Guard Chief of Staff in 2003 and 2004.


56. Col. Ronald Kapral

Commander from 2008-2010. He commanded the 81st Brigade during the 2nd mass Brigade deployment in support of operations in the Middle East.


57. Col. Chris Fowler

Commander from 2010-2012. Brig. Gen. Fowler currently serves as the Land Component Commander, Washington Army National Guard


58. Col Mike Weitzel

Commander from 2012-2015. Col. Weitzel currently serves as the commander of the Homeland Response Force and 144th Digital Liaison Det. 


59. Col. Bryan Grenon

Currently commands the 81st Brigade Combat Team. 


60. The 1962 World's Fair

Seattle was awarded the 1962 World's Fair, where the city would showcase "Century 21", a look to the future. From April 1962 to October 1962, more than 10 million visitors would come to Seattle learning about the "World of Tomorrow" and see the construction of the one-of-a-kind Space Needle. The 81st Brigade, headquartered in Seattle (on Third Avenue and Harrison Street) moved out of the armory, which was sold to the state in 1962 to make room for the Food Circus, which is now known as the Seattle Center Armory.


61. The Seattle Armory

In 1974 the 81st Brigade opened a new armory near Pier 91. The 76,000 square foot facility is still used to this day as the Brigade headquarters and houses multiple units of the 181st Brigade Support Battalion. 


62. Firestorm '94

In late July to early September, 1994 massive forest fires consumed Eastern Washington. At the height of "Firestorm '94," 2,300 81st personnel were fighting fires and providing support for local, state and federal agencies.


63. 898 Engineer Battalion (Part 1)

On Sept, 16, 1995, the Washington National Guard welcomed the 898th Engineer Battalion. The 898th Engineers, headquartered in Everett, would have armories in Bellingham, Anacortes and Snohomish. 


64. Makah Tribe Whaling

In 1998, the Washington National Guard deployed soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry to support the Makah Tribe’s first whale hunt in more than 70 years. Guardsmen were trained and ready to protect the tribe from protestors upset with the hunt. 


65. World Trade Organization Riots

During the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999, a series of protests took to the streets outside the hotels and the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. On Nov. 30, 1999, several hundred activists arrived in the deserted streets near the convention center. Seattle police began trying to clear the streets, however, the protest numbers grew. By evening time, the city of Seattle would declare a state of emergency. Overnight, Governor Gary Locke called in two battalions of National Guardsmen from the 81st Brigade.


66. 81st Wildfire support 2001

In 2001, more Guardsmen were deployed to support the Washington Department of Natural Resources on multiple fires near north central Washington. Guardsmen provided support on the fire lines, dropped buckets and logistical support. 


67. Operation Noble Eagle

The world changed on Sept. 11, 2001, when the United States was attacked by terrorists that had gained access to civilian aircrafts. Immediately following the events of that day, Airports heightened security to reassure passengers that they could travel. In Oct. 2001, the Washington National Guard activated members to augment security at Sea-Tac Airport as part of Operations Noble Eagle. 


68. Salt Lake Olympics

During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Guardsmen from the 81st Brigade Combat Team mobilized to support the security operations for the athletes and spectators. 

69. 2003 Annual Training in California

Part of the 81st Brigade’s train up for possible deployment began in the summer of 2003 when Guardsmen traveled to California for Annual Training.

70. Operations Iraqi Freedom

On Nov. 15, 2003, more than 3,000 Guardsmen from the 81st Brigade reported for training in preparation for deployment to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

71. Train up at Ft. Lewis

Prior to the departure, the brigade conducted extensive convoy operation training at Fort Lewis from Nov. 2003 to Feb. 2004.


72. 2004 Tacoma Dome

More than 3,000 Guardsmen stood in formation in the Tacoma Dome prior to deploying to Iraq. The entire Tacoma Dome was filled as families and friends said good-bye to their loved ones. 


73. 2004 Deployments

The 81st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) accepted authority for the defense of Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda in Balad from the 1st BCT of the 82nd Airborne Division during a Transfer of Authority ceremony at LSA Anaconda on April 18, 2004. With numerous guests and personnel watching the ceremony, BG Oscar Hilman, 81st BCT Commander, accepted the job of security from COL Patrick Donahue II, Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade. The Fort Bragg, NC unit has overseen operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II since January. Comprised mostly of the 3rd Battalion "Blue Devils," 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, they conducted thousands of patrols, manned guard towers and entry control points and conducted numerous raids resulting in the seizure of weapons now no longer available to anti-coalition forces. This was the first time the 81st Brigade headquarters served as a combat element in theater since World War II. Their movement to Iraq represented the largest deployment of the Washington National Guard, with assigned units from California and Minnesota, since that war.

74. 2004 Deployment Locations

Most of the 4,500 members of the 81st arrived in Iraq in April 2004, as fighting flared in Baghdad, Fallujah and other areas.

- 1-161st Infantry Battalion, LSA Highlander in Baghdad.
- 1-303rd Armor Battalion, Camp Victory South, Baghdad
- 1-185th Armor Battalion, 3 locations south of Baghdad,
- 2-146th Field Artillery Battalion, 1 battery in Saudi Arabia, rest of the battalion at Camp Arifjan Kuwait,
- 181st Support Battalion, Logistic Support Area (LSA) Anaconda, Balad
- 898th Engineer Battalion has been broken down to detachments and dispersed to support 81st BCT units at several locations
- Troop E, 303rd Calvary, Camp Doha, Kuwait,
- D-216th Air Defense Artillery (MN ARNG), Baghdad International Airport 


75. 2004 Deployment Fallen

We honor all of our fallen heroes at the link


76. 2005 Homecoming

Guardsmen began returning home from the Middle East from Feb. to May 2005. 


77. Hurricane Support

After spending more than 18 months deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, the 81st Brigade sent nearly 600 Guardsmen to New Orleans to assist during the devastation following Hurricane Katrina.

78. 898 Engineer Battalion (Part 2)

After being split up during the 2004-2005 deployment, the 898th Engineer Battalion cased their colors in a ceremont in Sept. 2005.

79. 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion

The 898th Headquarters became the 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, with force structure that featured Military Police, Military Intelligence, Medics and Signal. 

80.  Southwest Border Mission support

After 9/11, President George W. Bush began sending rotations to the Southwest Border to assist Border Patrol with counter drug trafficing. 

81. Why the number 81?

Originally the numbers had no meaning, the number 81 was just the next number the Army assigned to the unit. Over time as units were deactivated, the nomenclature grew more historic.

82. 2007 Floods

The Great Coastal Gale of 2007 was a series of three powerful Pacific storms that affected the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia between December 1, 2007 and December 4, 2007.

The 81st Brigade deployed hundreds of Guardsmen to Southwest Washington to assist with rising rivers that threatened Thurston and Lewis county. 

83. Operation Iraqi Freedom 2008

The 81st Brigade was alerted for a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It received its mobilization order on March 19, 2008 from the Department of Defense.

84. 2008-2009 Deployment

The Brigade completed pre-deployment training at Fort McCoy, WI and then deployed to Iraq from August 2008 to August 2009.[12] The main focus of the brigade in OIF was security and "force protection operations."

The brigade was led into Iraq by Colonel Ronald Kapral and State Command Sergeant Major Robert Sweeney. During their time in Iraq, the brigade was visited by Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire and Washington Adjutant General, Brigadier General Toney. 


85. 2009 Fallen

We honor all of our fallen heroes at this link


86. 2009 Homecoming

81st Brigade members began returning home from their deployment to Iraq in the Summer and Fall of 2009. 


87. 2010 Annual Training (VIP Day)

A tradition of the 81st Brigade is to invite legislative members out to their annual training and make them a "Guardsmen for a day"

88. 2011 Notice of Sourcing and 2012 Rescinded

In 2011 the 81st Brigade had received a notice of sources for another potential mobilization, in 2012 it was rescined. 


89. Sullivan Cup

The 81st Brigade competed in the 2014 and 2015 Sullivan cup, the U.S. Army’s premiere tank competition. In 2014, as the only National Guard tank crew, the 81st Brigade finished 10th. In 2015 the Brigade finished 6th overall, the top National Guard and Reserve unit. 


90. 2014 Seattle Seahawks Parade

The 81st Brigade Combat Team was part of the Guard’s support to Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl parade. 


91. 2014 State Route 530 Landslide

More than 850 Guardsmen responded to one of the worst natural disasters in Washington state history. The 81st Brigade assisted in State Route 530 landslide mission near the town of Oso. 


92. 2014 Wildfires

More than 700 Guardsmen were activated across washington state to support the Washington Department of Natural Resources during the 2014 wildfires. The 81st Brigade provided the majority of the troops for the ground fire fighting effort. 


93. Stryker Conversion Announcement

In July 2015 the Department of Defense announced that the 81st Brigade would be transforming from a Armored Brigade to a Stryker Brigade. Read more here.


94. Restructuring the Washington Army National Guard

After the announcement of the 81st Brigade transforming from Tanks to Strykers, the whole Washington Army National Guard underwent a transformation. Read more here.


95. 2015 Wildfires

More than 1,500 Guardsmen were activated to take part in the state's largest wildfire in recorded history. Read more here


96. Associated Unit Program with 7th Infantry Division

Right before Veteran's Day 2016,  the 81st Brigade signed an agreement with the 7th Infantry Division through the Associated Unit Program.


97. Patching Ceremony

For more than 45 years the Washington National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) has worn the iconic Ravens patch, officially approved for wear in May 1970. Starting in Dec. 2016, they adopt the 2nd Infantry Division’s Indian Head patch and reveal the new Brigade colors symbolizing the unit’s transformation from an Armor Brigade to a Stryker Brigade. Read more here


98. Stryker Vehicle and New Equipment

Currently the 81st Brigade is in the middle of fielding their new equipment and Stryker platform vehicles. 


99. Proclamation

100. Next Commander

During October’s Drill weekend, the 81st Brigade will welcome Col. Shaughnessy Hodge as the next commander of the largest unit in the Washington National Guard.