HISTORY OF THE 81st WILDCATS
HISTORY OF THE 81st WILDCATS: The history of the U.S. Army 81st Regional Support Command (RSC) began on August 25, 1917, when the 81st Infantry Division was organized at Camp (now Fort) Jackson, S.C. It adopted the name “Wildcat” Division from Wildcat Creek, which still flows through the area today. The WWI commander, MG Charles Bailey, directed the 81st Division to create what became the first unit patch of the Army in 1918. A distinctive shoulder patch sporting a black wildcat on an olive circle soon appeared on 81st Division uniforms. Protests from other units accusing the 81st of wearing a non-regulation patch soon caught the attention of General John J. Pershing, who, after a terse discussion with MG Bailey, approved the Wildcat trademark on Oct 19, 1918. Pershing later praised the esprit de corps exhibited by the 81st and authorized other Army divisions to create distinctive patches of their own — but the 81st led the way! The original “Wildcats” of 1918 distinguished themselves fighting in France, where they occupied the St. Die sector and participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. For this they received a personal commendation from General Pershing. Following World War I, the “Wildcat” Division was demobilized on June 11, 1919, at Hoboken, N.J. After the start of World War II, the 81st was reactivated in June 1942 at then-Camp Rucker, Ala., and was committed for nearly a year in the Pacific Theater campaigns. The division invaded and seized Angaur, Ulithi, Ngesbus, Congaru and Garakayo islands. It reinforced the Marines at Peleliu, eventually assuming operational control of the island offensive. The 81st’s final action consisted of mopping-up operations in the Philippines. Later, it was part of the Army of Occupation of Japan. On January 20, 1946, the division was inactivated. The 81st was reactivated as a Reserve division on November 10, 1947, in Atlanta, Ga. It was considered for recall to active duty during the Korean War, but was not activated. In December 1965, the division was again inactivated. Two years later, in December 1967, the Headquarters of the 81st U.S. Army Reserve Command (ARCOM) was established in Atlanta, Ga. In May 1968, the Wildcat patch appeared in combat once again when three 81st ARCOM units were mobilized and deployed to Vietnam. In August 1990, 81st ARCOM units were some of the first Reserve units to be mobilized in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Fifty-two units and 5,902 Soldiers from the 81st ARCOM served as an integral part of the Army’s operations. When Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, Soldiers from the 81st ARCOM (many were victims of the hurricane themselves) answered the call for disaster relief. The 81st provided engineer, medical, public affairs, legal counseling and other humanitarian assistance. In 2005, the 81st RRC performed many of these same missions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In 1996, the 121st U.S. Army Reserve Command (ARCOM) became a Regional Support Command (RSC) Headquarters for the first time. From this, the 81st RSC was created to assume command and control of the old 81st, 120th, 121st and 125th ARCOMs. The 81st RSC, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., became the largest USAR command and provided support for more than 44,000 Soldiers in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. In July 2003, the 81st changed again when it was designated the 81st Regional Readiness Command (RRC). Then, on September 16, 2006 the 81st Regional Support Command was established at Fort Jackson, S.C. The first of four new nationwide RSCs, the 81st returned to the place of its birth to provide base operations and support to units in the eight states under the old 81st RRC, adding Louisiana and Puerto Rico. Since September 11, 2001, the 81st Wildcats mobilized and deployed 28,130 Soldiers and 1,325 units or parts of units in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Up until September 2008, prior to the 81st RRC losing command and control of all its units, almost 20% – one of every five — of the Army Reserve’s soldiers fighting the Global War on Terror was a Wildcat! These soldiers continue the 81st’s legacy of sacrifice & service that began with the Doughboys of 1917. Wildcats Never Quit!
TUFFY TIMES Special Edition 2012