by 2LT Travis Worlock
FORT BRAGG, N.C. � For the past 15 years, 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion (Airborne) soldiers have stood shoulder to shoulder with Special Operations Forces community members, providing communications support to various units within U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Activated Sept. 17, 1986, 112th SOSB(A) was the first airborne Signal battalion in Army history.
During the latter part of the 20th century, 112th SOSB(A) was involved in every wartime mission assigned to USASOC, including operations Just Cause in Panama, Desert Storm in Kuwait, Task Force Ranger in Somalia and Uphold Democracy, the aborted mission to liberate the people of Haiti.
Peacekeeping and military operations-other-than-war missions also occupied a large portion of the unit�s missions. According to unit history, 112th SOSB(A) soldiers deployed to locations in the Balkans, East Timor, Botswana, Kenya, Thailand, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kazakstan, Colombia and various locations in Europe to provide support.
During the past 24 months, a 112th SOSB(A) soldier has set foot on every continent except Antarctica.
The battalion traces its lineage to 512th Airborne Signal Company, which was activated July 14, l944, in North Africa during World War II. Under CPT Charles Howard�s leadership, the unit originally consisted of three officers and 129 enlisted men, according to 112th SOSB(A) unit history.
The 512th ASC first saw action Aug. 15, l944, when the unit infiltrated France by glider. The dropzone was located near Le Muy, France, where the task force established its command post. Five days later, the command post moved to Valescure, France, to support combat teams attacking northeast along a front that extended from St. Paul en Porte at the northernmost end to the Mediterranean coast 20 kilometers south, according to unit history.
|Soldiers of 512th Airborne Signal Company saw their first action in World War II when they infiltrated France by glider Aug. 15, 1944. (Photo from 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion (Airborne) archives.)|
Wire and radio communications, while adequate, proved to be extremely difficult as the supported combat teams moved rapidly over the mountainous terrain, ever farther from the command post.
By September 1944, 512th ASC had a new commander, 1LT George Harley. The task-force command post found itself near Nice, France, continuing to attack east and northeast toward the Franco-Italian border.
As combat teams pushed forward, 512th ASC soldiers commandeered indigenous wire networks to support forward combat teams, some as far as 100 miles from the command post.
Not only did ASC soldiers establish direct lines from the task-force command post to each combat team, they installed lateral lines between each combat team and provided teletype and wire communications to Sixth Army Group Headquarters.
According to unit history, radio communications during this period were adequate, but the mountainous terrain of southern France proved detrimental to the combat teams� low-power radio sets. Just as 112th Special Operations communications-assembly teams of today do, 512th ASC deployed high-power radio teams to each forward combat team.
The 512th ASC had established a complete switch-and-wire network before November 1944, but because the enemy had withdrawn from the Franco-Italian border, First Airborne Task Force was relieved in place and began staging operations to consolidate with XVIII Airborne Corps.
The next month, 512th ASC moved to Ascot, England, and was consolidated within First Allied Airborne Army with 6966th Signal Service Company. Within six weeks, 512th ASC established the necessary communications for FAAA�s forward command post at Maisons Laffitte, France.
On Feb. 10, 1945, 512th ASC was deactivated, then reconstituted two months later on April 5, 1945, as 112th Airborne Army Signal Battalion.
Throughout World War II, 112th AASB distinguished itself in such operations as Varsity and Market Garden, earning campaign streamers at Rome-Arno and in southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and central Europe. At World War II�s end, 112th AASB was one of the first American units to enter Berlin, according to unit history.
A former member of 112th AASB, Mickey Berman, recalled one of the most significant missions 112th AASB executed. At war�s end, following Germany�s unconditional surrender, the Potsdam Conference was held July 17-Aug. 2, 1945. Out of the conference came the Potsdam Agreement, which created a four-power Allied Control Council to resolve questions pertaining to Germany as a whole, Berman said.
President Harry Truman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, known as the Big Three, reached the agreement. The 112th AASB was tasked to construct the communications that broadcast the conference, Berman said. Their mission complete, the original 112th AASB was deactivated Dec. 12, 1945, at Camp Patrick Henry, Va.
More than 40 years later, when the Special Operations community needed a communications battalion, it remembered 112th AASB. On Sept. 17, 1986, the battalion was reactivated as 112th SOSB(A) and was assigned to 1st Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
|Then-LTC Dave Bryan, right, takes the colors as commander of the newly reactivated 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 17, 1986.|
Since that time, 112th SOSB(A) soldiers have provided voice, data and imagery communications to various units within USASOC. On more than one occasion, this has taken 112th SOSB(A) soldiers into harm�s way. A testament to this can be found in the battalion�s trophy case. Among captured AK-47 rifles and Russian radios sits a mounted high-frequency antenna with a bullet hole in it from Operation Just Cause.
The current commander of 112th SOSB(A), LTC Robert Bell, wrote part of the battalion�s history. When the battalion was reactivated in 1986, Bell was named Company B�s commander by then-LTC Dave Bryan, the battalion commander.
"We knew we had a special mission and a special responsibility to Special Operations forces, to the Army and to our nation," said Bryan, now a major general, reflecting on the reactivation.
"From the first day, we committed ourselves to extremely high standards of personal and professional performance in everything we undertook � whether it was physical training, maintenance, family-support groups, athletics or combat operations. We wanted to establish a culture and tradition of success and teamwork that was unparalleled. �OK� was never good enough; it was �excellence, excellence, excellence,�" Bryan said.
"The bonding of our leaders and soldiers as a team was incredible. We deployed on our first combat mission the weekend after our activation ceremony, and from that day until the present, 112th soldiers have accomplished every mission regardless of the danger or complexity and excelled beyond anyone�s expectations," the general said. "There�s nothing in my military career that I�m more proud of than to have had the honor and privilege of serving with these wonderful troops as the first modern-era commander of 112th SOSB(A)."
Like the soldiers who served before them, 112th SOSB(A) soldiers continue to set the standard for excellence while they "penetrate the shadows," which is the battalion motto.
A reunion is planned in September in celebration of 112th SOSB(A)�s 15-year anniversary. All former unit members are encouraged to forward their contact information to MAJ Michael Shillinger, battalion executive officer, (910) 432-5505, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
2LT Worlock, currently a student at the Signal-officer basic course at Fort Gordon, Ga., is assigned to 112th SOSB(A).
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Army Communicator is part of Regimental Division, a division of Office Chief of Signal.