FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The Troopers of the 11th Armored Cavalry celebrated the 117th birthday of the regiment Jan. 31 with a stable call at Fritz Field, here.
The commander of the regiment, Col. Joseph D. Clark, and the oldest and youngest members of the Regiment cut a birthday cake to celebrate the milestone.
The regiment was constituted on Feb. 2, 1901, in the Regular Army as the 11th Cavalry Regiment, and was organized on March 11, 1901, at Fort Myer, Va.
The 11th Cavalry first saw action while fighting in the Philippine-American War in 1902. The regiment was able to clear the island of Luzon of guerrilla fighters in about three months, but fighting, tropical illness and climate had reduced the regiment by about one-third. They returned to the United States in 1904.
During the years leading up to World War I, the unit would be called upon to assist with peacekeeping in Cuba and later to protect the southern border of the United States.
The unit was part of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing’s command during the Punitive Expedition into Mexico. Pershing was ordered to find and destroy the Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa and his army. In May 1916, a provisional squadron of the 11th Cavalry, under the command of Maj. Robert L. Howze, led a cavalry charge against Pancho Villa’s forces. It is believed to be the last cavalry charge by the U.S. Army. The unit would spend the war years on the U.S. – Mexico border to prevent any incursion into the United States.
The 11th spent the years between world wars in California, stationed at the Presidio of Monterey. The unit enjoyed a period of relative quiet, mostly participating in training and maneuvers. Some Troopers participated in weekend polo matches.
In 1924, a lightning strike hit an oil storage area and started a fire that would spread to the entire facility. With the fire spreading and oil storage tanks collapsing, the Troopers of Blackhorse Regiment successfully fought the fire and saved much of the city of Monterey. Twenty-four Troopers were killed and more than100 more were wounded in the disaster.
During the summer of 1942, the regiment was reassigned to Fort Benning, Ga. for reorganization. They were inactivated as a horse cavalry unit and reactivated as the 11th Armored Regiment. Units of the 11th Cavalry became the cornerstone of the 11th Cavalry Group, the 11th Tank Battalion in the 10th Armored Division, and the 712th Tank Battalion in the 90th Infantry Division.
Units from the regiment fought with the 10th and 90th divisions during World War II and participated in many battles, including the fight for Hill 122 and the Battle of the Bulge.
The next combat for the Blackhorse Regiment would come in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966. The unit would earn 14 battle streamers during their five years in country. Three Troopers earned the Medal of Honor for their actions in Vietnam, two posthumously. It was also during the Vietnam years the Regiment was authorized its distinctive unit patch.
In 1972, the Blackhorse Regiment was assigned to guard the strategically important area of the Fulda Gap in West Germany. The mission of the regiment was to act as a covering force for V U.S. Corps from any attack by the Soviet Union. The Fulda Gap offered the fastest and shortest route across the middle of Germany and the ability to seize important river crossings along the Rhine River. The Blackhorse would stand guard until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Regiment was reactivated again on Oct. 26, 1994, at Fort Irwin, Calif., for its current mission as the Opposing Force at the National Training Center.
In 2004, the regiment deployed to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 2nd Squadron deployed to Babil Province to conduct support and stability operations with the Mississippi National Guard. The 1st Squadron deployed to Baghdad and was attached to four different Brigade Combat Teams during its one-year tour. The Regimental Headquarters deployed to Mosul and assumed duties as the division headquarters for Multi National Force Northwest.
After the deployment to Iraq, the Blackhorse returned to the National Training Center. Today the regiment provides a near-peer armored force, as well as replicating an insurgency and local population, to give the rotational training unit the most realistic experience possible.