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  • Paratroopers of the 1-509th earn their Canadian Jump Wings

    Paratroopers of the 1-509th earn their Canadian Jump Wings

  • 1-509th celebrates the victory against RTU in Deboiser.

    1-509th celebrates the victory against RTU in Deboiser.

  • A gunner provides a base of fire for the maneuvering element.

    A gunner provides a base of fire for the maneuvering element.

  • The Gunner of a local militia opens fire on RTU.

    The Gunner of a local militia opens fire on RTU.

  • Paratrooper pulls security.

    Paratrooper pulls security.

  • The Special Purpose Forces conducts a raid on a local town.

    The Special Purpose Forces conducts a raid on a local town.

  • An up-armored HMMWV suppresses the enemy from maneuvering.

    An up-armored HMMWV suppresses the enemy from maneuvering.

  • Paratroopers conduct Night URM.

    Paratroopers conduct Night URM.

Nicknamed "Geronimo", the 1-509th is considered the most hated unit in the United States Army. Why? Because Geronimo has been the Opposing Force, or OPFOR, for over 35 years. Apart of the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) and Operations Group (Ops Group), Geronimo is the Premier OPFOR Battalion in the United States Army. Replicating Light, Airborne, Mechanized and Unconvential Forces within the Training Center, AKA "The Box." Units must attend the Joint Readiness Training Center in order to be certified Deployable. However, just because units do attend JRTC does not mean they will be deployed. Instead those units attend JRTC in order to get better as a Brigade Combat Team. While Geronimo has begun switching towards a near-peer threat in order to replicate a Large Scale Combat Operation (LSCO), they have replicated Guerrilla Tactics.

Mission: 1-509th is the Premier Opposing Force in the World. We prepare units to fight and win as they deploy to conduct operations in defense of our Nation. 1-509th must provide the Army an un-paralleled, near-peer OPFOR that is unyielding and uncompromising on the battlefield.

Commander

LTC ThornalLieutenant Colonel Mason W. Thornal

LTC Mason Thornal was born at Fort Rucker, AL and was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in 2006.

His initial assignments included service in 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, NC and 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, GA. He then served as aide-de-camp to the Deputy Commander for Operations, Regional Command-South, Kandahar, Afghanistan. He completed battalion staff and company command assignments in 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), Caserma Ederle, Italy and the Regimental Special Troops Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, GA. His field grade assignments were in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, GA and the 75th Ranger Regimental Headquarters at Fort Benning, GA.

His awards include the Combat Infantryman’s and Expert Infantryman’s Badges, and he is a graduate of the Ranger, Airborne and Jumpmaster Courses. He has deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel.

CSM

Command Sergeant Major Stephen David Bouleris

A native of Albany New York, Command Sergeant Major Stephen David Bouleris enlisted into the United States Army March 21st, 2001. He completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Moore, Georgia as a 11B Infantryman and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, Fort Liberty, NC. His previous duty stations also include Camp Ederle, IT; Fort Johnson, LA; Baumholder, DEU; Fort Campbell, KY; and Fort Carson, CO.

Command Sergeant Major Bouleris has served in every Infantry position from Rifleman; Squad Automatic Weapon Gunner; Machine Gunner; Rifle Team Leader; Squad Leader; Weapons Squad Leader; Platoon Sergeant; Company First Sergeant; Calvary Regiment Operations Sergeant Major; Brigade Operations Sergeant Major; and Divisions G3 Sergeant Major. He has also served as a Senior Observer / Coach / Trainer at the Joint Readiness Training Center.

He is a graduate of all Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Courses to include the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, Class 71. He has also completed Total Army Instructor; Urban Master Breacher; SHARP, Combatives Level I; Airborne School; Jumpmaster Course; and Air Assault School.

Command Sergeant Major Bouleris’ awards and decorations include the Bronze Star (2OLC); Meritorious Service Medal (3OLC); Army Commendation Medal (V), Army Commendation Medal (5OLC); Army Achievement Medal (3OLC); the Presidential Unit Citation; Meritorious Unit Citation; Army Superior Unit Award; Good Conduct Medal (7th Award); National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; NCO Professional Development Ribbon (5th award); Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon (5th Award); NATO Medal (ISAF); the Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge; Parachutist Badge; and Air Assault Badge; and the Order of Saint Maurice - Centurion.

Command Sergeant Major Bouleris has deployed in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

History

WW2 Europe 1940-1945

The precursor unit to the 509th, the 504th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 1941, culling the recently qualified graduates of jump school. In February 1942, the 504th was redesignated as the 2d Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry. The newly minted paratroopers deployed to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for additional training. From there, they shipped out to England in June 1942.

In England, the unit fell under the command of the British 1st Parachute Brigade. During combat training, the Geronimos British brethren named them honorary "Red Devils" and granted them the right to don the red beret, which is still worn today.

While staging for Operation Torch on 2 November 1942, the unit was redesignated the 2d Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry. On 8 November, the 2/509th executed the first American combat airborne operation, and the longest in Army history, by seizing Tafarquay Airport in Oran, Algeria, after a tumultuous 1600-mile flight.

One week later, the 509ers ramped up for its second combat jump into Youks les Bains, near the Tunisian border. Linking up with Free French forces, the Geronimos set out after the German Afrika Korps. The French 3d Zouave Regiment honored the 509th with its regimental crest, a silver badge with a snarling hyena and the motto, "J’y suis – J’y reste" ("Here I Am – Here I Remain"). The badge continues as part of the 509ths uniform today. The 509ers continued operations against the Afrika Korps while also training MG Matthew Ridgway’s untested 82d Airborne Division.

The 509ths push for Europe’s "soft underbelly" began on 14 September 1943. With Allied forces struggling at Salerno, Italy, the 2/509th, under LTC Doyle Yardley, was ordered to make its third combat jump at Avellino, forty miles behind the beachhead, to cut German supply routes. The mission was disastrous for the 509ers, as the 6th Panzer Division tore into the descending paratroopers. For the next two weeks, small groups of men inflicted what damage they could to the Germans. Total casualties for the 509th numbered 123 killed or captured, including Yardley and his entire staff.

With future Special Forces innovator LTC William Yarborough now in command, the 2/509th fought with the 1st Ranger Battalion between October and December 1943 in the mountains near Venafro, Italy. On 10 December, the 509th was reorganized and redesignated the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

The next trial by fire for the 509th was an amphibious assault with the Rangers at Anzio, Italy, on 21 January 1944. Though initially caught off-guard, the Germans reacted to the Allied landings with brutal counterattacks. At Carano, the outnumbered and overwhelmed Geronimos staved off a German advance with continuous fire and, eventually, hand-to-hand combat. Despite being overrun and incurring heavy casualties, the 509th helped to prevent the enemy from overwhelming the Allied beachhead. For its actions at Carano, the 509th earned a Presidential Unit Citation, the first awarded to an airborne unit. CPL Paul B. Huff also became the first paratrooper to earn the Medal of Honor.

Making its fifth combat assault (and fourth combat parachute drop) into Southern France, the 509th pushed north with the Seventh Army from August and November 1944. In December, the Geronimos were dispatched to Belgium and assigned to the 3d Armored Division to stave off the German offensive during the Battle of the Bulge. Between 22 and 30 December 1944, the 509th held its position against powerful German assaults, incurring heavy casualties while inhibiting the enemy’s operational progress. For gallantry at Liege, Belgium, the 509th earned its second Presidential Unit Citation. After the Bulge, only seven officers and 48 enlisted men remained in the battalion. The unit was officially disbanded on 1 March 1945. Many of its survivors were dispatched to the 82d Airborne as replacements. All told, the Geronimos earned two Presidential Unit Citations, several foreign decorations, and eight campaign streamers (with five campaign arrowheads) for their service in World War II.

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