In 2004, the unit was redesigned as the U.S. Army’s first modular Combat Aviation Brigade. Soon thereafter, the brigade deployed to Iraq in January 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. The brigade significantly increased its ability to operate 24 hours a day for an indefinite period of time providing an unprecedented level of aviation combat power to the division. The brigade flew more than 80,000 hours in support of more than 26,000 combat missions.
In May 2007, as part of the “Surge,” the 3rd CAB deployed to Iraq again, this time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V. During the Surge, the 3rd CAB was tasked with supporting the main mission of Multi-National Division-Center stopping the flow of accelerants into Baghdad. Over a 15 month deployment, the brigade completed more than 250 air assaults resulting in numerous arrests and captures of high value targets and other enemy fighters, and executed 5,700 MEDEVAC missions supporting Coalition Forces, Iraqi Army and local nationals. The brigade accounted for 64% of the Multi-National Division-Center enemy killed in action and more than 80 wounded in action. The brigade also moved over 205,000 personnel and 21 million pounds of cargo around the battlefield.
The 3rd CAB returned to Hunter Army Airfield in August of 2008, preparing for another deployment. Less than eight months after learning of the new mission in Afghanistan, the 3rd CAB, reorganized as Task Force Falcon, joined the surge into Afghanistan in November 2009. The arrival of the 3rd CAB marked a new chapter for the brigade and the 3rd Infantry Division as the Combat Aviation Brigade was the first brigade-sized element from the Marne Division to serve in OEF X. Task Force Falcon flew in excess of 160,000 combat flight hours and provided much needed humanitarian relief efforts to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On January 9, 2010, Task Force Falcon assumed responsibility of US Army conventional rotary wing aviation operations across Regional Commands – South, Southwest, and West supporting U.S. conventional and special operations forces, International Security Assistance Forces, and Afghan National Security Forces. The Falcon Team provided continuous attack, reconnaissance and security, medical evacuation, personnel and cargo transport, downed aircraft recovery, as well as deliberate and hasty air assault capabilities in support of ground forces. Task Force Falcon provided flexibility and freedom of maneuver to enable ground forces to extend their security operations and assist Afghan National Security forces with independent operations. Partnered missions proved essential in assisting Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to achieve its objective of providing independent security of the people of Afghanistan.
During Operation Enduring Freedom XIII, Task Force Falcon flew over 100,000 hours, averaging almost 12,000 hours per month during the height of the fighting season, and supported 625 deliberate operations, 2,000 MEDEVAC missions, and moved 4.9 million pounds of cargo and 15,000 personnel.
Task Force Falcon expanded the capabilities of previous units, while establishing their legacy through innovation and progress. MEDEVAC aircraft increased the use of critical blood transfusions during flight and added back wall medics and emergency critical care nurses to enable life saving operations. The task force completed the largest Forward Operating Base closure in Regional Command – South during OEF XIII – FOB Wolverine – ahead of schedule, while providing continued aviation support in Zabul Province. In April 2010, when a sudden hailstorm grounded 84 helicopters on Kandahar, the task force repaired all damaged aircraft within 3 weeks without a gap in air support to teammates on the ground, illustrating the unmatched dedication of Falcon maintainers.
While Task Force Falcon’s tour was marked with successes and progress for Afghan Forces, it was not without great hardship associated with the loss of seven Falcon warriors. As we continue to hold our fallen heroes and their loved ones in our thoughts, we remain dedicated to the mission to honor their sacrifices. Each of our fallen died as they lived: brave and dedicated to family, duty, country, and the security of Afghanistan. They will never be forgotten.