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81st Infantry Division, "Wildcat"

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The history of the U.S. Army 81st Regional Support Command began on August 25, 1917, when the 81st Infantry Division was organized at Camp (now Fort) Jackson, South Carolina. It adopted the name, "Wildcat" Division, from Wildcat Creek which flowed through the reservation. Legend also has it that the troops found a snarling wildcat on the banks of this creek.

The 81st Division began a practice which was unheard of in those days. A distinguishing shoulder patch - a black wildcat on an olive drab circle - appeared on the 81st Infantry Division uniforms, causing other units to protest loudly. The matter reached the attention of General John J. Pershing, who approved the Wildcat trademark. Moreover, he praised the espirit de corps exhibited by the 81st and suggested that other Army divisions adopt distinctive patches.

Those same World War I "Wildcats" distinguished themselves in the fighting in France, participating in the occupation of the St. Die sector and the offense at Meuse-Argonne. Again, the 81st received the personal commendation of General Pershing.

Following World War I, the "Wildcat" Division was deactivated on June 11,1919, at Hoboken, New Jersey. After the start of World War II, the 81st was activated in June 1942 at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and was committed for nearly a year in Pacific campaigns. The division was engaged in action in Peleliu, Ulithi, Ngesbus, Congaru, and Garakayo. 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, Georgia. 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 May 1968, the Wildcat patch appeared in combat once again as three ARCOM units were mobilized and deployed to Vietnam for a year.

In July 1988, the ARCOM received the prestigious Gen. Walter T. Kerwin, Jr. Award as the best ARCOM in the U.S. Army Reserve for training year 1987. In May 1990, the ARCOM Headquarters placed fourth in the Reserve Component portion of the Army's Community of Excellence competition and received a $75,000 prize.

In August 1990, 81st ARCOM units were some of the first Reserve units to be called up 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 resources, most of them serving in the Middle East.

When Hurricane Andrew roared through and devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, soldiers from the 81st ARCOM, many of them victims of the hurricane themselves, answered the call for disaster relief. The 81st provided engineer support for clearing areas, medical support, public affairs coverage, legal counseling services and other humanitarian assistance.

In January 1993, volunteers from numerous units again answered the call of duty and provided support to Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. Additionally; in March 1994, members of the ARCOM's 421st Quartermaster Company prepared and rigged humanitarian relief items in Rhein Mein, Germany, for airdrops into Bosnia-Herzegovina.

U.S. ARMY 81ST REGIONAL SUPPORT COMMAND
In April 1995, as part of the restructuring of the Army Reserve to better meet the Army's changing global missions, reduce command overhead for a downsized reserve force and enhance federal military support for domestic assistance missions, the 121st ARCOM was officially reorganized as the U.S. Army 81st Regional Support Command. The full reorganization process was completed 30 September 1996.

Under this restructuring, the 81st became the largest Army Reserve command in the United States. It encompasses an eight state area which includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. The command exercises command and control of over 30,000 soldiers and provides support to over 40,000 soldiers.

The redesignation is directly attributable to the successes the command has enjoyed in achieving maintenance excellence, command achievement, strength management and training awards. Most noteworthy, has been its selection as the best Army Reserve General Officer Command in which the organization earned the Gen. Walter T. Kerwin, Jr. Award in 1980 and 1989 and its selection for the Army Communities of Excellence Award twice, first in 1993 and then in 1994. In 1995, the command won the best large command ACOE Award.


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