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           545th Military Police Company, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)
 Fort Benning, Georgia

As of March 13, 2012

The 545th MP Company was inactivated 15 October 1957 at Hokkaido, Japan and relieved from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division. Their deactivation was short lived as on 15 July 1963, the 545th Military Police Company was reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division and activated in Korea on 1 September 1963.

In early 1965, the 545th Military Police Company accompanied the 1st Cavalry Division in rotation back to the United States. On 3 July 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia, the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of Gary Owen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved onto the field. As part of the reorganization, the 11th Air Assault MP Co. was re-designated as the 545th Military Police Company, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

Once again the 545th MP Company was with our beloved 1st Cavalry Division where a Cavalry MP Company belongs.


It was not one man’s dream; the notion of using aircraft or helicopters as the fast, new steed of modern cavalry. The efforts of many went into the formation of the first air assault division. More than a decade of flying experiments, equipment evaluations and development of new hardware and tactics preceded the conversion of the 1st Cavalry Division to the Air assault configuration. Tests were conducted with troop carrying helicopters and those equipped with a variety of machine guns and rockets.

At Ft. Benning, GA, in the mid-fifties, General John R. Tolson developed a tactical doctrine for the use of helicopters in combat and became one the leading, early pioneers in modern air mobility. Several other military personnel played key roles in development of missions, configurations, and weapons for air cavalry operations. Lt. General James M. Gavin, Chief of Staff for Operations of the Department of the Army, campaigned for helicopter units that could take over, extend and add great speed to the traditional roles of the cavalry.

Soon thereafter, at the Aviation School at Ft. Rucker, Colonel Jay D. Vanderpool assembled a “Sky Cavalry” platoon using borrowed personnel and equipment. The “Sky Cavalry” began giving impressive demonstrations of the roles that helicopters could play in combat. Heralding the era of the gunships, the “Sky Cavalry” carried and tested a variety of weapons and rockets.

Additional men and other organizations played vital roles in the development of the “air assault” concept: the Rogers Board, formed on 15 January 1960 and chaired by Lt. General Gordon B. Rogers; the Howze Boards, headed by Lt. General Hamilton H. Howze, a man with several significant links with the 1st Cavalry Division; Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Major General Harry William Osborne Kinnard.

The main mission of the Rogers Board was to review aircraft requirements of the Army in three categories: observation and transportation. The findings of the Rogers Board were fine as far as they went, but McNamara believed there was more promise in air mobility than the Rogers Board revealed. In the spring of 1962, McNamara ordered a panel of distinguished military leaders and civilian experts to re-examine the need of the Army. This panel became known as the Howze Board and it was granted sweeping powers to conduct tests, stage war games and study combat in various areas of the world.

The findings of the Howze Board outlined the requirements for an air assault division. Such a unit would have five times the number of aircraft of a regular division along with an extensive reduction in ground vehicles. After the report was issued, McNamara gave orders to field the air assault concept and run it through its paces in a tough series of field tests which would further reveal the strengths and limitations of an air assault force. The unit chosen for the exercise was the 11th Airborne Division, which was reflagged as the 11th Air Assault Division. It was commanded by Major General Harry William Osborne Kinnard.

The 11th Air Assault Division (test) was formed in February 1963 as a tactical training and experimental test bed at Ft. Benning, GA. At the same time, the 10th Air Transportation Brigade was created around an existing aviation battalion at Ft. Benning. Most soldiers had little knowledge of helicopters and their potential. Tactics, techniques and procedures had to be created as the division and test bed grew amid daily changes.

The first division-wide test, Operation AIR ASSAULT I, was conducted in September and October 1963 near Ft. Stewart, GA. Four major exercises tested the mettle of the new air assault division. Experiments and field tests continued. Finally in the summer of 1964, the division faced its toughest trail in Operation AIR ASSAULY II, an extensive two-sided maneuver against the reinforced 82nd Airborne Division in the 1964 North Carolina maneuvers.

The initial tests evaluated airborne command and control, assault doctrine, formation flying, suppression of hostile fire in landing zones by aerial artillery, air lines of communication and airspace control. The limitations of the units included poor ground mobility, vulnerability to armored attacks and operational vulnerability to bad weather and extended operations. However, the shortcomings of the Division were offset by its excellence in high-tempo operations, long-range capability and ability to quickly concentrate forces at critical points.

The 11th Air Assault tested its ideas and equipment in Vietnam. It formed, equipped and trained six airmobile companies to send into combat. Then, troubling events in Vietnam accelerated the decision to convert the 11th Air Assault (Test) to a combat division. The decision was initially made in March 1965. It was also decided that the new division would be formed around the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division. On 16 June, McNamara made a public announcement the Department of the Army had been given the green light to organize an air assault division. McNamara also stunned many observers, when he declared that the new division would be combat ready eight weeks after its organization.

The colors of the 1st Cavalry Division returned from Korea in 1965, but this new First Team was around only long enough to be reorganized and be re-equipped for a new mission. On 1 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated by General Order 185, Headquarters Third US Army, and was made up of the resources of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), the 10th Air Transportation Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Division. On 3 July 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Ft. Benning, GA the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of Garry Owen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved into the field and were passed to the commander of the former 11th Air Assault Division (test), Major General Harry W.O. Kinnard.

In parallel with the reflagging, the Division was reorganized with an authorized staff of 15,847 airborne personnel and fielded an aviation group. The divisional helicopters numbered 335, and although the Howze Board believed the number of ground vehicles could be cut by two-thirds, the Division was authorized 1,500.

The Airborne Infantry Battalion had one combat support company with reconnaissance, mortar, and anti-tank resources along three rifle companies. Although the battalion lacked 4.2 inch mortars and .50 caliber machine guns, they had a number of new weapons. The M14 rifle was superseded by the lighter M16, which put out more firepower and was supplemented by the M79 40mm grenade launcher. The question as to whether the airmobile division should replace the airborne division had not been resolved. Planners decided that one brigade of three infantry battalions and one artillery battalion was to be authorized airborne qualified personnel as an interim measure.

Anticipating the increased requirements, the Aviation School at Ft. Rucker, AL. held special transition class to teach 89 aviators the skills that they would need to fly the UH-1 Huey helicopter. In addition, another 120 aviators were introduced to the aerial weapons firing course at Ft. Rucker.
The end result being that the newly reorganized and re-designated subordinate units of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), information on the parade ground, had been restructured by the transfer of the equipment assets and specialized trained personnel of the following units:

On 28 July, the First Team achieved REDCON-1, a readiness rating of highest combat priority and on that same day President Lyndon Johnson announced to the world: “I have today ordered to Vietnam the Air Mobile Division.” Work accelerated to torrid pace as the First Team prepared to leave for its historic deployment. Trooper turned in their M14 rifles and qualified on the new M16E1. Specialized training was stepped up. The Airborne School at Ft. Benning graduated 659 new paratroopers for the division in just 10 days, which allowed the round out of the new airborne brigade which had just been approved.

In order to subdue the white name tags on faded fatigues, troopers used dark green dye and the legend has it that the Chattahoochee River ran dark green from the runoff of the dye used to camouflage the bright yellow, position revealing patch. General Kinnard, reroute to Vietnam, made a stopover in Japan to order a supply of black and dark green patches and insignia. This first use of a subdued rank and unit insignia set precedence for all units of the Army to use.

In a matter of three and one-half weeks the newly formed division, organized into a 16,000 man division along the lines of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), with a total of 434 helicopters, was prepared to enter combat, the ultimate test of its capabilities. An actual movement of personnel was called Operation PAT and was scheduled in three increments; an Advanced Liaison Detachment; an Advanced Party and the Main Body.

The first echelon to depart was the Advanced Liaison Detachment composed of 32 officer and men. Led by Brigadier General John S. Wright, the detachment left on 9 August and arrived in Vietnam two days later. Beginning on 14 August and for six days, the Advanced Party of 1,040 officers and men left Ft. Benning and along with their equipment and cargo of 132 tons, including nine UH-1B helicopters moved to Warner Robins Air Force Base at Macon, GA. From there, they were deployed by C-124 and C-130 aircraft of the Military Airlift Command. Flying via Travis Air Force Base, CA. Hickman Field, Hawaii and Clark Air Force Base, Philippines; they arrived in intervals at Nha Trang between the 19th and 27th of August 1965. Joining with the Advance Liaison Detachment, they established a temporary base camp near An Khe, 36 miles inland from the coastal city of Qui Nhon.

The third and final phase of troop and supply movement centered on the bulk of the 1st Cavalry Division departing Ft. Benning, GA and deploying by troop and cargo ships of the Military Sea Transport Service. Approximately 13,500 men and their cargo left Columbus, GA by train and bus to staging areas at port cities in the Southeastern United States. Six troop ships, seven cargo ships and four aircraft carriers were employed in the over water movement. The 2st Brigade loaded on the Unites States Navy Ship (USNS) Geiger, the 2nd Brigade and an Artillery Battalion loaded on the USNS Buckner and the 3rd Brigade on the USNS Rose. The remainder of the Division, including elements of the Support Command, Aviation Group and the various combat units loaded on the USNS Darby, Patch and Upshure. On 16 August, the USNS Bucker and USNS Darby departed Charleston, SC. The other four troop ships departed over the next four days from Charleston, SC. and Savannah, GA.

The 470 aircraft of the division were loaded on the Carries USNS Kula Gulf, USNS Croaton, USNS Card and the USNS Boxer. The Boxer, carried a total of 239 aircraft, fifty seven Chinooks (CH-47’s), four Flying Cranes (CH-54’s) six Mohawks (OV-1’S) fifty Hueys (UH1’s) and one hundred twenty-two Sioux (OH-13’s). On 11 August, the first of the carries, the USNS Croaton sailed from Mobile, AL. The remaining three departed on subsequent days. The USNS Card left Mobile, Al and the USNS Boxer and USNS Kula Gulf sailed from Mayport Naval Station at Jacksonville, FL. the sea movement through the Suez Canal. The other aircraft carriers and troop ships sailed west through the Panama Canal, stopping at the island of Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines.

On 3 September, following the departure of the sea movement, a second echelon of the Main Body departed Ft. Benning, GA. The 18 Caribou aircraft of the 17th Aviation Company took off from Lawson Army Airfield reroute to Hamilton Air Force Base, CA. The first and longest leg of the trip took an average of 17 hours and was completed without an incident. On 6 September, the aircraft departed for Southeast Asia with scheduled refueling and maintenance stops at Hawaii, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines, arriving at Vung Tau on 18 September. After a quick refueling stop, they moved on to An Khe.
Within a month of becoming the Army Air Mobile Division, the First Team was on its way to combat as the first fully committed division of the Vietnam War and the First Team’ Finest was there.

Note: Charts and photos in this article courtesy of the 1st Cavalry Division Association. Official 1st Cav documents and orders from the 545th MP Co Association Archives

Fort Benning, Georgia      11th Mp Company      545th MP Company


The songs played in this tab are old Civil War Cavalry songs, some of which are Confederate Cavalry songs. Keep in mind that many an old Horse Cavalry Soldier in the Union Army just after the Civil War had prior service in the Confederate Army. It was not unusual for the regimental bands to play Dixie and The Bonnie Blue Flag and other such southern songs during parades and ceremonies on cavalry posts just after the Civil War. This can be seen and heard in many movies such as The Generals, Fort Apache, The Horse Soldiers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. These movies were all pretty historically accurate as John Ford wanted it so in all his movies. Many of the Cavalry mounts were also captured Confederate mounts and they all recognized this music on parade. Cavalry mounts loved a parade and they usually perked up a bit for such events.


Sam Reinert
545th Military Police Company Association
626 1/2 South 9th Street
Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA
(765) 962 4627 phone & FAX