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Guard's 81st a century old

Raven forever

The 81st has served the state and nation for 100 years. Photo credit: Washington Army National Guard

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The Washington Army National Guard's 81st Brigade Combat Team will celebrate its 100th year of service to the state and nation Sept. 19.

"We celebrate the outstanding service of the 81st Brigade Combat Team, and the brave men and women that have served in the brigade, battalions, and companies throughout the organization's one hundred years of service," reads Gov. Jay Inslee's proclamation.

From 1917 to the present, the brigade has served in World War I, World War II and in Iraq with distinction in a number of roles, both on the state and federal levels.

As the country faces the emergent challenges of the 21st century, the 81st's ability to meet these challenges is evident as the brigade transforms into the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

"The brigade is flexible," wrote Col. Michael Weitzel, commander, Washington National Guard Homeland Response Force, in an email.

"Over the past twenty-seven years that I have served in or supported the brigade, the 81st has reorganized its structure numerous times."

The 81st Infantry Brigade organized Sept. 19, 1917, at Camp Green, Charlotte, North Carolina.

It deployed to France where it conducted training in support of the American forces on the front lines. This was vital, as many soldiers coming to Europe had not completed their basic training.

After the war, the 81st reorganized under General Order Number 5 Jan. 22, 1921, and was assigned to Washington State.

In the years between the two world wars, the brigade grew in importance. Of note, it participated in the largest active-duty/Guard joint maneuvers held in the Pacific Northwest.

During WWII, the brigade served in Papua, New Guinea, Luzon and the Southern Philippines.

As the Cold War warmed up, the 81st provided leadership during wild fires, floods and winter storms.

But after 9/11, the brigade became much more of an asset to the active-duty military.

"I can say that the most important event was our first mobilization in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from October 2003 to April 2005," continued Weitzel.

"I believe that event truly transformed our National Guard strategic reserve brigade into a military unit with a true mission and purpose."

As part of the Army's Associated Units program in 2016, the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the 7th Infantry Division were paired in response to the Army's force reduction, which was designed to increase readiness across all components of the Army and to further the One Army concept.

"We look forward to seeing this partnership grow and set the stage for how we will train, build readiness and ultimately fight together as one Army ... when our nation calls," said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, adjutant general, Washington National Guard, at the time.  

Perhaps the brigade's next century of service to the state and nation is foreshadowed in its former brigade patch.

The Raven is said to have created the moon and stars and to have brought sun and life to Earth.

Like the 81st has to the state of Washington.

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