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The HTTB and beyond

An Army post at the center of attention

The Light Attack Vehicle, also know as the Fast Attack Vehicle, was a concept tested on Fort Lewis in the 1980s. Some Marine and special operations units still use similar vehicles today. Photo credit: The Ranger newspaper

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Ninth Division soldiers and their machines were the big news in the early 1980's as officials began developing a revised future for the Army. Part of the new doctrine included assembling a light, mobile infantry division with the fire power to knock out heavy, armored forces.

In 1981, the 9th Infantry Division became that unit, ordered to test new technological concepts, structures and weapon systems of the Army under a framework at Fort Lewis called the High Technology Test Bed (HTTB).  Already the 9th had advanced systems such as the TOW and Chaparral, but the HTTB also gave them dune buggies and hang gliders.

One of the first systems they tested was MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) - laser tag for all practical purposes.  By the end of that first year, two- and three-wheel motorcycles were in full test mode, as well as a dune buggy, known as the FAV (Fast Attack Vehicle), a program later replaced by the Humvee in 1985.  A hotline was established at the time, and many of the concepts tested came from regular soldier suggestions.

By 1984, however, most of the testing ended (the last of it in 1988), and the 9th Division transitioned into the Army's first, and only, motorized division - again, a concept hoping to combine light forces in Humvees with heavy firepower.  

New units

The 1980s saw many more changes to the Fort Lewis landscape, beginning with the arrival of First Corps, known as "eye" corps, for the first 20 years it was here.  I Corps arrived October 1, 1981 under the leadership of Lt. Gen. John Brandenburg, as the 9th Division joined under its wing.  Eventually, I Corps would also command units not here including the 25th and 7th divisions, as well as Army Reserve and National Guard units across the United States, hence getting its name, America's Corps.

In 1984, the First Special Forces Group, still here today, took up residence at Fort Lewis, joining the 2-75th Rangers as tenant units under Special Operations Command.  First Group started on North Fort but a few years later moved to it's current location near Madigan.

In other news ...

Fort Lewis units were involved in a number of big stories during the 1980s to include sending our Rangers to Grenada in 1983 to free that island nation, where a few 2-75th Rangers died in a helicopter crash, then again in 1989 when our Rangers helped free the Panamanian people during Operation Just Cause.  Two local Rangers were also killed in that battle jumping into the airport.

Also, in 1989, Fort Lewis soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 9th Division, fought huge forest fires at Yellowstone National Park.  McChord also provided humanitarian aid during those fires.

Also at McChord, airmen traveled to Guyana to bring back the bodies of those who participated in the JonesTown Mass Suicide. That same year, after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, McChord provided communication to support the search and rescue mission.

Finally, as the 1980s ended and Congress was demanding budget cuts, the 2nd Brigade, 9th Division cased its colors forshadowing things to come for Fort Lewis.

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