The Aviation Brigade, 42nd Infantry Division, traces its heritage back to 1947 with the formation of a fixed wing aviation detachment of L-19 “Bird Dogs” assigned to Miller Field at Staten Island, New York. Ultimately this section of aircraft along with other aircraft from II Corps and the 101st Armored Cavalry Regiment formed the 42nd Aviation Company at Huntington Station, Long Island in 1959.
Four years later, in 1963, the units were again reorganized as the 42nd Aviation Battalion at Freeport, Long Island. By this time, the unit was equipped with O-1A Bird Dog and U-6 Beaver fixed wing aircraft. Over the next decade, the 42nd Aviation Battalion would grow, having ‘letter” companies assigned across the State and in Massachusetts. By now, the Army aviation division level units were transforming to rotary wing organizations. First, in 1968, the battalion received OH-13’s and OH-23’s. Then in 1971, Alpha Company, located in Niagara Falls, New York, picked up the first UH-1’s in New York, while Bravo Company, located in Massachusetts, also received UH-1 helicopters. These companies were mostly ‘Lift’, with ‘Delta’ and ‘Hotel’ model Huey’s. However, Alpha and Bravo Companies also had ‘Attack’ Platoons, comprised of ‘Charlie’ and ‘Mike’ model gunships.
Over the next several years and through several additional reorganizations, the 42nd Aviation Battalion, in 1985, had 1046 personnel and 125 aircraft that included AH-1 Cobra’s, and OH-6 Cayuse and UH-1 Iroquois. All division aviation assets were now under the control of the aviation battalion commander.
In October, 1986, with the advent of the “Army of Excellence,” the 42nd Aviation Battalion (Combat) was re-designated as the Aviation Brigade, 42nd Infantry Division with assets throughout New York State. Simultaneously, the 101st Cavalry Squadron was reorganized, receiving ‘Air Cavalry’ assets. ‘Charlie” and ‘Delta’ Troops came online with Attack and Reconnaissance aircraft. In later years, circa 1993, the ‘Air Cavalry’ elements went away. They had been replaced by new Army force structure, the 1st Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment (Attack) headquartered in Latham, New York (1989). Further aviation growth (1991) saw the Niagara Falls UH-1 unit transform into the 2nd Battalion 142nd Aviation Regiment (Assault).
In 1995, however, the Army’s “Aviation Restructuring Initiative” (ARI), once again reorganized the Army aviation community. During this reorganization, the 2/142nd was deactivated. The 1/142nd was moved to Rochester, New York and the personnel from 2/142nd fell-in on this Battalion’s Colors.
The unit received AH-1 ‘F’ model aircraft and began their transition to ‘Attack’ mission. Subsequently, the Latham organization, was re-flagged as the 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation Regiment (Assault), and received the first UH-60 ‘Blackhawk’ helicopters in New York. The 42nd Aviation Brigade (CAB) headquarters deployed to Iraq in May of 2004 and returned November 2005. While deployed the following elements were subordinate to the CAB: National Guard; HHC, 42nd CAB, 642nd Division Aviation Support Battalion, 1/105th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB) (NJ), 1/140th GSAB (CA), U.S. Army Reserve; 8/229th Attack Battalion, Active Component; 1/17 Cavalry Squadron, 82nd Airborne Division. In 2006, the CAB headquarters was relocated to Latham, New York.
With the end of the Cold War and the drawdown of all US military forced, the 42nd Infantry Division has undergone a major reconfiguration and redistribution of force structure and assets. The Aviation Brigade was no exception to this effort. Currently, the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade has units in eleven states. New York has aviation elements in Western NY: Dunkirk, Jamestown, Olean, and Rochester; Northern NY: Latham; New York, NY: Brooklyn, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma.