Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina at Fort Bragg, the XVIII Airborne Corps, “Sky Dragons,” is the largest corps of its type in the U.S. Army and is comprised of almost 90,000 troops. Often referred to as “America’s Contingency Corps,” the XVIII Airborne Corps is designed for expedited deployment around the globe. The corps was activated in 1942, just weeks after the United States entry into World War II, as the II Armored Corps.
The corps was restructured quickly into the XVIII Corps in 1943 after armored corps were deemed unnecessary. When the corps was deployed to Europe in 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden, they became the XVIII Airborne Corps and assumed command of 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. After the Battle of the Bulge, the XVIII Airborne Corps took command of all U.S. Army airborne units until they returned to the United States in 1945 when they were deactivated.
The XVIII Airborne Corps was reactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on May 21, 1951, as part of the army build up for Korea and the Cold War. The corps would go on to serve in numerous campaigns throughout the next few decades, with their more notable battles taking place with their extensive engagements in the Vietnam War until 1978. After Vietnam, the corps would participate in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983, Operation Golden Pheasant in Honduras in 1988, and Operation Nimrod Dancer in Panama in 1989.
The XVIII Airborne Corps was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 as Operation Desert Shield began. The corps was the first ground force deployed and was part of the largest deployment of U.S. Troops since World War 2. By 1991, Operation Desert Storm kicked off the Persian Gulf War, and the Corps launched their ground offensive into Iraq. The 101st Airborne Division, the Air Assault unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps conducted the largest and most far reaching air attack in history. Along with the 24th Infantry Division and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with the 101st, contained the Iraqi Army and destroyed the Republican Guard in less than four days.
The XVIII Airborne Corps would go on to participate in a variety of campaigns and exercises in Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries throughout the 90s. By 2001, the United States’ Global War on Terrorism had begun, and the corps would play a vital role in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. They would continue tours as a part of the War on Terrorism including Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and 2008 and as a part of the Iraq War with Operation New Dawn in 2011. The corps went on to serve in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria from 2015 to 2016.