In the months following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, Rainbow Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom while a brigade combat team from the New Jersey National Guard’s 50th Armored Brigade deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Rainbow Soldiers from New York increased their pace of operations by hosting a NATO exercise, integrating officers from 20 countries into combat units to establish a common framework for future multinational deployments. Rainbow Soldiers also conducted battle simulation training that would ultimately prepare them for federal mobilization in support for the nation’s Global War on Terror.
In 2004, the 42nd Division mobilized its first elements for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hundreds of New York and New Jersey Soldiers from the 42nd Division Artillery performed security duties in Iraq, and nearly 700 Rainbow Soldiers serving with the division’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry conducted combat operations as part of Task Force Baghdad.
In late 2004 more than 3,000 Rainbow Soldiers from the division’s base units led elements from more than 29 states as part of the Multinational Corps–Iraq, providing stability and support to the emerging Iraqi democratic government.
Task Force Liberty, based in Tikrit, Iraq on the site of a former presidential compound for Saddam Hussein, comprised more than 23,000 Soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams, the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team and the 278th Regmental Combat Team from the Tennessee Army National Guard.
Combined combat actions against the insurgency resulted in nearly 300 terrorists killed and more than 2,000 detained. Roughly 500 weapons caches were identified and removed from the region and almost half of all Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) directed against Rainbow Soldiers were identified and destroyed.
Task Force Liberty Soldiers conducted more than 4,500 raids and search missions and partnered with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to expand Iraqi army forces in North Central Iraq. Iraqi Joint Coordination Centers were established across North Central Iraq’s provinces and became the focal point for security, emergency services, utilities, healthcare, elections and education services for the Iraqi people.
Task Force Liberty Soldiers witnessed Iraqi provincial governments grow more effective throughout 2005, culminating in the immensely successful constitutional referendum vote in October 2005.
The Rainbow Division initiated more than 3 billion dollars in reconstruction projects in North Central Iraq and Task Force Liberty engineers were instrumental in completing nearly 1,400 projects worth over 750 million dollars. An additional 800 projects worth over one and a half billion dollars were underway as the Division returned home at year’s end.
Other Rainbow Division Soldiers continued their support to the Army at war with the mobilization of the division’s 86th Armored Brigade from Vermont in late 2004. The brigade formed Task Force Green Mountain, providing security forces for operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq through mid-2006.
The Rainbow Division reorganized along the Army’s modular lines in 2006, providing training and resource oversight for Massachusetts 26th Brigade Combat Team, New York’s 27th Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey’s 50th Brigade Combat Team, and Vermont’s 86th Brigade Combat Team, New York’s 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, New Hampshire’s 197th Fires Brigade and New York’s 369th Sustainment Brigade. These organizations bring their own history, lineage and heraldry of past achievements. Under the Army’s modular design for brigade-focused deployment and operations, these elements will continue to write their own unit histories.
In the fall of 2007, Soldiers from the 42nd Infantry Division Special Troops Battalion and division headquarters deployed more than 150 personnel to Cairo, Egypt. The Rainbow troops provided a command and control cell for Bright Star 2007. The division partnered with three dozen officers and leaders from the Egyptian army’s 9th armored division to form a multinational corps staff, overseeing a battle simulation for the U.S. Army Central and U.S. Central Command’s leaders and staffs.
Even as leaders of the 42nd Division trained alongside multinational partners, coordination continued back to New York where more than 1,400 Soldiers of the 27th Brigade Combat Team conducted pre-mobilization training as the unit prepared to assume the mission of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix in Afghanistan in 2008.
As the division’s 27th Brigade completed its preparation for deployment, the 42nd Aviation Brigade drew up plans to mobilize the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation in the spring of 2008 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Not long after,
New Jersey’s 50th Brigade received its alert notice to prepare for service in Iraq, mobilizing in the summer of 2008.
The Rainbow Division headquarters deployed again in 2009 to support multinational command post exercises in support of Pacific Command. The Division leadership and staff partnered with Japan Ground Self Defense Forces during Yama Sakura 57 in Hokkaido, Japan and Australian army forces during Talisman Saber in Shoalwater Bay, Australia.
The division mission to provide training and resources to maneuver brigades continues in full stride following the unit’s reorganization.
Soldiers of the 86th Brigade deployed to Afghanistan for combat operations as Task Force Wolverine in December 2009, returning home to Vermont in December 2010. The brigade provided training of Afghan forces and conducted operations against the Taliban in Parwan, Panjshir, and Bamyan provinces.
Soldiers of the New Hampshire Army National Guard’s 196th Fires Brigade mobilized on September 11, 2010 and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq for stabilization and security missions supporting Operation New Dawn, returning home in the summer of 2011.
Massachusetts Soldiers from the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade mobilized in the spring of 2011 for deployment to Kabul, where the troops operated everything inside the wire at 11 bases in the Kabul area, including construction, food, supplies, public works and emergency services. The unit returns home in the spring of 2012.
In 2020, over 670 members of the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters served throughout the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. The division headquarters, based in Troy, New York, provided the command structure for 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers making up Task Force Spartan, a U.S. Army organization under the control of United States Central Command.
Task Force Spartan supported operations in Kuwait, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. 42nd Infantry Division personnel also oversaw combat actions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The Rainbow Division headquarters further served as Central Command’s primary command effort for preventing COVID-19 from degrading soldier readiness.
The division also oversaw numerous training exercises with allied and host nation militaries as part of an effort to deter regional aggression and strengthen relationships. Training exercises varied from testing command-post capabilities to side-by-side maneuvers.
The 42nd Division began its 10-month deployment as part of Operation Spartan Shield in March of 2020 when it replaced the Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Division in theater. In November of that year the Rainbow Division formally turned over responsibility for task force command to the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army.