- Associated Press - Sunday, April 19, 2015

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) - A new battalion has been added to Fort Campbell’s 101st Airborne Division.

The Leaf-Chronicle (https://leafne.ws/1DohGIT) reports the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment “Blue Spaders” unfurled its colors last week during a short ceremony at the sprawling Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.

The unit adds about 500 soldiers at the post, which lost 2,400 soldiers last year when the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade was deactivated.

It is the first infantry unit without an airborne background to be added to the 101st since World War II.

It is also the oldest unit in the division. The Blue Spaders were formed in 1900 while the 101st Division was founded in the early days of World War II.

James Michael Crain, who served with the Blue Spaders in Vietnam, said it was a matter of immense pride to see the unit reborn under the colors of the 101st Airborne Division.

He said the 101st took responsibility for the 1-26 area in Vietnam, though the units never fought side-by-side.

Even so, 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander Col. Peter Benchoff said in remarks during the ceremony that “we certainly fought close by, at Normandy, in the Ardennes, in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“What we lack in shared history, we more than make up for in shared purpose, esprit and honor,” Benchoff said.

The history of the Blue Spaders, named for their distinctive insignia, is told in pictures, relics and words along the walls of the battalion headquarters.

“We instill it in the soldiers, how old this unit is, how awesome their legacy is,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Bartel, the unit’s top noncommissioned officer who came over from within the Strike Brigade. “You incorporate that into the history of the 101st and you have something special to move on with.”

“I see this as a great opportunity,” said the 1-26th Infantry’s newest commander, Lt. Col. Ryan Wylie, who is charged with rebuilding the battalion. “We’re going to be as good as all of the members of this team make it.

“The opportunity to build a new unit in the 101st is unprecedented, and we have the ability to shape that unit into something great.”

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Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, https://www.theleafchronicle.com

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