When you think of Army Information Operations, you rarely think of Infantry, Artillery nor Ordnance, but that is where the 56th Theater Information Operations Group started its path 100 years ago.
On Sept. 30, 1918, Company D, 3d Infantry was organized and federally recognized in Seattle. The short-lived infantry company was converted to field artillery in May 1921 under the flag of Battery D, 146th Field Artillery Regiment.
As tensions grew in the European and Pacific Theater during World War II, Battery D was called into federal service on Feb. 16, 1940 for mobilization training in Seattle. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the unit would conduct outreach to the community, preparing them for a possible attack in the Puget Sound area all while preparing to mobilize.
In Feb. 1942, Battery D, would reorganize for mobilization to New Guinea as Battery A, 167th Field Artillery, under the 41st Infantry Division. From 1942 to Dec. 1945, the men of Battery A would fight in Luzon, Southern Philippines and travel to Japan for inactivation and demobilization back home.
After returning home, the unit moved from Seattle to Vancouver and continued to serve at Battery A until a consolidation in April 1959. Battery A joined with Service Battery to create Company A in the newly developed 241st Signal Battalion with a focus on communications. As part of the 41st Infantry Division the unit worked alongside other Washington National Guard units, 1st Battalion 161st Infantry and 2nd Battalion 146th Field Artillery.
The 1960s would see a lot of changes for the unit, as it would undergo multiple reorganization, consolidations and moves. In October 1971, the unit would see one of its most important consolidations, as it joined together with 115th Transportation Group, to become the 116th Support Center, stationed in Olympia before moving to Camp Murray.
In August 1990, the world saw a new threat erupting in the Middle East, as Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi military would invade Kuwait, causing a reaction by the United States to mobilize more than 700,000 troops for Operation Desert Shield from Jan. 17, 1991 to Feb. 28, 1991.
Eight members of the 116th Support Center (Rear Area Operations) traveled to the Middle East on a 90-day tour in August. As tensions on the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border heighted, the entire 80-member unit was mobilized on Dec. 6, 1990 for a six-month tour in the Middle East. On June 24, 1991, all members would return home to Camp Murray. The unit was relocated to the Ellensburg, Wash. armory in Sept. 1992.
One more consolidation in Sept. 2006 prepared the unit for its future reorganization as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 56th Theater Information Operations Group, which was federally recognized in Jan. 28, 2009, under the 96th Troop Command.
As conflicts around the world changed, a greater need for synchronizing the non-kinetic battlefield began to take shape. Unit commanders were asking more from non-traditional warfighters, like public affairs, civil affairs and psychological operations. The Army noticed that Information Operations was becoming as important to the combatant commanders as traditional means.
During a major transformation in July 2015, the Washington National Guard found the perfect opportunity to stand up the 56th Theater Information Operations Group as a Brigade-sized element.
“Placing units with similar missions in the same MSC provides better opportunities to support one another,” said Col. (Ret) Curt Simonson, former commander, 56th Theater Information Operations Group said in 2016. “This benefits our soldiers, the Washington Army National Guard and the commanders we support in the Pacific Theater.”
The 56th Theater Information Operations Group, would now combined specialized units under one umbrella. Soldiers in the Military Intelligence, Special Operations and Information Operations career fields would work together for better collaboration and planning while completing their individual missions.
“Another commonality of these units is engagement in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Simonson. “A significant portion of the Washington Army National Guard’s participation in this region comes from special forces, military intelligence and information operations units. Bringing them together will make it easier to synchronize efforts in support of commanders in the Pacific.”