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SETAF Southern European Task Force

From: Mark Scott (ASA Vets)
To: Tom Harris
Subject: SETAF History
Date: Friday, January 26, 2001 9:02 PM
Thought the following might be of interest to the 75th/600th USASA veterans.
Mark Scott, ASA Vets


The origins of the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force lie in Austria and Camp Darby, Italy. In 1951, the U.S. and Italy signed an agreement that the U.S. would operate lines of communication across Italy, and that the U.S. would occupy land near Livorno. This land became Camp Darby, named for Brig. Gen. William O. Darby, who was killed in action in northern Italy, April 30, 1945.

All U.S. occupation forces in Austria were withdrawn after the Austrian State Treaty was signed in 1955. Under provisions of the agreement with Italy, Camp Darby was the base for the removal of soldiers, equipment and supplies from Austria.

With Austria neutral, northern Italy's eastern flank became vulnerable to attack. To reduce the danger in that area, the U.S. agreed to establish a force there; and, on October 25, 1955, the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force was activated. USASETAF's first headquarters was on Camp Darby, but the largest number of soldiers has always been in Vicenza. Shortly after activation, USASETAF moved the headquarters to Verona, to Caserma Passalacqua. Troop strength reached 10,000, and USASETAF was formally established with a U.S.-Italian agreement. (For information on the USASETAF Patch click here.)

In 1959, following President Eisenhower's visit to Rome, a third agreement brought significant changes to USASETAF. Italy's military forces had been re-established. U.S. troop strength was cut in half; equipment from disbanded U.S. units was turned over to Italy; and Italian Army personnel were assigned to the USASETAF general staff to assist with unique binational responsibilities.

The headquarters moved again in 1965 to Caserma Carlo Ederle in Vicenza. Soldier strength dropped to 2,500 in 1970 and civilian employment went down 70 percent in a unilateral cost reduction effort. The port opened by 8th Area Support Group in Livorno was returned to Italian control.

USASETAF's mission and geographical area of responsibility increased in 1972 when the command enlarged its signal support unit and took control of the 558th U.S. Army Artillery Group in Greece and the 528th USAAG in Turkey. These units had been in support of NATO since the early 1960s, along with the 559th USAAG, which had been a USASETAF unit in Italy since 1964.

With the assignment of the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne Battalion Combat Team) in 1973, SETAF accepted the missions of maintaining and deploying the battalion on its own or as part of the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land). The ABCT, with its own artillery battery, has been redesignated three times, with 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment (ABCT), serving in Vicenza since April 1996.

Until 1992, USASETAF was considered a logistical command. In addition to the ABCT and the three USAAGs, SETAF operated a major depot at Camp Darby with the 8th ASG. With its designation as a support command and later a theater army area command, USASETAF was to be responsible for the reception, preparation for combat, and onward movement of forces entering the southern region for general war.

Political reorientation of Europe in 1989 and 1990 caused major revision of U.S. and NATO military priorities. With the drastic reduction of threat of general war, SETAF received new missions for regional tactical operations as command and control headquarters for Army and Joint units. Its three artillery groups were inactivated and the two support groups became support groups with unique missions. The 8th Area Support Group's depot operation developed into the maintenance and issue of theater reserve stocks organized in unit sets sufficient to fully equip a heavy brigade.

In January 1994, an Infantry Brigade was established at SETAF to provide command and control of SETAF's deployable units. On 12 June 2000, the SETAF Infantry Brigade was redesignated as the 173d Airborne Brigade, continuing the proud legacy of this historic unit. The brigade mission is to operate as a separate, independent brigade; to fall in on a division as an organic brigade; and to operate as the Army Forces component in a Joint task force.

In August 1994, the newly formed brigade deployed to Rwanda on Operation Support Hope to aid millions of displaced citizens. This same operation saw portions of the USASETAF headquarters deploy for the first time in history, as the nucleus of the Joint Task Force Headquarters.

By December 1995, Operation Joint Endeavor was in its initial stages. SETAF demonstrated its role as the theater's reaction force by deploying as the lead element of the peace implementation forces into Bosnia-Herzegovina. After being relieved in-place by the 1st Armored Division in March 1996, SETAF units redeployed to Vicenza. After returning, the 3-325 ABCT was redesignated as the 1-508th ABCT, "Red Devils."

April 1996 proved to be exceptionally busy. Elements of the SETAF Infantry Brigade deployed to Dubrovnik, Croatia to secure the crash site of Treasury Secretary Brown's plane. Another company-plus deployed to Monrovia, Liberia with special operations forces to facilitate noncombatant evacuation operations.

In November 1996, portions of the SETAF-led Joint Task Force Guardian Assistance deployed to Uganda and Rwanda to assess the needs of Rwandan refugees in Zaire. When refugees began returning to Rwanda, the mission changed to verifying refugee numbers and informing Rwanda and assistance agencies.

A SETAF-led JTF headquarters deployed again in March 1997 as part of Operation Guardian Retrieval. The mission was to establish an enabling force in Congo in preparation for the potential evacuation of non-combatants from Zaire. The JTF redeployed upon a peaceful government transition in Zaire.

SETAF provided reception, staging and movement support to TF Hawk during Operation Allied Force in the spring of 1999 and to deploying KFOR units later in the year. From March to July of 1999, SETAF assumed the strategic reserve mission for the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Strategic Reserve, a combined force comprised of U.S., Italian, Turkish, Polish, Romanian and Dutch units, stood ready to respond if events warranted the reinforcement of that critical mission.

On 1 October 1999, SETAF demonstrated its rapid response capability when the SETAF Infantry Brigade and the 1-508 ABCT executed Operation Rapid Guardian, parachuting into southern Kosovo to show U.S. resolve and commitment to the KFOR peacekeeping mission. Two weeks later the SETAF Infantry Brigade and the 1-508 ABCT deployed to Bosnia for Operation Rapid Resolve, further demonstrating our rapid deployment capability.

  • Later in October 1999, SETAF demonstrated its ability to form a JTF when it was given the mission to be the JTF core of a major contingency planning operation, Skilled Anvil. From October 1999 to February 2000, this JTF developed a comprehensive and executable war plan for use in EUCOM's potential crisis areas.
  • SETAF is an instrumental part of the European Command's theater engagement strategy, participating in combined exercises in Morocco, Tunisia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Ukraine and Hungary. SETAF remains a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army, Europe. With approximately 2,500 soldiers assigned or in tenant support units, USASETAF is the largest U.S. Army force south of the Alps in Europe, with responsibilities throughout the Southern Region and the Mediterranean area.


    • BG J. H. Michaelis Oct 1955 Oct 1956
    • MG H. H. Fischer Oct 1956 Oct 1958
    • MG John P. Daley Oct 1958 Oct 1960
    • MG Eugene F. Cardwell Nov 1960 Jul 1962
    • MG H. A. Gerhardt Sep 1962 Aug 1964
    • MG George W. Power Aug 1964 Jul 1967
    • MG E. H. Almquist, Jr. Aug 1967 May 1968
    • MG John S. Hughes May 1968 Feb 1969
    • MG Robert E. Coffin Apr 1969 May 1971
    • MG Robert C. McAlister Jul 1971 Apr 1973
    • MG W. H. Vinson, Jr. Apr 1973 Jul 1975
    • MG George W. Putnam, Jr. Jul 1975 Sep 1977
    • MG William R. Wolfe, Jr. Sep 1977 Sep 1979
    • MG George L. McFadden, Jr. Sep 1979 Jul 1982
    • MG Roderick D. Renick, Jr. Jul 1982 Aug 1984
    • MG Harold M. Davis, Jr. Aug 1984 Jul 1987
    • MG Lincoln Jones III Jul 1987 Aug 1990
    • MG James A. Musselman Aug 1990 Jul 1992
    • MG David J. Baratto Jul 1992 Jun 1994
    • MG Jack P. Nix, Jr. Jun 1994 Sep 1996
    • MG Edwin P. Smith Sep 1996 Sep 1998
    • MG Paul T. Mikolashek Sep 1998 Jun 2000


    The U.S. Army Southern European Task Force (Airborne) shoulder patch, like other insignia of the United States Army, is derived from medieval coats of arms and the standards carried by the legions of Rome. The array of American military insignia is a colorful index to the origins and history of our nation. Few are as rich in historic tradition as the shoulder patch of USASETAF.

    The background of the insignia is a shield bearing the red, white and blue of the national colors. Previously there was a red tab with the word SETAF superimposed above the shield. Since the emblem had become well known throughout Italy, it was decided in May 1962 that the tab was an unnecessary embellishment. From that date it no longer has been a part of the shoulder patch worn by members of USASETAF, but still appears in other uses.

    Superimposed in gold on the red, white and blue escutcheons is the winged Lion of St. Mark above a gold bar. The history of the Lion of St. Mark which appears on the various insignia of all NATO units in Italy spans more than 2,000 years of recorded time and touches upon some of the most significant developments in western civilization.

    In ancient times, it was believed that lions were born dead and that the came alive after three days when live was breathed into them by their sires. The lion became a symbol of St. Mark because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a dominant theme in his gospel. St. Mark also preached the royal descent of Jesus from the Hebrew kings, whose emblem was the Lion of Judah. This symbol, with wings to denote the evangelist's divine mission, has represented St. Mark in painting and sculpture since the earliest days of Christianity.

    The Lion of St. Mark holds an open book under his raised paw the Latin words "Pax Tibi Marco Evangelista Meus" -- "Peace to thee Mark, My Evangelist." Often the lion is depicted with a pen and inkpot. These denote the fact that St. Mark was St. Peter's secretary and is said to have written his gospel according to the accounts given by Peter.

    SETAF - Lots of missile stuff, maneuvers etc., about 28.5 minutes in length.

    The SETAF story by The Big Picture