Tennessee’s 278th Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Friday, April 28, 2017 | 9:16am

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For 40 years, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., has been an essential part of the Tennessee National Guard and vital to the defense and security of the nation. 

This year, the 278th celebrates its 40th anniversary as a key component of Tennessee’s Guard forces. As the state’s largest major command, it is responsible for the command, control, and training of over 3,000 Soldiers drilling in armories across the entire state. The unit makes up nearly one third of the 10,000+ Soldiers currently serving in the Tennessee Army National Guard.

Constituted on April 29 and officially organized in Knoxville on May 1, 1977, it was built from various units in East Tennessee, primarily coming from the former 278th Infantry Brigade which was part of the recently dissolved 30th Armored Division. Mostly an infantry based organization located in East Tennessee, it started its conversion to a regiment in early 1976 and received its first tanks, the M-48A5 Patton main battle tank, in December of 1976.

By 1977, much of the organization was ready to begin training as a cavalry regiment. The first regimental commander, Col. Russell Newman, helped organize the unit before officially taking command on May 4, 1977. He was thrilled to have a cavalry unit in the state because he felt that it harked back to the state’s cavalry traditions during the U.S. Civil War. 

For the next 40 years, the Soldiers from the 278th have embraced their status as one of the few remaining armored cavalry regiments in the U.S. Army and have prided themselves on their signature black Stetson headgear. The unit was officially nicknamed the “Three Rivers Regiment” in 1982, because the unit’s headquarters is located in Knoxville at the junction of the Holston and French Broad Rivers that form the Tennessee River; it embraces East Tennessee’s militia heritage with its motto:   “I Volunteer Sir!”

The 278th has been critical to the mission of the Tennessee Army National Guard since their inception and have been involved in nearly every emergency when the governor or president needed Tennessee forces. In 2005, the unit was mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was the largest mobilization of state forces since World War II. It deployed to Iraq again in 2009.

The 278th Soldiers have also supported many state and national emergencies to include Operation Jumpstart, the Nashville floods in 2010, and the recent wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

The unit continues to be prepared for any mission required of them. They are currently training to make their third visit to the National Training Center, the U.S. Army’s premier warfare training center located in Fort Irwin, Calif.

  - Maj. Darrin Haas / Historian, Tennessee Military Department