The commander of III Corps and Fort Hood sat down on Friday to let those interested in the happenings of “America’s Hammer” know about the current state of the corps.
Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II was joined by his wife Beth, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, Copperas Cove Mayor Frank Seffrood, Fort Hood Good Neighbors and Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army Jean Shine at the meeting, along with the leadership of the “Phantom Corps” units on Fort Hood and prior III Corps commanders still living in the area. Leadership of the corps’ elements at five other military installations joined via teleconference to update those in attendance, as well.
“Now those of you that know me, I’ll probably get up and start throwing my hands around the room just talking, ‘cause I get pretty excited when I get to talk about this great outfit, and it doesn’t just reside here in Texas,” Funk said. “Forty percent of the (Army’s) combat force is here in this corps, and of course Gen. (Robert) Abrams (U.S. Army Forces Command commander) would tell you, all the money is here in this corps, too.”
III Corps units are spread through Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Carson, Colorado.
Funk started off by talking about the headquarters element’s recent deployment, when approximately 300 troops from III Corps headquarters deployed to Iraq in August 2017 and returned this September. The mission was to defeat the Islamic State group, and is still ongoing with the 18th Airborne Corps — the unit headquarters that replaced III Corps.
“So you have partners, allies, opponents, adversaries, mutual interests — you have factions, you have every kind of thing that you can imagine all occurring in a campaign where our strategy is to work by, with and through our partners while in competition with our adversaries and in competition with those that are trying to work on the margins,” he said. “You’ll see words like multi-domain warfare. What does that mean? Well that means that no one wants to take us on at our strengths. No one wants to take us on in a ground combat fight anymore. What they want to do is push us in all the various domains, in the information domain, in the air domain. This is the first time in recent history where we haven’t had air dominance.”
Funk said the U.S. now has to use all the other elements of national power — diplomatic, informational and economic — to cement the victories that have been made in Iraq. Unfortunately, Iran, Russia and other elements are attempting to establish some sort of presence in Iraq in order to erode the advantages the U.S. has gained.
“I think this is truly the first information war, where a very small tactical problem set is done on the battlefield to get a strategic information effect,” he said. “We in U.S. Army, and certainly we in III Corps, have to understand that and we have to operate in those environments.”
Combat operations against the Islamic State, in conjunction with Iraqi and Coalition forces, were so effective that it caused the Iraqi Prime Minister to declare in December 2017 the complete liberation of Iraq from ISIS, more than a year ahead of the time it was expected to take, Funk said. There is still an ISIS presence in Iraq, but it is now more of an ideology only.
“The way to peace there now is not through bullets, it’s through hope,” he added. “Speaking of hope, on the Syrian side you have the Syrian Democratic Forces and our great SOF partners, special operations (forces) partners, working to finish the last part of our mission to annihilate ISIS.”
But III Corps soldiers are not just in the Middle East fighting against ISIS — they are in 40 countries and on almost every continent, Funk said.
“At any snapshot in time, we have anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 deployed across the globe,” he said. “Another 18,000, 15,000, getting ready to go behind them and others coming home. It’s a constant cycle.”
Funk said that the corps’ power projection platforms — the installations housing III Corps units — are the anvils on which America’s hammer is forged because the units have to be “ready now,” meaning the corps must be prepared to go and fight wherever needed in the world at any time.
“We’ve got homeland defense missions going on, disaster response; you all if you would, just take a minute and think about the folks at Tyndall Air Force Base that have been devastated,” Funk said, referring to Hurricane Michael, which recently devastated parts of the Florida panhandle. “This is one of the reasons you always have to be ready, because we are America’s Army. We have to respond to the people of America and these are the kinds of things where we can help bring organization in support of other government agencies, which is a critical to all of us.”
Elements of the corps are also in Europe and Afghanistan, he said. And it is not just the brigades that are deploying, it is elements at the division level and higher as well.
“Our brigades and our units above, echelons above brigade, are going all the time and they are less manned,” he said. “Not less ready, but certainly less manned and perhaps not as well resourced, although we are working to fix that with, thank you, a budget that has passed and we’re ready to go.”
On the home front, the corps is working with Congressional leaders to gain funding to fully improve barracks, motor pools and post housing, Funk said. Many still in use were built in the 1940s and 1950s.
Currently, eight of the 10 armored brigade combat teams in the Army are in III Corps, comprised of 88,360 soldiers. There are 144 artillery pieces, 64 (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems) and 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. The corps has three of the eight Stryker brigade combat teams in the Army and four of the 12 combat aviation brigades, which include a total of 192 AH-64 Apache helicopters and 21 MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles.
Units within the corps do six combat training center rotations a year, and the division and corps headquarters will participate in three warfighters exercises this year, which are large training exercises.
“We did 250 joint exercises last year. We do quarterly gunneries, deployment readiness exercises, support to homeland defense, not to mention a little thing called cadet summer training,” Funk said. “I think this is half the number of the combat power (prior corps commanders) had when they were in command.”
The corps also has 1,008 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 696 tanks.
“So this is America’s Hammer,” Funk added. “It is big, it is burly, it is not exactly for the faint of heart, and when we show up, you know one thing — America’s now serious about what they’ve got going on. So that’s where we are in terms of the Corps today.”
Funk went on to speak about the resiliency of the soldiers within the corps and in the Army, and reminded those in attendance it was important for all who are affiliated with the Army to act as recruiters to bring the best and brightest of the nation’s youth in to become the future leaders of the Army.
“We need help in recruiting — we didn’t make our recruiting mission,” Funk said. “Why? We have less recruiters. We don’t have a recruiting headquarters anymore in Atlanta, Georgia. We don’t have any headquarters in New York City. The world is urbanizing, yet we pulled out of those big power places to find soldiers.
“So we need some help. We are all recruiters — we have got to show why being in America’s Army matters,” he said. “Only 27 percent of the youth in America today can even qualify to serve in uniform, mostly due to obesity. That’s a huge national problem.”
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