As it has been nearly every other year since the Global War on Terror began following Sept. 11, 2001, III Corps Headquarters is currently deployed. This year’s mission is to combat the Islamic State by serving as head of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Under the command of Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, the Phantom Corps deployed in August with about 250 soldiers. Known as “America’s Hammer,” the armored corps’ main mission is to oversee the military component of the global coalition made up of 71 nations and four international organizations committed to defeating ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria, Funk said via email.
“This fight we’re in now is unique in that we, the coalition, are enabling our partner forces as we work by, with, and through incredibly patriotic and determined Iraqi and Syrian warriors to defeat ISIS … and its efficacy is undeniable,” he said.
This is the second time III Corps has led this coalition against ISIS, and since the terrorist group’s peak in 2014, the coalition has made great strides in reclaiming territory and cities. Four years ago, ISIS controlled an area the size of the state of Virginia and exerted control over 7 million civilians, Funk said.
“However, today, as ISIS’ so-called Caliphate continues to crumble, life is beginning to stabilize throughout liberated areas,” he said. “Neighborhoods are recovering, schools are reopening and markets are bustling. Though there is still much work to be done, through our collective efforts with our partners, ISIS will be defeated. We will continue to work by, with, and through our partners to achieve this objective for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, our nations and all mankind.”
In December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared his country’s total liberation. Now, Funk said, the country is focused on winning the peace and establishing a stable and secure future.
“Although winning the peace is often harder than winning the war, this coalition continues to support Iraq as part of a whole-of-government effort to enable stabilization and prevent the reemergence of ISIS,” Funk said.
And while the headquarters is deployed until the fall, the subordinate units of the Phantom Corps are continuing with other missions outlined by the Army. The corps oversees not just the units at Fort Hood, but also those at Fort Bliss, Fort Carson, Colorado, and Fort Riley, Kansas. In total, it’s responsible for about 94,000 soldiers.
With a new president and a beefed-up budget, it’s expected that these units could see growth from the 7,500 more soldiers approved for the Army, said retired Col. Keith Sledd, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, a nonprofit paid by area cities to track Army and Fort Hood activities. The Army had faced challenges in the past few years, because Congress’ inability to pass a budget before the start of a fiscal year coupled with cuts required from sequestration and the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Now, with a “healthy” budget in hand, Sledd said the military is moving forward to approve programs and allocate resources where they have been neglected. That can be seen at Fort Hood with the renovation of 15 barracks and a motorpool. The total cost of these projects is over $150 million.
Another major priority of the Army from the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff — former III Corps and Fort Hood commander Gen. Mark A. Milley — is to improve the readiness of brigade combat teams and all other Army units.
About 80 percent of the active Army’s armored brigades are under III Corps’ command. In total, the corps oversees 35 brigades with a variety of capabilities. Twelve of those are brigade combat teams.
Part of readiness, Sledd said, includes going through all the mandatory training requirements and culling them to a more focused schedule that better prepares soldiers for deployment.
“Army leaders are looking at all training requirements to reduce administrative training requirements and allow time for more combat training requirements,” Sledd said. “These are all good things for our soldiers. We always want them to have the best.”
As for the corps headquarters, Funk said they will enjoy some much needed rest and time with family upon their return, before training and preparing for whatever mission the Army outlines for it next.