Paladins support Iraqi security forces offensive in West Mosul

Soldiers deliver ammunition with an M992 supply vehicle at a tactical assembly area at Hamam al-Alil to support the start of the Iraqi security forces' offensive in West Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 19, 2017.The soldiers are assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team.

Members of the “Greywolf” Brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment are taking the fight to the Islamic State to help their Iraqi allies reclaim the city of Mosul, Iraq.

The “Steel Dragons” are supporting members of the Iraqi Security Forces from the nearby town of Hamam al-Alil, which is about 15 miles from Mosul along the Tigris River, according to the Defense Department.

The artillery soldiers began immediately contributing to the fight against the Islamic State upon the unit’s arrival in Iraq in early February by supporting the movement of the ISF into West Mosul by conducting fire missions, according to an Army spokesman in Iraq.

The artillery unit from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, supports all Iraqi Security Forces, but currently resides on a tactical assembly area with the Iraq’s Federal Police Headquarters and 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C., said media spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Jose Colon, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

“These soldiers provide a critical piece of the ‘assist’ mission, which are precision fires in support of the ISF. What’s notable about the Paladin weapon system is that they can fire in any weather, and that keeps the pressure on ISIS while maintaining the operation’s momentum,” Colon said Tuesday in an email from Baghdad. “All of their targets are decided upon by an Iraqi leader. Their fire missions, like that of all Coalition assets, are conducted by, with and through the Iraqi Army.”

The Paladin platoon is conducting a variety of mission sets, he said.

“They’ve fired illumination rounds in support of the ISF defensive positions during periods of darkness. They also contribute to counter-fire missions by targeting ISIS mortar locations and conduct precision artillery fire missions within the city,” Colon said.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team officially cased its colors Feb. 16 to send approximately 4,000 soldiers to Kuwait for a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Their mission is to support regional partners with operational missions, military exercises and theater security cooperation activities in the Central Command area of responsibility, which covers the Middle East.

Col. John Woodward, 3rd Brigade commander, is currently in the process of taking command of the Operation Spartan Shield mission based in Kuwait and is not yet able to comment on his troops’ accomplishments in Iraq, according to 1st Cavalry Division spokeswoman Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky.

Woodward expressed confidence in his unit’s ability during the color casing ceremony on Fort Hood, however.

“The brigade has had a rigorous train-up for nine to 10 months preparing for this missions,” he said. “They are absolutely ready to deploy in support of the Centcom commander and the entire Centcom area of operations.”

Along with the M109A6 Paladin 155 mm self-propelled howitzers used by 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, U.S. forces in Iraq use Himars satellite-guided rockets, Apache attack helicopters equipped with Hellfire missiles, warplanes and drones to assist their Iraqi allies in the attack, according to The New York Times.

The artillery unit recently lost one of its own cannon crew members in a noncombat-related accident. Pfc. Brian P. Odiorne, 21, of Ware, Mass., died Feb. 20 in Al Anbar province, according to a DOD release. The incident is still under investigation, and the Army has not announced how he died.

Fort Hood has a history of taking the fight to the Islamic State for nearly two years. After a year of facing the operational plans of Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland and the III Corps headquarters staff, an Army spokesman said the Islamic State’s capabilities were seriously hampered before MacFarland turned over command to XVIII Airborne Corps commander Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend on Aug. 21, 2016.

The degradation of the terror group’s military, cash flow and the land it controlled in both Iraq and Syria has left the XVIII Airborne Corps — III Corps’ replacement as the lead for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve — in a good place to begin the ultimate demise of IS, said Col. Christopher Garver, III Corps spokesman at the time of the unit’s return.

“III Corps has made a significant contribution to world security (and) national security,” Garver said. “This is one of the most complex battlespaces, complex environments, III Corps has ever fought in. We had forces fighting in Iraq and Syria — partner forces on the ground that were indigenous forces — the Iraqi Security Forces, Syrian Democratic Forces and other partner forces in Syria.” | 254-501-7554

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