Recently deployed Fort Hood soldiers immediately began sending artillery rounds against the Islamic State group after arriving in Iraq in early February, according to an Army spokesman in Iraq.

Members of the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment “Steel Dragons” utilize the M109A6 Paladin 155 mm self-propelled howitzer to place precision explosive rounds on targets designated by Iraqi commanders, said media spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Jose Colon, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

“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.

Mosul, located in the northern part of Iraq, can see temperatures ranging from 32 to 50 degrees Farenheit in the winter months of December through February and can reach highs of up to 109 degrees in July, according to world-climates.com.

“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,” Colon said.

“They’ve fired illumination rounds in support of the (Iraqi Security Forces) 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 Steel Dragons — part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division — are supporting 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. They are currently located on a tactical assembly area with the Federal Police Headquarters.

Colors cased Feb. 16

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team officially cased its colors at Fort Hood on Feb. 16 to send about 4,000 soldiers to Kuwait for a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield.

The unit prepared for the deployment by completing training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in March 2016, followed by continuous gunnery qualification ranges to ensure all soldiers were certified to deploy, said Col. John Woodward, brigade commander, during the colors- casing ceremony.

“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.”

The brigade’s 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, Woodward said.

“These soldiers provide a critical piece of the ‘assist’ mission, which are precision fires in support of the ISF,” Colon said.

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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