While a surprise order from President Donald Trump has top brass from the Pentagon scrambling to come up with a plan to pull 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, a large Fort Hood unit deployed to help destroy the Islamic State group and winding down its nine-month deployment is still in the fight.

Some elements of Fort Hood’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment, currently deployed to Iraq, have been in Syria during the current deployment, assisting in the coalition against ISIS, Fort Hood officials confirmed.

During the past couple of weeks, those Fort Hood soldiers were still firing deadly artillery rounds at ISIS targets.

“The crackle of machine gun fire and the dull thuds of distant explosions reminded 3rd Cavalry Regiment troopers at Firebase Saham that the battle against ISIS was not far away,” according to a report from the Fort Hood unit issued last week. Their mission: to prevent ISIS fighters from crossing the Syrian border into Iraq to escape the offensive in the Middle Euphrates River Valley by providing coordinated artillery fires against fleeing ISIS members.

“Not today ISIS,” Sgt. Doug Moran, a 3rd Cavalry Regiment gun crew chief, said in the report. His crew unleashed a volley of 155mm high explosive shells from their M777A2 Howitzer earlier this month.

Moran is one of the approximately 2,000 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers who deployed earlier this year to Iraq for the mission. About 200 soldiers have returned, but most of them are due back in January, which is the scheduled completion date of the deployment, the unit confirmed Thursday. It’s unclear if Trump’s announcement will impact that timeline.

Trump surprised U.S. allies and members of Congress by announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria, and as he continues to consider shrinking the American deployment in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon, roiled first by the withdrawal order from Trump and then the abrupt resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, offered no information about how the withdrawal will happen or how long it will take, apparently because they don’t know, according to a Dec. 21 Associated Press report.

Two officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning to the AP said Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, will submit a comprehensive withdrawal plan to top Pentagon officials in coming days.

Soldiers with 3rd Cavalry regiment have been lobbing 155mm rounds across the Iraqi border at a steady pace for about three months now, according to a Dec. 11 Army Times report.

The Fort Hood soldiers there now are only the latest to help in the mission to destroy ISIS.

Fort Hood issued the following release late Dec. 19:

“III Corps and Fort Hood Soldiers have twice led the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. During the most recent III Corps headquarters’ deployment, more than 1.6 million people in Iraq and Syria were liberated from ISIS control — including Raqqah, Syria the former capital of the so-called ‘Islamic State.’ We still have several thousand Soldiers deployed in the Middle East and elsewhere, they remain in our thoughts always — especially during this holiday season.”

III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Paul Funk II ended a yearlong deployment in October with hundreds of III Corps troops to lead the coalition’s ground war against ISIS. That was the second deployment by Fort Hood’s top headquarters unit for the mission.

Former III Corps commander, retired Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, led the first deployment of the Phantom Corps in this operation, known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, in 2015. Other units, including 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, have also deployed, engaging ISIS with barrages of artillery rounds and helping to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul and other areas previously controlled by ISIS.

jbrooks@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7468

jbrooks@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7468

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