The 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Field Artillery Brigade, was informed last August that it would deploy to support two separate missions: provide long-range, precision fires support against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; and build partner capacity with allies in the Middle East to strengthen stability and military relationships in the region.

Now the unit is ready to accomplish both missions.

The “Thunderbolt Battalion” cased its battalion colors at the Fort Bragg and XVIII Airborne Corps Noncommissioned Officer Academy Parade Field, Monday, to signify the beginning of its deployment to the Middle East.

Over the past year, Soldiers of the 3rd Bn., 321st FA Regt., completed high mobility artillery rocket system-related training, leadership and team-building focused events to ensure mission readiness.

In April, the battalion completed a culminating training event under the oversight of the forward-deployed 18th FA Bde. headquarters that recently returned in May from the Middle East.

Lt. Col. John J. Herrman, 3rd Bn., 321st FA Regt., commander addressed the Soldiers and Families of the battalion after he furled the battalion colors with retired Command Sgt. Maj. Antonio Guerrero, the honorary 321st FA Regt. command sergeant major, and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Russell, the current command sergeant major of the 3rd Bn., 321st FA Regt.

Herrman said the battalion has the ability to strike the Islamic State’s critical infrastructure, key terrain and safe havens.

“With each precise strike, we will render them weaker and make them question their resolution to their cause ultimately breaking their will to fight,” said Herrman.

The unit will further defend relationships and increase stability through U.S. Army Central theater security cooperation in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“We will train alongside our allies to better develop both theirs and our abilities to fight together,” Herrman said. “Finally, through their efforts with our allies, these Soldiers will ensure that the U.S. maintains the critical access needed in the region … and in any future conflict.”

Col. John L. Rafferty Jr., 18th FA Bde. commander, said the unit will continue the tradition of excellence as the unit did in its very first combat operation in World War I at St. Mihiel, France, 99 years ago.

Rafferty said the historic unit was a mix of new draftees and experienced Soldiers who fought in the Spanish American War.

“Looking at our ranks, for some of you this is your second, third, even fourth or fifth deployment since 9/11 … for others, it’s your first,” said Rafferty.

“But just like 99 years ago you each depart bursting with pride, confident in your team, and ready to do your part. And just like before, together you will write the next chapter of the 321st Field Artillery Regiment.”