A new Marine Corps artillery unit is supporting friendly forces in Syria that are isolating Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital, said Army Maj. Josh T. Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.
Jacques declined to identify the unit now in Syria, but the Defense Department has previously announced that the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit is in the region on a scheduled deployment with the Bataan amphibious ready group.
On April 23, the 24th MEU posted a picture on its Facebook page showing Marines assigned to Fox Battery, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines firing M777 A2 howitzers at an artillery range outside Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
The artillery unit recently replaced about 400 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which provided artillery support to Kurdish and Syrian Arab forces expected to launch an offensive against Raqqa, officials said.
Those Marines are expected to return to Camp Pendleton, California, this week after a seven-month deployment, said 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas. The bulk of the MEU arrived at Pendleton between May 11 and 13.
The size of the new artillery unit is roughly the same as the contingent of artillery Marines from the 11th MEU, said Jacques, who declined to comment on how long the unit would be in Syria.
"They are providing support, on a temporary basis, across the combined joint operations area that the commander needs to ensure a lasting defeat for ISIS," Jacques said. "This support is similar to what the 11th MEU provided before and will continue to be adjusted as conditions change on the ground."
Meanwhile, two Marine-led task forces in Iraq are helping to coordinate air and artillery strikes for Iraqi security forces fighting to drive ISIS out of Mosul, Jacques said.
Last year, a task force of about 180 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit spent fired more than 2,000 artillery rounds from their howitzers to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting in Mosul. Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed and eight other Marines were wounded in March 19, 2016 attack on the Marines' firebase.