South Carolina and North Carolina troops arrive in Syria to protect oil from ISIS

North Carolina and South Carolina members of the Army National Guard’s 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, known as “Old Hickory,” have deployed to eastern Syria to help protect oil fields from the Islamic State, the Defense Department said Thursday.

They were sent to bolster defenses near oil fields in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. The units deployed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles which will conduct patrols near the Conoco gas field and be based with their Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces. That region is one of the areas in Syria where U.S. and SDF forces have worked together over the last several years to fight the Islamic State.

“They’ve been training for this for over a year,” 30th Armored Brigade spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cindi King said.

The units and armored carriers that moved forward into Syria will be used to conduct patrols and protect the oilfields, in order to free up U.S. special operations forces currently based there.

The increased U.S. presence near Syria’s eastern oilfields is to “ensure that ISIS is not able to regain possession of any of the oil fields that would allow them to gain income going forward,” Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday. “We’ve got forces at Deir ez-Zor, that is, we have brought in some reinforcements there.”

The deployed troops are from the 4th Battalion 118th Infantry Regiment, from Union, S.C., the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, from Charleston, S.C., and a headquarters element of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team from Clinton, N.C., King said.

Those troops, the 1-113th Field Artillery Battalion from Charlotte, N.C., and several others recently deployed to Kuwait.

The Army National Guard’s 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team is made up of units from Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. All 4,000 of the brigade’s soldiers deployed to Kuwait, and then smaller-sized units moved into Syria, King said.

Tara Copp is the national military and veterans affairs correspondent for McClatchy. She has reported extensively through the Middle East, Asia and Europe to cover defense policy and its impact on the lives of service members. She was previously the Pentagon bureau chief for Military Times and a senior defense analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She is the author of the award-winning book “The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story.”