Story by 1st Lt. Cara Belcher, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment

Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, and first lady Melania Trump, surprised U.S. service members and troopers assigned to 3rd Cavalry Regiment "Brave Rifles," Dec. 26, during their trip to Iraq.

Brave Rifles troopers, from Fort Hood, Texas, are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the enduring defeat of ISIS.

Service members were given the chance to meet with the president, first lady, and the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

About 100 U.S. Army Soldiers, U.S. Air Force Airmen, U.S. Marine Corps Marines and U.S. Navy sailors met at the dining facility to await the arrival of the presidential party.

Two troopers from Task Force Thunder, 3rd Cav. Regt., Sgt. Thomas Perez and 1st Lt. Nicholas Lister, were two of the first service members to shake the president's hand.

"He said, 'Merry Christmas' to me and patted me on the shoulder," said Lister, a troop executive officer. "What an incredible experience!"

The President and his entourage made their way around the dining facility to greet everyone, and posed for group pictures.

"It's not every day you get to take a picture with a U.S. president and his wife," said Ketzer. "It was a storied moment."

After speaking with service members at the dining facility, the presidential party then made their way to a hangar where even more service members waited.

As the president walked onto the stage with the first lady, troops applauded and many chanted, "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Melania Trump addressed the crowd first, thanking the troops for their service and sacrifice, especially during the holidays.

President Trump began his speech by acknowledging the units represented by the gathered service members, including Task Force Thunder, which was met in response with a thunderous cheer by Troopers.

The president said that it was no surprise that the booming unit was named 'Thunder.'

He also called out all members of the 3rd Cav. Regt., commanded by Col. Jonathan Byrom, and in response the Brave Rifles troopers in the audience cheered again.

The visit from the president and first lady was a rare opportunity for Brave Rifles troopers and service members deployed in the fight against ISIS to meet the President of the United States in person and to know that their daily efforts are seen far and wide, even by the Commander and Chief, of the United States of America.