11 US service members treated for blast injuries in Iran missile attack, military confirms

The injured service members were transported to Germany and Kuwait.

January 17, 2020, 1:28 PM

The U.S. military confirmed late Thursday that some American troops were evacuated for blast injuries sustained in Iran's ballistic missile attacks on bases in Iraq last week.

Ten service members injured at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq were flown out of the country on Wednesday, and another service member was flown out on Jan. 10. Eight were taken to Landstuhl, Germany, while the three others were taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

"While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed," said Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, in the statement released Thursday night. "As a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate are transported to a higher level of care."

"When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening," Urban said. "The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual's medical status."

PHOTO: U.S. soldiers stand at the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, Jan. 13, 2020.
U.S. soldiers stand at the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, Jan. 13, 2020.
John Davison/Reuters

Pentagon officials told reporters on Friday that some of the individuals did not report symptoms until several days after the attack.

"The symptoms of suspected TBI often do not fully materialize themselves until days after an injury and thus often require continued monitoring and follow on care," said Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah.

Because Al Asad does not have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on base, it was determined the service members should receive treatment at other medical facilities, the officials said.

It was first disclosed that some Americans suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the Al Asad attack earlier this week when journalists were allowed to tour the damage to the base on Monday. The Pentagon and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were only notified on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the bulk of the troops were evacuated, the officials said.

Esper then told the department to release the information publicly, said Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman. Staff at the White House were also informed of the evacuations, Farah said.

In the wake of the attack, which was done in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Donald Trump said no one was injured.

"I'm pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy," Trump said Jan. 8 in an address to the nation. "No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime."

But the officials said the president was likely not aware of the service members with TBI symptoms. Injuries reported up the chain of command are those deemed life-threatening or if an individual loses a limb or eyesight. Given those reporting requirements, TBI would not meet the threshold for the Pentagon to be notified of the injuries, and that's why the department was only told on Thursday, officials said.

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