Despite early reports that no Americans were harmed, 11 U.S. service members did sustain injuries in a ballistic missile attack this month that required transport for follow-up care, officials with U.S. Central Command have confirmed.
On Jan. 8, Iran struck Iraqi bases at Al Asad and Erbil, where U.S. and Iraqi troops trained together. The attack was in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike days before that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. While U.S. officials have not yet released a full accounting of damage sustained on the bases, it was described by President Donald Trump the following day as "minimal."
"I'm pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime," Trump said in a Jan. 9 address to the nation. "We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases."
On Thursday, however, DefenseOne first reported that 11 troops were actually hurt in the blast, requiring medical evacuation to locations in Germany and Kuwait.
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In a statement released late Thursday night, CENTCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban confirmed the reporting.
"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," he said. "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."
Eight individuals were transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, he said, and three were moved to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait for follow-on screening in what Urban described as an "abundance of caution."
"When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening," he said. "The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual's medical status."
In a Thursday briefing, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman credited military early warning systems with detecting incoming missiles and allowing troops to reach shelter as the strikes began.
Follow-up reporting, though, has made clear that missiles did come frighteningly close to where troops sheltered and operated. One Army drone operator told the New York Times "it was like a scene from an action movie;" photographs from the publication show the wreckage of a hangar and other structures destroyed by the blasts.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
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