The military evacuated 11 soldiers from Al Assad Air Base in Iraq and treated them for concussion symptoms after the Iranians rocketed two Iraqi military bases earlier this month, which housed U.S. troops, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command said late on Thursday.
In the aftermath of the Iranian rocket attack, some of the injured were transported to Germany, while others were evacuated to Kuwait. (The airbase at Al Assad doesn’t have an MRI imaging machine that is used to detect traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion.)
Iran was responding to the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed General Qassem Soleimani and the Iraqi deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Immediately after the attack, both the Pentagon and President Trump had announced that no American casualties were suffered as a result. Now, certain television networks are alleging that the government, specifically the president and the Pentagon, were covering up to the American public the extent of the damage done.
However, oftentimes concussion-related symptoms won’t show up for several days following a blast such, as the one the troops were in. And in the immediate aftermath of a rocket attack, military officers and NCOs on the ground are looking for seriously wounded or killed personnel — this would account for the initial reports that all military personnel was safe and uninjured.
Immediately after the attack, all of the base personnel returned to duty and didn’t start to exhibit symptoms of concussions until well after. The Pentagon and Defense Secretary Mark Esper weren’t made aware of the injuries until Thursday.
Captain Bill Urban, the spokesman for CENTCOM said that several troops “were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed. 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,” he said.
He added, however, that although no U.S. service members were killed in the attack on Al Assad Air Base:
“in the days following the attack, out of an abundance of caution, some service members were transported… to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, others were sent to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for follow-on screening. When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following the screening. The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual’s medical status. At this time, eight individuals have been transported to Landstuhl, and three have been transported to Camp Arifjan.”
After the initial reports were released, which claimed that there were no U.S. casualties, an erroneous report surfaced and was often repeated, that the Iranians specifically didn’t target U.S. troops and that they were just making a show of force. However, senior U.S. officials have adamantly denied this.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley said, “The points of impact were close enough to personnel and equipment, so on and so forth, I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft, and to kill personnel.”
The U.S. allowed the media to tour the base and see the damage done to the buildings there. One barracks that housed around 40 troops was completely flattened. If any troops had been inside at the time of the attack, they’d have surely been killed.
Some reports surfaced that other troops stayed out of the bunkers to repel an armed attack that was thought to follow the missile attack.
Drone operators stayed aloft as well, trying to get as many aircraft off the ground and safely away from the blasts. One of the buildings that the drone operators were in was damaged during the attack.