On THURS 30 JAN 2020 the U.S. Department of Defense reported that an additional 14 more U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) since the 08 JAN 2020 Iranian missile attacks targeting U.S. forces at two Iraqi bases earlier this month. The Pentagon’s acknowledgement of these additional 14 incidences of combat wounded service men and women brings the total number of casualties related to the missile strike to 64.
Of the service members injured in the missile attack, 39 have since been returned to duty. The Pentagon characterized all 64 affected service members as having been diagnosed with “mild traumatic brain injury.”
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can include several varying symptoms including concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The updated number of casualties are yet another increase from previously disclosed casualty figures. The Pentagon had earlier reported that 50 service members had been diagnosed as combat-wounded as a result of the missile attacks. News outlets had reported the increase earlier THURS 23 JAN 2020.
In a statement, U.S. Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, underscored the Department of Defense’s stated commitment to caring for combat-wounded service men and women: “We’ll continue to monitor them the rest of their lives, actually, and continue to provide whatever treatment is necessary, and we take great pride in the fact that these are our own and we’re going to take care of them.”
General Milley further expressed that the base that was attacked, Ain al-Asad air base, contained thousands of souls, and that those within distance of the blast were medically evaluated.
General Milley clarified “All of those people were screened, and we’ve got a certain number, and then the number’s growing,” he said. General Milley added that traumatic brain injury can take time to manifest itself, and he reinforced that medical screening efforts have been ongoing.
The grievous injuries to U.S. service members were initially diagnosed in the immediate aftermath of the 08 JAN 2020 Iranian ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces. The attacks came in direct retaliation for the United States’ drone attack killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was commander of its elite Quds Force, outside Baghdad’s airport.
Twenty-one of the injured U.S. service members have since been transported to U.S. forces’ Landstuhl Regional Health Command Europe — MEDDAC, Germany for further evaluation and treatment for TBI, U.S. Army LTC Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement on THURS 23 JAN 2020.
Eight of the combat wounded service members have been returned to the U.S., and nine others of the wounded are scheduled to return. Two of the wounded service members were awaiting transportation to Germany from Iraq, and two others who had been transported to Kuwait for medical reasons other than traumatic brain injury but have since been diagnosed with TBI are currently awaiting transportation to Germany, LTC Campbell said.
The day after the Iranian attack, President Donald Trump proclaimed that no one was killed, and no one had been hurt. However, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, updated President Trump’s rather premature (if not intentionally inaccurate) initial casualty summation by stating that often times, many TBI symptoms do not present themselves immediately, and some TBI symptoms manifest themselves over time.
President Trump addressed reporters in Davos, Switzerland, last week stating that “I heard they had headaches” and that “I can report it is not very serious.”
“I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen,” President Trump said. The president further expressed “I’ve seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops” and that “I’ve seen people that were horribly, horribly injured in that area, that war.”
President Trump’s remarks were met with vocal pushback from veteran’s service organizations. William “Doc” Schmitz, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, voiced a strong and palpable sense of umbrage by stating that he felt that President Trump, by his dismissive and ill-informed words at Davos, minimized the seriousness of troops’ injuries. Commander Schmitz further stated that he expected an apology from the president open the matter of the president’s insensitivity and ignorance on the matter.
Schmitz forcefully stated that “TBI is a serious injury and one that cannot be taken lightly. TBI is known to cause depression, memory loss, severe headaches, dizziness and fatigue — all injuries that come with both short- and long-term effects,” in words issued on FRI 24 JAN 2020. Schmitz referred to President Trump’s comments as misguided.
In an effort to perhaps “clean-up” after the flare-up that President Trump’s dismissive TBI statements created, Defense Secretary Mark Esper attempted to stress the pro-active posture of the Pentagon on such matters by stating that the “DOD is a leading contributor in the treatment and research of brain-related trauma. We do everything we can to identify, treat and help our service members recover and return to duty.”
LTC Campbell, perhaps aware of strident criticism from some quarters of American society relative to the DoD’s perceived inability to reliably provide timely and accurate casualty reporting information, stated on THURS 23 JAN that the Defense Department “remains committed to providing the American people timely and accurate information about the care and treatment of our service members.”
Of the two Iraqi bases where U.S. service members were stationed that were targeted, the U.S. military confirmed in a statement on THURS 23 JAN that all of the TBI cases resulted from the missile strike attacks on the Ain al-Asad base. The Centers for Disease Control’s website informs that some symptoms of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can appear right away but that other symptoms might not be noticed for days or months.
Traumatic Brain Injury affects as many as 323,000 service members, TBI is clinically described as a serious wound to the head that can lead to concussions, seizures and even permanent incapacitation at its worst. President Trump’s comments were deemed by many as coming across as being grossly uninformed and sadly ignorant to the real trauma that so many face as a result of being exposed to the violent trauma of war time exposure. Others took the comments as being blatantly disrespectful of our wounded warriors, many of whom suffer daily with TBI.
The Pentagon characterized all 64 as having been diagnosed with “mild traumatic brain injury.”