Pentagon: 50 Troops Suffered Brain Injuries in Iran Strike

January 28, 2020 Updated: January 28, 2020
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The Pentagon on Tuesday, Jan. 28 raised to 50 the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike earlier this month on an Iraqi airbase, the third time the number of injuries has been increased.

Days after the attack, the military said 11 service members were injured. Last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members were hurt.

Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that 16 additional service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. Of the 50, Campbell said, 31 service members had returned to duty.

soldier stands at a site of Iranian bombing
A U.S. soldier stands at a site of Iranian bombing, in Ain al-Asad air base, Anbar, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2020. (Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP Photo)

The service members were treated in Iraq, or at military health centers, including Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest U.S. military hospital outside the continental United States, and a U.S. military medical facility in Kuwait.

The troops were injured from the Jan. 8 missile strike on Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base, which Iran carried out as retaliation for a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s most powerful general, Qassem Soleimani, on Jan. 3. The military said symptoms of concussion or traumatic brain injury were not immediately reported after the strike and in some cases became known days later. Many were in bunkers before nearly a dozen Iranian ballistic missiles exploded.

U.S. soldiers and journalists inspect the rubble
U.S. soldiers and journalists inspect the rubble at a site of Iranian bombing, in Ain al-Asad air base, Anbar, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2020. (Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP Photo)

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, became a bigger concern for the military in recent years as medical science improved its understanding of its causes and effects on brain function. It can involve varying degrees of impairment of thinking, memory, vision, hearing and other functions. The severity and duration of the injury can vary widely.

The Defense Department has said more than 375,000 incidents of TBI occurred in the military between the years 2000 and 2018. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a severe TBI may lead to death or result in an extended period of coma or amnesia.