U.S. Strikes Iran-Backed Group That Hit American Troops In Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. launched airstrikes in Iraq, targeting the Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed responsible for the rocket attack that killed and wounded American and British troops at a base north of Baghdad, the Pentagon said.

U.S. officials said multiple strikes by U.S. fighter jets on Thursday hit five locations and mainly targeted Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities inside Iraq. A Defense Department statement said the strikes targeted five weapons storage facilities “to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks.”

The strikes marked a rapid escalation in tensions with Tehran and its proxy groups in Iraq, just two months after Iran carried out a massive ballistic missile attack against American troops at a base in Iraq. They came just hours after top U.S. defense leaders threatened retaliation for the Wednesday rocket attack, making clear that they knew who did it and that the attackers would be held accountable.

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Soldier, airman identified as U.S. troops killed in rocket attack on Iraq base

The military on Friday identified the two U.S. troops killed in a rocket attack on Camp Taji in Iraq as Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, 27, of Hanford, California and Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, 28, of Owasso, Oklahoma.

Mendez Covarrubias was assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Roberts was assigned to 219th Engineering Installation Squadron of the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing.

The third service member killed in the attack, U.K. Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon, 26, was previously identified by the British military.

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DOD Halts Travel To, From COVID-19 Affected Countries

In response to the growing coronavirus epidemic, Defense Department officials are looking to safeguard the health and safety of military and civilian personnel and their families.

“The department is committed to doing our part in the administration’s comprehensive fight against the coronavirus by enhancing the safety of our personnel, helping them stay healthy, and making sure they’re able to continue executing the mission,” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said during a Pentagon news conference this morning.

Last night, Esper issued a memo entitled “Travel Restriction for DOD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019.”

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The U.S. Military Academy’s Coronavirus Guidance

As you have likely observed in recent news reports, COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the Department of Defense (DoD), continue to assess the risks to provide guidance on the spread of the virus and the U.S. Government response. The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Army Garrison at West Point are closely monitoring the situation.

Due to the significant changes regarding the health risks associated with COVID-19, the U.S. Military Academy will delay the return of the Corps of Cadets from spring break until March 29, 2020. We continue to encourage our cadets, staff and faculty to practice heightened hygiene measures. Some of the planned precautions include: 

Individual screening  
Isolation for those who have traveled to specific areas of concern 
Implementing social distancing measures  
Remote learning  
Cadets should remain in contact with their chain of command for instructions on returning to the academy and reporting of travel. Staff and faculty should contact their supervisors for the latest information regarding their work status. If you do not feel well or are experiencing flu like symptoms, do not come to work.

The U.S. Military Academy will be temporarily closed to visitors beginning Friday evening, March 13, until further notice.

Please check this link to the Academy’s Coronavirus Guidance regularly for updates

Travel Restrictions for DoD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019

CLICK HERE FOR FULL MEMORANDUM

Two US troops, 1 coalition member killed, as more than 15 rockets slam Iraqi base

Two U.S. service members and a troop from a coalition partner nation were killed in a rocket attack in Iraq, a Defense Department official told Military Times Wednesday.

The official said that there were also about a dozen people were injured in a volley of 18 rockets that hit Iraq’s Camp Taji base.

Shortly after the attack news reports emerged that the third person killed was a UK national. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that the government is “aware of an incident involving UK service personnel at Camp Taji, Iraq. An investigation is underway, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Camp Taji, located just north of Baghdad, has been used as a training base for a number of years. There are as many as 6,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, training and advising Iraqi forces and conducting counterterrorism missions.

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Judge orders medical panel for ’20th hijacker’ at Guantanamo

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has ordered that an independent medical panel conduct a review of the mental health of a Saudi prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who has been accused of trying to enter the U.S. to be the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mohammed al-Qahtani has been held at Guantanamo for 18 years but never charged because a Pentagon legal official determined he had been tortured at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Lawyers for al-Qahtani say he has suffered from mental illness, including schizophrenia, since childhood and should be returned home to Saudi Arabia for psychiatric confinement and treatment. The government opposes repatriation and says he can be treated at Guantanamo.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer directed the government to set up a Mixed Medical Commission. It would consist of an American military doctor along with two physicians from a neutral third country to determine if his condition meets the standard for required medical repatriation according to Army regulations governing the treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

It would be the first time such a commission has been ordered at Guantanamo but Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the 45-year-old prisoner, said a similar process was used for thousands of captured German troops during World War II.

“It is something that is part of the traditional make up of military detention,” Kadidal said. “It’s not something novel. It’s in the Army’s own regs.”

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US Army takes 40-mile shots from extended-range cannon in demo

The U.S. Army took two shots from its Extended Range Cannon Artillery system, which both reached 65 kilometers in range and hit their intended targets, in a demonstration at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, on March 6, according to Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, who is in charge of long-range precision fires modernization, the Army’s top priority.

The demonstration proves the cannon is capable of firing roughly 40 miles, which is about the distance between Washington, D.C., and Annapolis, Maryland. The capability would also benefit the service should it face near-peer adversaries on the battlefield.

It is unclear whether the Army was pushing its shots out to the maximum range of capability or if the projectiles are capable of reaching farther ranges.

A long-range cannon is intended to give the service a desired level of standoff outside of the range of enemy artillery, where it can destroy those threats and open up windows of opportunity to advance on the enemy in highly contested environments.

The Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team under Army Futures Command has made the ERCA system development one of its centerpiece priorities over the past several years.

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DOD Official Says There’s Progress on Privatized Housing Improvements

Providing quality housing to families is the Defense Department’s highest priority, a DOD official said today.

Privatized housing is located on installations, and about 30% of military members and their families reside there. Most of the remaining military personnel live off-post or in barracks for single people.

In the past, the department “took its eye off the ball” overseeing privatized housing on installations, the official said.

However, the housing today is in much better condition than it was, but more work remains, the official said.

The official said some improvements include:

  • Publication and implementation of a Tenant Bill of Rights
  • Improved communications and transparency with service members, lawmakers and the public
  • Additional personnel to oversee the success of housing improvements
  • Improved housing inspection
  • Focusing the attention of leadership and landlords on helping residents achieve their rights.

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Cruise ship passengers to be quarantined at two military bases; US Army stops troops moving to and from South Korea, Italy for new assignments

American passengers on a cruise ship off the California coast will be transferred to Texas’ Lackland Air Force Base and Georgia’s Dobbins Air Reserve Base for testing for the coronavirus, officials said Sunday.

The U.S. Army has also stopped soldiers and their families from moving to South Korea and Italy for new assignments because of the outbreak in those countries.

“Approximately 90 Texans” are among the unspecified number of U.S. citizens expected to arrive at Lackland Air Force Base, according to a news release from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. It was not clear when the group would arrive.

“All of the repatriated citizens will remain at Lackland under quarantine until they clear the revised and heightened testing protocol to ensure they are not affected by the COVID-19 virus,” Abbot said.

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Iwo Jima 75th anniversary reunion called off due to coronavirus concerns

The Marine Corps has called off the 75th anniversary reunion for surviving veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima amid growing concerns of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, Marine officials confirmed.

More than 20 veterans of the battle, along with the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger, were expected to attend. Task & Purpose was the first to report.

The small volcanic island in the Pacific, which now houses a Japanese military installation, plays host each year to veterans and active-duty Marines to honor the 37-day battle’s survivors and the approximately 7,000 Marines who were killed.

Appropriately named the Reunion of Honor, the ceremony has been attended on the island by both American and Japanese veterans nearly every year since 1980.

“Out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 75th Reunion of Honor event on Iwo Jima which was scheduled to occur 28 March has been cancelled,” III Marine Expeditionary Force spokesman Lt. Ryan Bruce said.

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Gold Star Families Could Get Free Access to National Parks

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Families of people who died during military service would receive free access to national parks if Congress approves a proposal from two Maine lawmakers.

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden and independent Sen. Angus King said their proposal would honor Gold Star families with free entrance to the National Park Service’s locations and other federally managed public lands.

Golden, a Marine veteran, said the proposal is common sense because “families of fallen service members should have free access to our country’s most treasured places.” King called it “simply the right thing to do.”

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