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Unclear Whether New DoD Policy Requires Combat Wounded To Actually Deploy Or Separate
It is not clear exactly how wounded warriors are affected by a new Pentagon policy that aims to push out troops who are deemed “non-deployable” for more than 12 consecutive months.
Defense Secretary James Mattis recently told reporters that the Pentagon will exempt troops wounded in combat from the policy, which was announced on Feb. 14.
“If they were wounded in combat, and they want to stay in and they've lost their leg or something like this, and they can't be a paratrooper anymore, then we'll find a place to use them,” Mattis told reporters on Feb. 17 during a flight to Washington, D.C. “That's a special category. They've earned that special status.”
Mattis’ comments came just three days after Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Robert Wilkie told Congress that wounded warriors would appear before medical review boards like other non-deployable troops.
“Medical boards review will the medical status of those who have been wounded,” Wilkie told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 14. “I will use a personal example from 1970: My father was severely wounded in the invasion of Cambodia and spent a year in an Army hospital. A determination was made by a medical board then that his service was still required and he was allowed to recover and return to Fort Bragg in the 82nd Airborne Division.”
However, Wilkie made no mention of a special category for wounded troops, nor did he give any indication that they would automatically be retained.
In follow-up comments to Task & Purpose, he did not say that troops wounded in combat would be exempt from the policy, which requires service members who cannot deploy for more than a year to be processed for administrative for disability separation.
“We respect the contributions of all of our service members, in particular our wounded warriors,” Wilkie told Task & Purpose in a Feb. 16 email. “We owe them a fair process, and this policy allows for that.”
The policy itself does not include any caveats for wounded warriors. It says it applies to troops who cannot deploy “for any reason.”
The Pentagon was closed on Monday for a federal holiday. Consequently, a Defense Department spokesman was unable to respond to Task & Purpose’s request for clarity on the policy by deadline.
Mattis told reporters that the non-deployable policy is rooted in fairness: If injured troops cannot go downrange, others have to go in their place. He recalled a conversation he had a couple months ago with a woman, whose husband was on his sixth combat deployment during their 11 years of marriage.
“When that sort of thing happens, that brings sharply into focus that some people are carrying more than the share of the load that I want them to carry,” Mattis said. “They need time at home. They need time with their families.”
Mattis stressed that he is not going to have a military where some troops are constantly deploying while others “seem to not pay that price to be in the U.S. military.” Everyone needs to do their share.
“Sometimes things happen: People bust their legs in training or they're in a car accident,” Mattis said. “We understand that. Sometimes that even takes a months of recovery. We understand that. But this is a deployable military. If you can't go overseas in your combat load — carry a combat load — then obviously someone else has got to go. I want this spread fairly and equitably across the force.”
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.
"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.