One-Third Of US Casualties In Afghanistan And Iraq Were Non-Combat Accidents

Bullet Points

The U.S. military's mishap problem is older than you probably realized: Of the nearly 30,000 U.S. service members wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq during a 12-year period at the beginning of the forever wars, a full third were injured in non-combat incidents, according to a new study — and that proportion is only expected to grow in the coming years.

  • Shit happens — a lot: An analysis of Department of Defense Trauma Registry data published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery found that 34.1% of total casualties and 11.5% percent of all deaths from January 2003 to December 2014 occurred in non-combat conditions.
  • Unintentional falls: The largest proportion of so-called "non-battle injuries" (NBIs) occurred due to, well, falling. Some 1,283 service members died from unintentional falls, followed by car crashes and machinery or equipment accidents.
  • This isn't because of the sequester: Lawmakers have pointed to the 2011 Budget Control Act as a root cause of the Class A mishap epidemic that has rankled the Air Force and Navy in recent months — and 66.3% and 48.3% of those services' respective casualties were due to NBIs. But the time span of the report covers nearly a decade in the pre-freeze spending environment, too.
  • It's only going to get worse: Based on their analysis, the researchers posit that the proportion of NIBs among all U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan will grow to 41% by 2022 — and that's assuming "stable battlefield conditions," an assessment that lays the burden of the U.S. military's recent mishap crisis on the sequester.

On the flipside, lawmakers took a moment last month to set up an independent commission to get to bottom of the DoD's worsening mishap crisis. Those results will likely arrive in 2022. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Associated Press/Rahmat Gul)

While the U.S. military wants to keep roughly 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's deputy leader has just made clear that his group wants all U.S. service members to leave the country as part of any peace agreement.

"The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand," Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in a story for the New York Times on Thursday.

Read More
U.S. soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. (REUTERS/John Davison)

In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.

Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.

Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"

The next day was different.

"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."

Read More
A U.S. military vehicle runs a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria near the Turkish border town of Qamishli (Video screencap)

A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.

Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.

Read More
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

Read More
A cup of coffee during "tea time" discussions between the U.S. Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 14, 2018 (Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.

While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.

Read More