April 20th, 2010
11:50 AM ET

Volcanic ash diverts troops to Iraq for treatment

Some U.S. troops critically wounded or taken ill in Afghanistan are being shipped for treatment to Iraq instead of Germany, due to the European air traffic turmoil caused by the spread of volcanic ash.

The troops cannot be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where the airspace has been closed.

The first troops arrived in Iraq three days ago and there were about 20 of them there, according to Master Sgt. Stefan Alford, spokesman for the 332
Air Expeditionary Wing in Iraq.

The U.S. military hospital at Balad, Iraq, has been designated the new hub for all aeromedical evacuations because of the disruptions in air traffic
caused by the volcano eruption in Iceland.

Balad can provide urgent or higher levels of medical care for the troops before they are sent to the United States, the U.S. Air Force said.

Wounded troops taken from Afghanistan to Iraq will be treated swiftly and then moved on to the United States.

The Air Force and Pentagon did not announce the shift to Iraq. But the website for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing says Balad is now ready for a
"sudden high-paced operations tempo," and expects to receive more U.S. wounded troops.

"We anticipate receiving more and more battle injuries from Bagram," said Capt. Ethan Moses, an Air Force flight surgeon at Balad. He was referring to
Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Daily Developments • Troops
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