Soldier recovering after Christmas drone attack in Iraq

by Tommy Grant

A soldier who was critically injured in a drone attack in Iraq on Christmas is recovering at a hospital in Germany, according to his family and friends.

Garrett Illerbrunn, the service member severely wounded by a drone attack targeting U.S. troops at Erbil Air Base in Iraq, is slowly recouping at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, his loved ones wrote on a GoFundMe account.

The hospital said in a statement to Stars & Stripes that he is in stable condition and receiving treatment, but did not immediately respond to Military Times’ request for comment.

Two other service members were also injured in the attack, which the Department of Defense said was carried out by an Iran-backed group, though Task & Purpose reported the pair have since returned to duty.

The incident prompted President Joe Biden to order retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia groups later that day. Since mid-October, bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria have come under attack more than 100 times, Military Times previously reported.

Although Pentagon officials have not directly tied the rise in attacks to American support for Israel in its war against Hamas, they have warned that Iran’s support for these groups could further degrade the situation in the Middle East.

Illerbrunn — who Task & Purpose reported holds the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 as a pilot with the 82nd Airborne Division — was still in a coma as of Tuesday, according to the GoFundMe account. The page has raised more than $76,000, surpassing its initial goal, as of Thursday afternoon.

“During the drone attack, a piece of shrapnel struck Garrett in the head, lodging from about his temple to almost the back end of his ear; hitting the motor function area of his brain,” Melissa Young, who is organizing the fundraiser, said in a post. There is some hope though, she added, saying that he was taken off sedation and breathing once again on his own.

Young also shared in the post the plan is for the soldier to be transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland for continued recovery.

Illerbrunn, a native of Langdon, North Dakota, according to the state’s governor, received well wishes for a speedy and full recovery on social media from various North Dakota lawmakers.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media



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