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Pentagon identifies US soldier, airman killed in Iraq rocket attack

Oklahoma Air National Guardsman, Staff Sgt. Marshal Roberts, was killed Wednesday, March 11, 2020, during a rocket attack in Iraq. Roberts served with the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron, 138th Fighter Wing, which is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (Courtesy photo by the Roberts family/Oklahoma National Guard/Released)
March 13, 2020

On Friday morning, the Department of Defense identified the two U.S. service members killed in a Wednesday rocket attack against Camp Taji, Iraq.

U.S. Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, 27, of Hanford, Calif. was killed in the rocket attack, as was Oklahoma Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, 28, of Owasso, Okla., the Pentagon confirmed in a press release.

Mendez Covarrubias was a member of the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division based out of Fort Hood, Texas. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Specialist.

Roberts was a member of the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

The deadly rocket attack also resulted in the death of a British service member stationed at the base. The British service member was identified as LCpl Brodie Gillon, 26, of the U.K.’s Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry reserve unit. She reportedly volunteered to join the Irish Guards Battle Group when it deployed to Iraq for 2020.

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“The coalition honors the service and sacrifice of U.S. Army Specialist Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, U.K. Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts; they will not be forgotten,” Lt. Gen. Pat White, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a press statement.

“The international military coalition is capable and credible because of warriors like Juan, Brodie, and Marshal,” White’s comments continued. “They volunteered to serve the United States and United Kingdom to improve their lives and help keep the world free from ISIS terrorism. Our fallen comrades have a legacy that will never be forgotten.”

Another 14 personnel were also reported injured following the attack, including members of the Iraqi Security Forces. As many as 30 107mm Katyusha rockets were fired at Camp Taji during the attack.

U.S. military officials indicated the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia was behind the rocket attack and on Thursday U.S. and coalition warplanes directed airstrikes on five different facilities in Iraq used by the militia to store weapons.

“The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies,” Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper said in a statement following the retaliatory strikes. “As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”

Another Iranian proxy force, the Popular Mobilization Front, saw as many as 26 fighters killed following a Thursday airstrike near the Syria town of Abu Kamal, bordering Iraq. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights initially indicated the attack was likely carried out by coalition forces, however, a coalition spokesman has denied those claims.