BACKGROUND: Military operations provide a unified action and strategic approach to achieve national goals and objectives. Mortality reviews from military operations can guide injury prevention and casualty care efforts.
METHODS: A retrospective study was conducted on all U.S. military fatalities from Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Iraq (2014-2021) and Operation Freedom's Sentinel (OFS) in Afghanistan (2015-2021). Data were obtained from autopsy reports and other existing records. Fatalities were evaluated for population characteristics; manner, cause, and location of death; and underlying atherosclerosis. Non-suicide trauma fatalities were also evaluated for injury severity, mechanism of death, injury survivability, death preventability, and opportunities for improvement.
RESULTS: Of 213 U.S. military fatalities (median age, 29 years; male, 93.0%; prehospital, 89.2%), 49.8% were from OIR, and 50.2% were from OFS. More OIR fatalities were Reserve and National Guard forces (OIR 22.6%; OFS 5.6%), conventional forces (OIR 82.1%; OFS 65.4%), and support personnel (OIR 61.3%; OFS 33.6%). More OIR fatalities also resulted from disease and non-battle injury (OIR 83.0%; OFS 28.0%). The leading cause of death was injury (OIR 81.1%; OFS 98.1%). Manner of death differed as more homicides (OIR 18.9%; OFS 72.9%) were seen in OFS, and more deaths from natural causes (OIR 18.9%; OFS 1.9%) and suicides (OIR 29.2%; OFS 6.5%) were seen in OIR. The prevalence of underlying atherosclerosis was 14.2% in OIR and 18.7% in OFS. Of 146 non-suicide trauma fatalities, most multiple/blunt force injury deaths (62.2%) occurred in OIR, and most blast injury deaths (77.8%) and gunshot wound deaths (76.6%) occurred in OFS. The leading mechanism of death was catastrophic tissue destruction (80.8%). Most fatalities had non-survivable injuries (80.8%) and non-preventable deaths (97.3%).
CONCLUSIONS: Comprehensive mortality reviews should routinely be conducted for all military operation deaths. Understanding death from both injury and disease can guide preemptive and responsive efforts to reduce death among military forces.
Published In/Presented At
Kotwal RS, Janak JC, Howard JT, Rohrer AJ, Harcke HT, Holcomb JB, Eastridge BJ, Gurney JM, Shackelford SA, Mazuchowski EL. United States Military Fatalities During Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom's Sentinel. Mil Med. 2022 May 11:usac119. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usac119. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35544336.
Medicine and Health Sciences
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine