By Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent ResolveOctober 24, 2016
BAGHDAD -- Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve is assessing the potential risk to personnel at Camp Swift and Qayyarah West Airfield, located about 50 miles south of Mosul, as a result of nearby burning oil wells and a sulfur plant fire.
The coalition has taken air samples, and the analysis is ongoing to determine what, if any, health concerns may result from the fires, which officials said were set by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists.
As a precaution, coalition personnel at sites affected by the smoke have been directed to limit their activity outdoors. Some service members have voluntarily chosen to don protective masks for their own comfort.
The coalition is taking the risk of these hazards and associated substances into consideration as part of ongoing force protection measures and is prepared to respond to such a contingency should the need arise.
There has been no change at this time to the mission-oriented protective posture level. Iraq's government is working to put out the fires and projects it may take approximately two to three days to accomplish this task.
CJTF-OIR provided more than 24,000 protective chemical masks to Iraqi and peshmerga forces during training in preparation for the Mosul offensive.
The use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant underscores why the international coalition is assisting the Iraqi government to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, which continues to kill indiscriminately and operate completely unencumbered by any legal or moral restraint.
"The enemy has used chemical weapons in the past, and we're going to make sure we are taking every measure to mitigate the risk to our forces," said Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command, Operation Inherent Resolve. "Force protection is my No. 1 priority here."
CJTF-OIR has five building partner capacity sites, which were instrumental in training Iraqi and peshmerga counterattack brigades for the Mosul offensive. Their training included responding to chemical attacks by ISIL, and effectively using and fighting in their issued gas masks.
"The coalition is trained. We've trained the [Iraqis] and peshmerga; they've got equipment," Volesky said. "We're confident that as the enemy attempt to use a lot of means -- not just chemicals -- we're targeting the training with the Iraqis and with the coalition to make sure we're mitigating any risk of that threat."