Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds an On-Camera Press Briefing

October 19, 2023

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BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right. Well, good afternoon everyone. And thank you very much for your patience.

We do have quite a bit to cover today so thank you in advance.

Well, I'll go through some detailed information here. First of all, let me address the ongoing situation in the Middle East and the Department of Defense response. And then I'll discuss the reports of drone attacks against U.S. facilities in Iraq and Syria.

As you are all aware, Secretary Austin, recently directed several steps to strengthen DOD Posture in the region, to bolster regional deterrence efforts, to include deploying the USS Ford Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean along with the USS Eisenhower currently underway and enroute.

Additionally, we are also enhancing our Fighter Aircraft presence in the Central Command region to provide additional capabilities.

By posturing these U.S. Naval assets and Advanced Fighter Aircraft in the region we aim to send a strong message intended to deter a wider conflict to bolster regional stability and of course to make it clear that we will protect and defend our national security interests.

To that end the crew of the Guided Missile Destroyer, USS Carney, operating in the Northern Red Sea earlier today, shot down three land-attack cruise missiles and several drones that were launched by Houthi forces in Yemen. This action was a demonstration of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Architecture that we have built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilize whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interests in this important region.

There were no casualties to U.S. Forces and none that we know of to any civilians on the ground. Information about these engagements is still being processed and we cannot say for certain what these missiles and drones were targeting but they were launched from Yemen, heading north along the Red Sea, potentially towards targets in Israel.

Our defensive response was one that we would have taken for any similar threat in the region, where we're able to do so against our interest, personnel, going to and our partners. This attack may be ongoing so if we have more information to share we will. 

But again, as the Secretary has made clear, we have the capability to defend our broader interests in the region and to deter regional escalation, Israelis and broader expansion of the conflict that began with Hamas's attack on Israeli civilians on October 7th. The crew of the Carney did just that. And across the Force we will remain vigilant to any other potential threats.

And while I'm on the topic of threats let me provide an update on the reports of several drone attacks against U.S. facilities in Iraq and Syria.

Early yesterday morning Syria time, October 18th, At-Tanf garrison in Syria was targeted by two drones. U.S. and Coalition Forces engaged one drone, destroying it while the other drone impacted the base resulting in minor injuries to Coalition Forces.

Also the same morning in Iraq early warning systems indicated a possible threat approaching the airbase at Al Assad, and base personnel sheltered in place as a protective measure. Though no attack occurred sadly a U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and passed away shortly thereafter. And our deepest sympathies and condolences are with the loved one — loved ones of the individual who passed away.

And as you know, the day before on October 17th, U.S. Military Forces defended against three drones near U.S. and Coalition Forces in Iraq. In western Iraq at Al Asad Air Base, U.S. Forces engaged two drones destroying one and damaging the second resulting in minor injuries to Coalition Forces.

Separately in northern Iraq, U.S. Forces engaged and destroyed a drone near Bashur Air Base resulting in no injuries or damage.

And while I'm not going to forecast any potential response to these attacks I will say that we will take all necessary actions to defend U.S. and Coalition Forces against any threat. Any response should one occur will come at a time in a manner of our choosing.