The Army has posthumously promoted two of the soldiers who were killed in a drone attack in Jordan this weekend as questions remain about what transpired at the small outpost.
The U.S. Army Reserve posthumously promoted Spc. Kennedy Sanders and Spc. Breonna Moffett to the rank of sergeant "in recognition of their exceptional courage, dedication, and leadership during Operation Inherent Resolve," a statement from U.S. Army Reserve Command announced Tuesday, referencing the mission to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "will be calling each of the families to personally relay his respects and is planning to attend the dignified transfer of remains at Dover Air Force Base on Friday, as well," the Pentagon's top spokesman, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, told reporters at a briefing Tuesday.
Sanders and Moffett were killed alongside Sgt. William Rivers late Saturday when Iran-backed militants flew a drone into the living quarters at the base known as Tower 22 along Jordan's border with Syria.
"This promotion is a small token of our immense gratitude for Sgt. Sanders and Sgt. Moffett's service and sacrifice," Col. Robert Coker, the chief of staff for the 412th Theater Engineer Command, said in Tuesday's statement.
All three were also Georgia residents and assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, an Army Reserve unit based out of Fort Moore, Georgia.
According to information provided by the service Monday, Sanders enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2019 as a horizontal construction engineer. Before deploying to Jordan, she also deployed in 2021 for an eight-month rotation to Djibouti in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Among her awards were an Army Service Ribbon, an Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" device.
Moffett also enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2019 as a horizontal construction engineer. The Army's statement made no mention of any prior deployments but said that her awards included the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
Finally, Rivers enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2011 as an interior electrician. He deployed to Iraq for nine months in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2018.
Among his awards were an Army Achievement Medal, an Army Service Ribbon, several Overseas Service Ribbons, an Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" device, and the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with Campaign Star.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon had few direct answers amid questions asking for more details about the attack that killed the three soldiers.
Ryder acknowledged that "there are still many questions, to include how the one-way attack drone could have penetrated the facility's air defenses, its point of origin, and which specific Iranian proxy group is responsible."
"U.S. Central Command is continuing to look into all those important questions," Ryder added.
When asked whether commanders in the area will be taking extra steps to protect their troops, Ryder wouldn't go into specifics, citing operational security, but stressed that the military is "taking this very seriously and ... we will take necessary measures and steps to ensure that our forces are protected."
Ryder wasn't able to immediately say whether the troops at Tower 22 are receiving hazardous duty incentive pay or if they are eligible for combat ribbons -- both key indicators that troops are in a situation that the Pentagon recognizes as combat.
Aside from recognizing performance under fire, combat accolades are also key pieces of evidence when it comes to Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims over lingering injuries.
The attack on Tower 22 has left more than 40 troops injured -- with eight severe enough to need evacuation -- according to defense officials.
In contrast, the USS Carney, a ship that, while in the waters off Yemen downed 14 drones in December, was presented with a unit-wide Combat Action Ribbon award in the early days of January. No one on the ship sustained injuries.