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NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Twenty-one injured U.S. servicemembers, one of them critically hurt in fighting in Iraq, were flown from Kuwait to the Navy field hospital in Rota on Wednesday.

The wounded — a combination of Marines, Army and Air Force members — were transported in a C-141 Starlifter, Navy spokesman Lt. Corey Barker said. They were involved in the war on Iraq and the global war on terrorism.

Shrapnel injured the critically wounded soldier, but Barker did not have additional details on his condition Thursday.

Most of the others sustained less severe injuries in the battlefield as U.S.-led coalition forces closed in on Baghdad. Two soldiers were hurt when the truck they were traveling in fell off a 15-foot cliff, Barker said. Another arrived at the 116-bed tent hospital with foot fungus.

As doctors and nurses treated the wounded, other staff members prepared to move into a larger, 250-bed hospital on base that can expand up to 500 beds.

Members of Fleet Hospital Eight — made up mostly of Navy medical personnel from Bremerton, Wash. — expect to open the new hospital on Monday.

Since the war in Iraq started March 20, the unit has treated 45 servicemembers — 15 of them injured in combat. The infirmary has treated 71 patients since it became operational in mid-February.

One of the soldiers treated at the hospital died on Monday of a sudden illness. On Wednesday, the Department of Defense identified him as Spc. William A. Jeffries, 39, of Evansville, Ill. He was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, an Illinois Army National Guard unit that is still in Kuwait.

Details on his illness were not released.


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