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An AH-64 Apache helicopter managed to make it back to its base and land after being hit by small-arms fire during a combat mission, U.S. military officials said Friday.

The Task Force Marne helicopter was one of two Apaches helping ground troops during a firefight south of Baghdad. One helicopter was hit and made a “hard landing” officials said.

The aircrew was not injured in the incident, according to Lt. Col. Robert Wilson, 3rd Combat Aviation Regiment executive officer.

Task force takes over Iraq medical missionA medical battalion from Fort Bragg, N.C., has taken command of the overall medical mission in Iraq, officials said Friday.

Task Force 261 Multifunctional Medical Battalion took over from Task Force 146 Multifunctional Medical Battalion of the Michigan Army National Guard, earlier this month at a ceremony on LSA Anaconda.

The new task force is commanded by Lt. Col. (Dr.) Frank L. Christopher and includes some 800 soldiers and airmen throughout Iraq, officials said.

The task force is responsible for primary and emergency medical, dental and optometric care; ground evacuations; forward resuscitative surgery at some locations; and supporting the Air Force hospital at LSA Anaconda.

Task Force 261 operates some 20 medical clinics and 15 dental and optometry clinics across Iraq.

S. Korea sending team to assess Iraq missionSEOUL, South Korea — South Korea plans to send an assessment team to Iraq next month to help determine whether to end or extend its 1,200-troop mission there, a Defense Ministry official said Friday.

The team of about 10 officials will make a weeklong trip to Iraq, and their findings will be reflected in a report to parliament next month.

Specific dates for their trip have not yet been set, the defense official said on customary condition of anonymity citing policy.

The ministry originally planned to complete the report this month, but postponed it saying it needed more time to assess the situation in Iraq. The official said the report would now be submitted by Oct. 15.

South Korea appears to be increasingly leaning toward extending the deployment, with recent news reports suggesting the government had reached or was close to reaching such a decision.

Officials have said no decision has been made, however.

Simplified AFN Web site launchedWASHINGTON — American Forces Network officials launched a simplified, non-Flash version of their revamped Web site Thursday to help viewers with slow connections or limited resources view TV listings online.

The site can be accessed through myafn.net, by clicking on the “non-Flash site” link on the page’s lower right hand corner. While the stripped-down site lacks many of the features of AFN’s regular site, it does include Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with TV listings nearly two months out.

After the AFN site was redesigned over the summer, only visitors with the most recent versions of Adobe Flash Player had access to the page. AFN officials opted to create the non-flash sites after complaints from troops serving in combat zones.

While anyone can download the Flash software for free, users must have administrative control of the computer to install the program, a problem with many business and public-use computers in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

AFN radio, TV outages possibleWASHINGTON — The start of October again means the possibility of radio and television outages for American Forces Network customers.

AFN officials are warning viewers that solar radiation could interfere with network signals over the next two weeks, as broadcast satellites align between the sun and Earth. Starting Sunday, radio listeners could hear extra static and television viewers could see increased pixilation as a result. In some cases, broadcasts could be unavailable for up to 10 minutes before the interference subsides.

The problems are expected to peak Oct. 7 and gradually decrease by Oct. 14, officials said. The “sun outages” occur twice a year, with the next expected in the spring. AFN officials said since many of the broadcasts are bounced through several satellites before reaching overseas locations, those customers could experience the solar interference even when they’re watching television at night.

Toys’ lead content prompts more recallsWASHINGTON — Toys and children’s necklaces made in China were recalled Wednesday, including five more items from the popular Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line, because they contain dangerous levels of lead.

RC2 Corp.’s “Knights of the Sword” series toys and some of its Thomas and Friends items, along with floor puppet theaters and gardening tools and chairs for children, were among the more than 601,000 toys and children’s jewelry announced in the recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Officials from the Army and Air Force Exchange Services, Navy Exchange Service Command and Marine Corps Exchange Service said they have not sold any of the recalled items and were not affected by the announcement. The recalled toys contain high levels of lead in their surface paint, and the necklaces and jewelry sets contain excessive lead in some of their metal parts.


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