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Col. Liran Cohen, head of the Israeli Defense Forces' air defense school, left, and Col. David Shank, commander of the US 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command, cut the ribbon to open the first American military facility in Israel, at Mashabim Air Base, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.

Col. Liran Cohen, head of the Israeli Defense Forces' air defense school, left, and Col. David Shank, commander of the US 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command, cut the ribbon to open the first American military facility in Israel, at Mashabim Air Base, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (Courtesy of Israel Defense Forces)

A small group of U.S. troops carrying out a missile-defense mission in Israel is taking up residence inside a new barracks building on an Israeli base in an effort to improve living conditions for troops.

The barracks, which officially opened during a ceremony Monday, will house about 40 soldiers, U.S. European Command said Tuesday.

Various media accounts described the facility as a new, first-of-its-kind U.S. military “base” in Israel, but EUCOM said that was a mischaracterization of the site, which provides troops with a place to sleep, a dining facility and recreation area.

“The building will function as a living facility for U.S. servicemembers, who are currently working at the Israeli base,” said Meghan Henderson, a EUCOM spokeswoman.

The U.S. military’s missile defense mission in Israel isn’t new.

In 2009, EUCOM sent troops to Israel to operate the X-Band radar in the Negev Desert, which is intended to give Israel an early warning in the event of an Iranian missile launch. The radar is useful against medium- and long-range ballistic missile attacks. The new barracks building is inside an Israeli air force base in the Negev.

“This is not the first time military forces are operating in Israel; the U.S. military has worked closely with Israeli Defense counterparts for many years,” said Maj. Mark Miller, a U.S. Army spokesman, in a statement.

The building supports troops operating in Israel on a rotational basis, USAREUR said.

Israel maintains an elaborate missile-defense system to guard against a wide range of threats, including Iron Dome, which was designed to shoot down short-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s Arrow system counters longer-range threats from Iran.

In April, Israel unveiled David’s Sling, which was jointly developed with the U.S. and targets medium-range threats.

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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