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Narrative, Newsletter Posted to GulfLINK

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 1997 – A case narrative on exposure to chemical agents by U.S. troops in the Gulf War and the first edition of a newsletter on Gulf War illnesses reached the Internet in May.

Bernard Rostker, DoD special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, announced the narrative at a Pentagon press briefing May 22. The narrative describes events and the investigation surrounding a reported detection of a chemical agent at Camp Monterey, Kuwait, Sept. 16, 1991.

Rostker said an Army Fox reconnaissance vehicle initially detected the possible presence of the nerve agent sarin when Iraqi weapons materials being transported from the area accidentally spilled. However, a mass spectrometer reading shortly afterword indicated the contents were a riot agent, o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), and tear gas crystals.

"We sent this material to three different laboratories," Rostker said. "All three labs confirmed that the mass spectrometer reading indicated CS."

According to the case narrative, white powder spilled from the box at Camp Monterey. The powder was consistent with the properties of CS rather than those of sarin, which is a colorless liquid or vapor. The Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, Bruker Analytical Systems, Inc. and National Institute of Standards and Technology also concluded the initial sarin alarms were consistent with the design of the chemical detection system in Fox vehicles.

About 20 Americans were exposed to the riot agents, Rostker said. He said he doesn't know if any have since claimed illness from the exposure. "We've interviewed people from Camp Monterey," he added, "there were no lingering illnesses at the time."

Three earlier case narratives reported possible chemical weapons exposure by U.S. troops in March and April 1991 at Khamisiyah, Iraq. Rostker said the next case narrative will cover the Marine breaching operation. When he presents that case "in a number of weeks, we will have a full paper on Fox vehicles as well," Rostker said.

The Camp Monterey case bears heavily on the validity of Fox vehicle readings, Rostker said. "This is a case where the Fox vehicle is working perfectly and yet the initial screen, like a partial fingerprint, resulted in a reading of sarin. A full fingerprint ... resulted in a reading of CS, and we were able to get into the mechanics of the mass spectrometer ... and understand why that kind of situation would result."

Detection equipment the Fox carries is designed to alert its crew of any potential chemical presence, even if it's a false positive. The crew can't take a spectral reading until the probe head cools, a five- to 10-minute delay.

The full case narratives can be found on DoD's GulfLINK web site (http://www.dtic.mil/gulflink/). Also posted there are news releases and other reports, including the first edition of "GulfNEWS," a bi-monthly newsletter for Gulf War veterans. The letter also was mailed to 2,565 veterans who have contacted the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses. To receive the newsletter by mail, e-mail your name and address to Ellen DiPaolo at edipaolo@gwillness.osd.mil or write to:

Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses
5113 Leesburg Pike, Suite 901
Falls Church, VA 22041.
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