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DoD Seeks Gulf War Vets' Firsthand Accounts

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 1998 – The Defense Department wants more firsthand accounts from Gulf War veterans to help investigators determine potential causes of Gulf War illnesses.

Such accounts have in the past proved valuable to investigators, according to Bernard Rostker, DoD special assistant for the investigation. The Pentagon needs firsthand information to resolve issues concerning the war and to better protect service members in future conflicts, he said."If we can't explain what went on in the Gulf, then we will have a very poor ability to put in place military doctrine, medical policies and procedures that would allow us to avoid these kinds of problems in the future," Rostker said.

Investigators are pursuing the case of a Marine allegedly exposed to a chemical on or the week after Feb. 27, 1991. The incident is thought to have occurred near Kabrit, Saudi Arabia, when the Marine was taking readings with a Fox chemical detection vehicle. The Marine was trying to determine whether enemy prisoner of war gear contained a chemical agent. He subsequently developed blisters.

Investigators are looking for a Marine staff sergeant or other witnesses who may have been present and could provide critical information. Witnesses who call should report that they have information pertaining to the "injured Marine" investigation.

Researchers also want to locate and interview people present at the Al Nasiriyah special weapons facility in Iraq, service members who know about other chemical incidents and anyone else who had post-war contact with wounded Iraqi soldiers. They also want to talk with veterans about the short- and long-term symptoms suffered as a result of exposure to smoke from oil well fires, and to health care providers regarding vaccine administration.

People with information about these and any other potential chemical exposure incidents during the Gulf War can contact either the veterans data management at (800) 497-6261 or the incident reporting line at (800) 472-6719.

Since Rostker's office was established in November 1996, DoD has released 10 case narratives that focused on possible exposure to chemical or biological agents. The narratives present case facts and assess suspected incidents. Investigators rely heavily on firsthand accounts for insights into the conditions surrounding the incidents, according to research officials.

Military personnel with the ability to reconstruct battlefield operations will interview callers, officials said.

For background information on the investigation, visit the GulfLINK home page on the World Wide Web at www.gulflink.osd.mil.

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