DoD Calls On Gulf War Veterans:
First-Hand Accounts Needed
Washington, D.C. May 6, 1998 The Defense Department's Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses is calling on Gulf War veterans for first-hand information in the investigation of incidents that happened during the Gulf War. The Department is engaged in a comprehensive effort to identify what happened before, during and after the Gulf war and to determine how incidents and practices relate to various potential causes of Gulf War illnesses.
Investigators are facing special challenges as they pursue the case of an alleged chemical exposure to a Marine occurring on February 27 or during the first week of March, 1991. The incident is thought to have happened in the vicinity of Kabrit, Saudi Arabia when the Marine was taking readings with a Fox vehicle to determine whether enemy prisoner of war gear contained chemical agent. He subsequently developed blisters thought to be from contact with contaminated enemy equipment. Investigators are looking for a staff sergeant and 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.
Since the Office of the Special Assistant was established in November, 1996, DoD has released 10 case narratives that focused on possible exposure to chemical or biological warfare agents. These reports lay out the facts and provide an assessment about a suspected incident. Investigators undertake an exhaustive and methodical investigative process to ensure the most accurate story is reported regarding specific events or issues. They rely heavily on first-hand accounts from witnesses to gain insight into the conditions surrounding the incident. Interviews are conducted with key military personnel who have the knowledge to reconstruct battlefield operations. Thousands of original source documents are examined. Inter-agency information is exchanged and reviewed as part of an extensive effort to verify facts. Once the initial interim case narrative has been released, the case remains open to incorporate new information in follow-up reports. In addition to those narratives already published, 19 case narratives, two information papers and two update reports are in progress.
Bernard Rostker, the special assistant, is attempting to assemble the most accurate picture possible of the "Injured Marine" incident and other events surrounding possible exposure of troops to chemical and biological agents. As a result of lessons learned from these investigations, his office plays an integral part in recommending that DoD make changes in equipment, policy and procedures to protect future service members.
"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." said Rostker, commenting on the importance of hearing from Gulf War veterans. He views each case narrative as an appeal to those who may have additional information.
In other cases under investigation, researchers are seeking to locate and interview people present at the An Nasiriyah S.W, facility in Iraq, servicemen who have knowledge of other chemical incidents, medical personnel, or anyone else, who may have been in contact with wounded Iraqi civilians after the war. Investigators also want to talk with veterans about the short and long term symptoms suffered as a result of oil-well fire smoke exposure and health care providers (doctors, nurses, medics) regarding vaccine administration.
Rostker encourages anyone with information about the case of the "Injured Marine" or other incidents to share their insights with the Gulf War illnesses investigators. Callers may contact either the Veterans Data Management team at 800-497-6261 or the Incident Reporting Line at 800-472-6719.