F. Detecting, Evaluating, and Reporting Biological Agents

During the Gulf War, collecting, evaluating, and transporting suspected chemical and biological warfare agents involved intelligence units, chemical and biological specialists, and medical organizations. A short description of the US organizations[21] key to these efforts follows.

1. 513th Military Intelligence Brigade

The US Army 513th Military Intelligence Brigade arrived in-theater in October 1990 to provide intelligence support to the United States Army Central Command (ARCENT). This brigade became the controlling headquarters for the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Center (JCMEC) when it later was established.

2. Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Center

The Foreign Materiel Intelligence Battalion (FMIB),[22,23] part of the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, formed the core of the JCMEC, which became operational January 15, 1991.[24] To complete the JCMEC organization, technical intelligence experts from the US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Army Intelligence Agency, and the United Kingdom, among others, augmented the Foreign Materiel Intelligence Battalion.[25] Additionally, the Chemical Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CRDEC), which was the program manager for biological testing equipment, sent to serve with the JCMEC two biological air sampling equipment experts, called the XM2 liaison officers in Gulf War records. Two other units also reported to the JCMEC, the 9th Chemical Detachment, and a detachment from the US Army Technical Escort Unit. Figure 2 depicts the chain of command for the JCMEC and its attached units.

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Figure 2. JCMEC Chain of Command

The JCMEC’s technical intelligence mission was to conduct battlefield exploitation of captured enemy equipment to determine its capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities. It also was to conduct biological and chemical sampling and support medical sampling to verify Iraq’s use of biological or chemical weapons and support national decision-makers on introducing appropriate countermeasures to the theater.[26]

3. US Army Technical Escort Unit

On January 20, 1991, a US Army Technical Escort Unit (TEU) detachment was attached to the JCMEC to provide the capability to package and transport hazardous material samples (material suspected of contamination by chemical and biological agents) to the United States for analysis. The TEU also trained JCMEC in-theater technical intelligence teams on proper packaging techniques for chemical and biological samples.[27]

4. 9th Chemical Detachment

Soldiers from the 9th Chemical Detachment from Fort Lewis, Washington, deployed to the Kuwait theater of operations between January 26 and February 3, 1991, to provide a unique theater-wide chemical and biological warfare agent detection capability. The detachment reported to the JCMEC and deployed with 12 sampling teams, each consisting of a team chief and two non-commissioned officers experienced in chemical or biological detection. Depending on the equipment available to them, teams were further organized as biological warfare (BW) teams or biological warfare and chemical warfare (BW/CW) teams.[28,29]Each team had biological air sampling equipment, either the XM2, a military prototype biological air sampler, or the PM10, a commercial biological air sampler. The five BW/CW teams also were equipped with the XM-21 chemical detector.[30] Figure 3 shows the 12 teams’ locations.

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Figure 3. Location of sampling teams and theater area medical laboratories

5. Theater Area Medical Laboratories

Figure 3 also shows the theater area medical laboratories’ locations: the US Navy Forward Laboratory, Al Jubayl; the 996th US Army Medical Detachment, Riyadh; and the US Army Forward Laboratory, King Khalid Military City (KKMC), all in Saudi Arabia.

a.  The US Navy Forward Laboratory

The Navy Forward Laboratory (NFL) was established in September 1990 at Al Jubayl.  Its  responsibilities included analyzing clinical (blood and tissue) and environmental (air, soil, and water) samples for biological warfare agents’ presence.  The Navy Forward Laboratory played a key role in testing suspect samples for the presence of BW agents during the Gulf War.  A more complete discussion of NFL activities during the Gulf War is available in a seperate publication, titiled "Medical Surveillance during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm."[31]

b.  The US Army Laboratories

After their arrival in-theater in January 1991, the Army 996th Medical Detachment in Riyadh and the Army Forward Laboratory in KKMC augmented the Navy laboratory’s diagnostic capability for a total contingent of three theater area medical laboratories.[32]

6. US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)

Located at Fort Detrick, Maryland, USAMRIID is a part of the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, also headquartered at Fort Detrick. USAMRIID conducts research on drugs, vaccine development, diagnostic systems, and procedures to develop strategies, products, information, procedures, and training programs for medical defense against biological warfare threats and naturally occurring infectious diseases requiring special handling. USAMRIID is the lead medical research laboratory for the US Biological Defense Research Program and plays an important role in national defense and infectious disease research. USAMRIID has the largest biological containment laboratory in the Department of Defense for the study of hazardous diseases.[33] During the Gulf War, USAMRIID analyzed samples of suspected biological warfare agent contamination.[34]

G. Desert Shield and Desert Storm Biological Warfare Agent Detection Capabilities

The 9th Chemical Detachment’s 12 sampling teams used the XM2 biological agent air sampler (Figure 4) and the PM10, a commercial biological agent air, sampler (both point samples rather than stand-off area detectors) because there were insufficient numbers of XM2s for all teams. Mounted in high-mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicles, the XM2 and PM10 are particulate air samplers that collect airborne particles on a collection plate and alert the operator if the air passing through the system has more particles than the normal calibrated value. After a XM2 or PM10 alert, the operator took a sample from the collection plate and processed it with a Sensitive Membrane Antigen Rapid Test (SMART™) kit. A commercial company developed the SMART™ kit for Desert Storm use; it uses relatively rapid immunological detection methods and specific chemistry techniques to detect a biological agent’s presence. The kit can detect Bacillus anthracis or botulinum toxin in a sample in approximately 45 minutes.[35] The 9th Chemical Detachment teams and theater area medical laboratories both used the SMART™ kits.[36]

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Figure 4. XM2 biological agent air sampler

Only theater or United States medical laboratories had the capability to identify biological warfare agents other than anthrax or botulinum toxin, a process that could take hours to days[37] using standard laboratory techniques. Therefore, the only agents US facilities could identify promptly were anthrax and botulinum toxin.

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