This narrative reports the events and investigation surrounding the reported detection of a chemical warfare agent in Camp Monterey, Kuwait.  The Camp Monterey detection was investigated based on information provided by a government contractor responsible for maintaining the mobile mass spectrometer on Fox nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicles under US Central Command’s control during Operations Desert Shield/Storm.

On September 12, 1991, explosive ordinance disposal personnel identified the contents of some small metal cans in a building at Camp Monterey, Kuwait, as o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), a riot control agent generally known as tear gas.  On September 14, 1991, several soldiers became sick after spilling the contents of one of these metal canisters.  These injuries persisted for a short duration, and all soldiers fully recovered.  Even though the substance had been assessed as CS two days before, a sample of the can and its contents was taken, as a precaution, to two Fox reconnaissance vehicles for analysis.  The detection equipment in the Fox reconnaissance vehicles sounded alarms for the possible presence of cyclosarin, a nerve agent. Both Fox reconnaissance vehicles then performed spectrum analyses, and both vehicles correctly identified the compound in question as CS.  Two days later, members of the Fox crews and the government contractor used the sample for training purposes.  This time the Fox vehicles sounded alarms for sarin, a nerve agent.   They then performed spectrum analyses, and both vehicles once more corrected the identification to CS.

Later, in 1996, copies of both Fox readings’ tape printouts from September 16th were submitted to the Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team, the predecessor of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses.  At the time, it was suggested that the tapes documented a chemical warfare agent exposure.   To obtain conclusive and objective analyses of the tapes, the Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team forwarded them for independent analyses to three expert laboratories: the Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command; Bruker Analytical Systems, Inc.; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  All three reviews confirmed that the Fox spectra readings detected the presence of CS, not sarin or cyclosarin. The reviews also explained why the initial nerve agent alarms for sarin were consistent with the design of the chemical detection system in Fox reconnaissance vehicles.  These expert reviews, supported by testimony from eyewitnesses, led investigators to assess that chemical warfare agent was definitely not involved in this incident at Camp Monterey, Kuwait.

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