OSAGWI seeking coalition help on
Gulf War illnesses investigations

Washington, August 27, 1997 (GulfLINK) -- Bernard Rostker, the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, will go on a fact-finding trip to the capitals of three Gulf War coalition countries during September 1997. The purpose of the visits to Paris, London, and Prague is to exchange information with ministers of defense and to receive briefings on operational, medical, and country-specific experiences related to military service in the Gulf War. Rostker and his team plan to leave for Paris on September 8, 1997 and to return to the U.S. on September 20.

"We are interested in answers to operational and medical questions related to each country's experience with chemical weapons and environmental hazards in the Gulf War," explained Rostker. "The investigative team will explore questions such as: what chemicals were detected, where and how were they detected, how their chemical detection equipment was employed, and whether their detections were confirmed by other means."

The meetings will also include discussions on relevant medical topics, conversations with Gulf War veterans, and demonstrations of chemical detection equipment.

"We intend to ask if there are soldiers suffering from undiagnosed illnesses, how are the illnesses being treated, and if there is any linkage to the illnesses and the soldiers' service in the Gulf War or with chemical detections," Rostker noted.

As DoD's coordinator for all issues relating to Gulf War illnesses, Rostker has focused on ensuring that Gulf War veterans receive appropriate care, understanding the events of the Gulf War in order to explain Gulf War illnesses, and implementing changes to policy, procedures and doctrine as a result of lessons learned from the war.

Throughout the ongoing investigation into the causes of illness, Rostker has emphasized his intent to follow President Clinton's mandate to leave no stone unturned in finding solutions to the illnesses which many Gulf War veterans are experiencing.

Rostker's visit with French officials in Paris will provide an opportunity to brief representatives of the French Ministry of Defense on the mission and organization of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI), and to discuss the findings regarding events associated with the demolition of the ammunition storage facility at Khamisiyah. The OSAWGI head also hopes to discuss information relevant to the French detections of low blister agent concentrations at Hafar al Batin in Saudi Arabia.

Establishing an open dialogue to discuss French and U.S. experience with chemical warfare and environmental hazards in the Gulf should benefit both countries in terms of operational and medical perspectives.

The use of organophosphate (OP) pesticides during the Gulf War is one of the major topics to be discussed with British officials in London. Approximately 53,000 U.K. troops served in the Gulf theater of operations. British troops did not report any pesticide exposure incidents during the Gulf War that required medical attention, but some veterans who have reported illness believe that the mixture of vaccinations and pyridostigmine bromide (PB), as well as the use of pesticides, may be related to their illnesses.

Heightened public awareness about the safe use of OP is fueled by British concern that large doses of organophosphates used in sheep-dipping processes have caused illnesses among some British farmers.

The British have attempted to reconstruct their pesticide use during the war and have documented their investigation in a report released December 6, 1996.

In Prague, Rostker will ask Czech officials about their chemical agent sensing and detection methodology, in addition to reviewing the actions Czech forces took to confirm detections during the Gulf War. He will also be briefed on medical findings from the analysis of medical exams of soldiers experiencing illnesses related to the Gulf War.