Gulf War Illnesses Office Investigators Continue Inquiries

WASHINGTON, March 20, 1998 (GulfLINK)-Investigators at the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses in Washington recently announced plans to release the results of at least half a dozen investigations during the next three months. The office leads the Department of Defense efforts to explain what happened during the Gulf War that may relate to illnesses affecting thousands of Gulf War veterans since the war's end. Currently, 19 case narratives, two information papers and two update reports are in progress.

"While many are scheduled for release soon, several remaining cases require additional information from veterans and other sources to assure accuracy," said Anne Davis, director, investigation and analysis directorate for the Office of the Special Assistant.

The first cases slated for release are: Czech/French, a study of seven reported detections by Czechoslovakian and French troops; Khamisiyah Update, a report on the unresolved issues in the initial Khamisiyah narrative; M256 Information Paper, a description of the capabilities and limitations of M256 chemical detection kit; 11th Marines, an account of chemical incident reports by elements of the 11th Marines; Edgewood Tapes, a description of the circumstances surrounding events recorded on certain Fox tapes; and An Nasiriyah S.W., a study of the incidents involving the An Nasiriyah S.W. storage facility.

"We are optimistic about the projected completion dates for the remaining cases, pending no delays with our sources," Davis said. "However, if our first year is any guide, additional reviews will come up during the year that cannot now be anticipated."

Nine other documents are scheduled to be released later in the spring or summer of 1998. They are: Injured Marine, a report of a Marine injured while inspecting equipment taken from Iraqi prisoners of war; Possible Terrorist Attack at Al Jubayl, an analysis of a theory that there may have been an Iraqi terrorist attack with chemical weapons at Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, during the Gulf War; Post War Chemical Weapon Use on Iraqis, a discussion centered on the possibility that U.S. troops were exposed to chemical agents as a result of Iraqi chemical weapon use to quell the insurrection in Iraq following the Gulf War; Biological Warfare, a study of claims that biological weapons were used during the Gulf War; Oil Well Fires, a look at circumstances of exposure to oil well smoke and a review of lessons learned; Cement Factory, an investigation into a report of a positive Fox detection at a cement factory; Vaccine Administration, a review of DoD policy on non-routine vaccinations during the Gulf War, the policies for investigating new drugs and lessons learned; Air Campaign, a review of the targeting and mission planning processes associated with chemical/biological targets that were attacked during the Gulf War; and Depleted Uranium, a review of the hazards of exposure to depleted uranium dust.

Cases under investigation, but with no definite release dates as yet are: Insecticides/Pesticides, a report of hazards of exposure to insecticides and pesticides; Scud Information Paper, a reference paper explaining capabilities, limitations and use of the Scud missile by the Iraqis; Marine Breaching Follow-up, a continuation of the investigation into the initial Marine Breaching narrative; Medical Surveillance/Individual Medical Readiness, a review of the theater-wide policy relating to preventative medicine, health risk assessment, risk communication, monitoring and assessments of the health force and the health care delivery system during the Gulf War; Medical Record Keeping, a review of how medical records were kept, handled and stored during the Gulf War, as well as a review of subsequent changes and current record keeping methods; Chemical Sites, an investigation of chemical warfare agent storage locations; and M256 Kit Detections, a review of circumstances surrounding reported positive M256 kit detections.

The main focus of the current inquiries is environmental exposures - the topic found to be of most concern to veterans, Davis said. Six additional environmental issue cases are

scheduled to begin at a later date.

"Each investigation requires a strict coordination process among the investigators to ensure an unbiased and accurate story is reported," explained Lt. Col. Dee Morris, deputy director of the investigations and analysis team.

Every investigation taken on by the team is painstaking and typically takes several months to complete. As researchers probe each facet of a particular issue, key military personnel are located and interviewed, thousands of original source documents are examined, veterans are sought for eyewitness information in an attempt to verify facts and inter-agency information is exchanged and reviewed for accuracy, she said.

While the Gulf War illnesses office attempts to produce the papers on schedule, the length of time required to produce a narrative can change over the course of the inquiry. The major stumbling blocks cited by investigators include inconsistent facts, delays in receiving information from sources, expansion in the scope of the case and locating and interviewing witnesses.

"We need first-hand information from our veterans, so we can provide everyone with the most the factual, up-to-date answers to the questions they find the most important to their health and well-being," Morris said.

In an effort to move forward on some of the current examinations, Morris said case investigators are calling for specific information in the following cases:

buildings, bunkers and the munitions stored in these structures - in the open, or scattered

throughout the installation by aerial bombing or ground demolition work. The team also

needs to locate and interview people present at An Nasiriyah S.W.

"We are interested in learning if any study/studies pointed to the possible release

of toxic agents and the exposure of our troops to agents released into the air as a result of the bombing campaign," Morris said.

fratricide incidents during the war). Since many of these individuals received only minor injuries, their names may not appear on casualty lists.

Both Davis and Morris encourage anyone with information about the incidents being researched to come forward and 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.