V. LESSONS LEARNED
The proliferation of chemical warfare weapons makes it likely US forces may be exposed to chemical warfare agents in future conflicts.
Rather than attempting to reconstruct local weather years after the event, we require accurate, timely weather data for air strikes on targets that may release toxic industrial chemicals or chemical warfare agents into the environment. We need to collect and archive basic target weather data, such as temperature, wind directions and velocities, humidity and precipitation, during an attack on a known or suspected hazardous materials site to support after-action analyses.
B. Bomb Damage Assessment
Lack of bomb damage assessment complicated our efforts to assess the possible threat to US forces posed by the air war against Al Muthanna. Attempts to rediscover the past, years after the events, rely on speculative judgments and worst-case scenarios more than documented facts.
Aircraft videotape data is a key analytical resource in determining the exact time and date of possible contaminant releases due to air attacks. Unfortunately, our investigators found some units reused videotapes by recording over previous missions. This resulted in critical information gaps in the air war record. Preserving and archiving these tapes should be a high priority in future deployments.
C. Operations Records
Combat forces need to preserve and archive their data for future use. Although, standard procedures already govern collecting this data, we found the data often was lost during the press of actual operations. There needs to be a formal process to capture the locations and activities of combat maneuver and combat support battalions and their subordinate elements at least daily. All ground forces need to capture and preserve this data, but they did not always do so.
Artillery firing data would significantly assist mapping the locations and movement of the forward line of own troops over time. After action reports of brigades, divisions, and corps should capture this data.
This case still is being investigated. If additional information becomes available, we will incorporate it into a revised narrative. If you have records, photographs, or recollections of this case or find errors in the details reported, please call 1-800-497-6261.
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