NARRATIVE (An acronym listing is at Tab A)

About Camp Monterey[2]

Camp Monterey is located about 15 miles north of Kuwait City and about 7 miles south of the Iraqi border[3] as shown in Figure 1. Camp Monterey is the American name given to a Kuwaiti Brigade headquarters taken by the Iraqis in August 1990 and used as an Iraqi Corps headquarters. The area was partially destroyed by US and Coalition bombing during the Air War in January 1991. The first US unit to occupy the camp was the US Army 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Armored Division in March 1991. Later, in June 1991, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Camp Doha outside Kuwait City used the area as a forward camp for training exercises in northern Kuwait. In August 1991, as part of Task Force Victory, the 3rd Battalion of the 77th Armor Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division moved to the camp and was the only US force between Iraq and Kuwait City. While the 3/77 Armor Battalion was the only combat unit at Camp Monterey, there were engineering units stationed there, as well, that were involved in recovery operations.[4]


Figure 1. Kuwait Theater of Operations: Camp Monterey


Detection of Chemical Agents at Camp Monterey

On the morning of September 16, 1991, US Army troops from Task Force Victory 3/77 Armor at Camp Monterey were moving wooden crates containing metal cans out of a building so that the building could be used to house US troops.[5] One of the cans broke and spilled white powder. Two soldiers became sick in the presence of the substance, experiencing tearing and eye irritation symptoms as well as nausea. A Fox reconnaissance vehicle[6] was sent to the site because it was suspected that a chemical agent might be present. The vehicle’s initial inspection alerted for Sarin (GB), a nerve agent which is colorless in liquid or vapor form and may cause death within 15 minutes if there is a severe exposure.[7] The Camp Monterey commander was informed of these findings immediately; he asked for a second Fox reconnaissance vehicle to confirm the findings. The second Fox reconnaissance vehicle detection system was operated by the first operator in order to ensure that the same procedures were followed by both vehicles. The second vehicle, whose calibration was checked, alerted for Sarin, but also alerted for o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, commonly known as CS. CS, an irritant agent used for riot control, is a white crystalline solid with a pungent, pepper-like odor and is stable under ordinary conditions of storage.[8] In accordance with established procedure, full spectrum analyses were run by both vehicles, and both identified the chemical as CS, not Sarin. Because of the detection of CS, the area was secured. Both soldiers involved in the incident were examined immediately following exposure, later that day, and the next morning. The soldiers were diagnosed to be fully recovered with no recurring symptoms. According to the commander, "everybody was OK."[9],[10]


Although the chemical compound was identified at the time as CS by the full spectrum analyses of the two Fox reconnaissance vehicles, the Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Investigation Team conducted an investigation of the incident in response to a letter from a lawyer representing a contractor employee responsible for maintenance for the mobile mass spectrometry chemical analysis equipment on Fox reconnaissance vehicles under US Central Command’s control during Operations Desert Shield/Storm.

In his letter, the lawyer stated:

Between 10:17 am and 10:33 am on [September 16] the enclosed tape shows that the first vehicle detected Sarin (GB) with eight (8) readings. Both the air monitor and surface monitor showed Sarin nerve gas as present. The air monitor showed concentrations of 3.0 - 4.0 and the surface monitor showed concentrations of 5.6.

The U.S. Army Brigade Commander for the area was informed of these findings. He asked for a second Fox vehicle to confirm the findings. A second vehicle arrived, and having checked its calibration... it also detected Sarin at noon on that date... at a 5.2 concentration.

The mass spectrometers that produced these readings in the two Fox vehicles were not faulty and were fully calibrated. As you know, the Fox vehicle mass spectrometer was the most sophisticated chemical detection equipment available to the U.S. Army to detect on-site chemical agents. In view of the ongoing investigation of the Persian Gulf illnesses and exposure to Iraqi chemical agents, we look forward to an investigation of the clear exposure incident and the personnel involved and the state of their health.[11],[12]

The tapes mentioned were copies of the tape printouts of the mass spectrometry chemical detection system, the MM1, used on the Fox reconnaissance vehicle which had been retained by the contractor employee. In order to obtain conclusive and objective analyses of the tapes, the Investigation Team forwarded copies the Fox spectra tapes to three independent mass spectrometry experts at the US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, Bruker Analytical Systems, Inc.-- the manufacturer of the chemical detection system in the Fox, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for analyses. The Investigation Team also interviewed one of the operators of the Fox reconnaissance vehicles, the Camp Monterey commander, and the contractor employee[13], who was present in the first Fox reconnaissance vehicle and provided the Fox spectra readings. All three expert reviews confirmed that the initial Sarin detection was a false positive and that the full spectrum analyses of both Fox reconnaissance vehicles correctly identified the riot control agent CS.[14]

US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command Analysis

The US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command responded:

Both MM1 tapes indicate valid detections of the riot control compound known as CS. We assign a high confidence level to this conclusion....

[The] initial response of the first MM1 was an alarm to the chemical warfare compound GB (Sarin). From the tape copies provided, we cannot determine whether CS was being monitored for in the wheel high method as the monitor list for this method was not printed out or not provided. In any case, as prescribed by proper Fox NBC Reconnaissance procedures on detection of a chemical warfare compound, the operator programmed the MM1 to take a spectrum of the compound detected. The MM1 then automatically searches its entire library of chemical warfare compounds for the best match of that spectrum. The MM1 then correctly identified the compound as CS, a riot control agent. It must be understood that for a number of complex technical reasons, the MM1 sometimes incorrectly identifies the compound being sampled when it is monitoring in the air monitor mode. For this reason, the spectrum procedure is prescribed to assure correct identification after the initial response.[15]

Bruker Analytical Systems, Inc. Analysis

Bruker Analytical Systems, Inc., the manufacturer of the mass spectrometer used in the Fox reconnaissance vehicles, also confirmed that the initial alert for Sarin was false and that the full spectrum analyses correctly detected the riot control agent CS. The report states:

I have looked at the tapes you have supplied in your FAX of 28 September 1996, and can state without a doubt that the substance was CS and not Sarin.[16]

Bruker explained that the two main reasons for the initial detection of Sarin are: (1) the monitor modes compare detections of only four ions against a limited target list; and (2) the detector’s interference parameter is set such that no false alarms will be suppressed for extremely dangerous compounds such as Sarin.

Regarding the first factor, the Bruker report states:

In either Air or Surface Monitor Modes, the MM-1 has a TARGET COMPOUND LIST that it is looking for. It is simply monitoring the intensities of the 4 ions in the list of compounds selected. IT IS IGNORING ALL OTHER IONS IN THE SPECTRA.

This means that it is rapidly searching for a fingerprint consisting of 4 ions for each compound... While this mode results in high sensitivity and rapid response, it is important to realize that the accepted legal criteria for identification of compounds by mass spectrometry (for example in EPA methods), requires that a COMPLETE SPECTRUM OF ALL IONS PRESENT be provided. This is one reason why ANY alarm must be verified by the FULL SPECTRUM even though the spectrum will not be as fast to alarm.[17] (emphasis original)

In other words, by comparing only four ions against a limited target list, the identity of a sampled compound may be quickly limited to a "short list" of candidates from the target list, allowing the Fox to quickly sound an alarm. By running a full spectrum analysis, the chemical agent may be identified uniquely from the complete list of chemicals in the detector’s databanks, allowing the Fox to confirm or refute the alarm.

The second factor reported by Bruker is the interference parameter:

The interference parameter suppresses false alarms due to LARGE amounts of other substances present. Since in Air Monitor mode, only a certain list of compounds are monitored, if the ions of one of the other compounds monitored are present in large amounts, then the alarm is suppressed. This blocks false alarms resulting from minor peaks present in the spectra. In this case, if the difference between the largest ion monitored and the ions of CS ions is greater than 10 ([inverse] log 1.0) the alarm is suppressed. For Sarin, the difference must be [inverse] Log 8.0 or 100,000,000. This is typically used to suppress false alarms from petroleum oil in the background. The MM-1 has a dynamic range of Log 8. THIS MEANS THAT WITH AN INTERFERENCE OF 8 FOR SARIN, NO FALSE ALARMS WILL BE SUPPRESSED IN THE PRESENCE OF LARGE AMOUNTS OF OTHER COMPOUNDS- IN THIS CASE CS. Since the standard procedure calls for taking a complete spectra and verifying the identification, some false alarms in Air Monitor mode are accepted by the Army to INSURE that there are NO FALSE NEGATIVES where a dangerous agent such as Sarin would not be detected. In the case of CS, [an] interference of 1.0 means that the alarm may be suppressed due to the presence of other ions.[18] (emphasis original)

In other words, the US Army uses an interference parameter which is set sufficiently high to ensure that an alarm will sound for extremely dangerous compounds like Sarin in the presence of large amounts of other compounds, like CS. Alternatively, for compounds such as CS, the interference parameter may be set low to prevent false alarms in the presence of large amounts of other compounds.

Moreover, regarding this particular combination of compounds, the Bruker report states:

With the interference and reliability parameters used, it is expected that CS in such high concentration, would give an alarm for Sarin and indicate a lower concentration. This is why a full mass spectrum is considered necessary to identify a substance by mass spectrometry in a court of law. Likewise, this is also why the standard procedure the soldiers are taught for operation of the MM-1 REQUIRES a spectrum for verification. There is no firm identification UNLESS the spectrum identifies the agent. As an analogy, alarming in Air Monitor Mode is equivalent to standing on the side of the road with your eyes closed and identifying makes and models of automobiles passing by the sound of the engine. Spectrum Mode would be equivalent to opening your eyes and seeing the license number, color, and make/model of the automobiles in addition to listening to the engine.[19] (emphasis original)

NIST Analysis

In agreement with the above analyses, NIST[20] stated that the mass spectra from the two Fox reconnaissance vehicles "are clearly diagnostic of CS-- there is no evidence of Sarin. The very low threshold settings for Sarin relative to CS provide a credible explanation of why Sarin was reported [and] was a false identification."[21] The threshold settings, here, refer to the interference parameter discussed above.


The Fox reconnaissance vehicle operator interviewed by the Investigation Team reported sighting a short brown can, approximately 8" in diameter. He observed a white powder substance inside.[22] The description of the can was consistent with that given by the contractor employee, who was present in the first Fox reconnaissance vehicle; however, the contractor employee was unable to identify the state of matter (solid, powder, liquid) of the substance inside.[23] The Camp Monterey commander confirmed the sequence of events as described by the Fox reconnaissance vehicle operator and reported that the contractor employee had confirmed that the Fox reconnaissance vehicles were correctly calibrated and that the agent detected was CS at the time of the incident. The Camp Monterey commander also said that his unit’s physician’s assistant reported that everyone was fine, and that there was no evidence of nerve agent exposure.[24]

Results of the investigation were provided to the contractor employee’s lawyer.[25] No further inquiries into the matter have been made by the attorney.

This case is still being investigated. As additional information becomes available, it will be incorporated. If you have records, photographs, recollections, or find errors in the details reported, please contact the DoD Persian Gulf Task Force Hot Line at 1-800-472-6719.


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