IV. LESSONS LEARNED
A. Fox MM-1 Tapes
During Operation Desert Storm, there were no established procedures for collecting and archiving Fox Mobile Mass Spectrometer (MM-1) tapes. Fortunately, when the Fox MM-1 alerted in breaching lane Red 1, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment NBC officer kept the MM-1 tape and provided it to us in 1997. Procedures for collecting and archiving Fox MM-1 tapes should be established.
B. Documenting the Presence of Chemical Warfare Agents
In the possible presence of chemical warfare agents in breaching lane Red 1, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment Fox crew responded exactly as they were trained. They alerted fellow Marines to possible contamination in the minefield and moved on. Attempts to gather additional evidence of chemical warfare agent presence could have severely compromised the tempo of offensive operations. The Fox attached to the 2d Marine Division Headquarters Battalion was assigned to general support for the other Foxes. Neither this Fox nor other units were dispatched to verify the presence of chemical warfare agents because the Marines were engaged in combat with Iraqi forces. The Fox crew took steps to mitigate the effects of possible chemical warfare agent presence while continuing combat operations. It was not their task to seek confirmatory evidence of a chemical warfare attack after they had moved through the area. In future conflicts, gathering strategic and operational evidence of chemical warfare agent use by an enemy might be as important as taking proper tactical protective measures. Procedures should be established to send follow-on teams to areas suspected of chemical warfare agent contamination to either verify or disprove rumors of chemical warfare agent use by the enemy.
C. Treatment of Possible Chemical Warfare Injuries
The sergeant possibly injured by chemical warfare agents in breaching lane Red 1 was examined the same day by a 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment surgeon. The sergeant was told that he did not have a chemical warfare agent injury. However, he and other Marines have expressed doubt regarding the accuracy of the battalion aid station doctor's diagnosis. Because the doctor did not consider the sergeant's condition a result of chemical warfare agent exposure, there is little documentation regarding the medical examinations results. In the future, documenting all alleged chemical warfare agent injuries with a written description and photographs (when possible) of the injury, along with a second medical opinion (when possible), could reduce potential disagreements as to the nature of injuries. Prompt post-war review of any injury, with even a remote possibility that chemical warfare agent exposure was involved, should be conducted.
D. Communications Feedback
Although they had not actually seen the injury to the assault amphibian vehicle sergeants hand, many Marines we interviewed heard about the injury by word-of-mouth. Many today still believe that the sergeant was, in fact, exposed to chemical warfare agents. They were never officially informed of the outcome regarding possible chemical warfare agent exposure. Official documents, such as the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment command chronology, and the 2d Marine Division monograph, recorded the presence of chemical warfare agents in lane Red 1 as fact. The lack of effective feedback at the unit and command level allowed incomplete or erroneous reports about possible chemical warfare agent exposures to be reported as fact.
When the deployment of forces includes the possibility of enemy use of chemical warfare agents, the services should initiate procedures to gather sample evidence in order to verify or clarify reports that have been made. The services should develop a system through which servicemembers can be kept apprised of the facts and information discovered after an alleged exposure to chemical warfare agents. Through such a system, rumors of chemical warfare agent exposure could be proven true or untrue, before being recorded in official histories.
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 call 1-800-497-6261.
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