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Gulf War vets to testify on chemical weapon detections

December 10, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers who operated chemical weapons detection units during the Persian Gulf War were scheduled to tell Congress Tuesday about several incidents in which chemical alerts were issued, then later classified as "false alarms" by commanders.

The testimony came as the Pentagon released records of some 20 detections by sophisticated equipment both during and after the war. In all cases, the Pentagon said, further review and follow-up tests either failed to confirm the presence of chemical agents or were otherwise inconclusive.

The Pentagon received the records on magnetic tape from congressional investigators, who, sources said, got them from Gulf War veterans. The Army has had the records since December 1993, but said the tapes were "inconclusive" because they did not contain dates, locations, or any follow-up analysis of the detections.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. George Grass is one of three chemical weapons specialists scheduled to testify about incidents in which equipment detected "a lethal vapor concentration" of a chemical agent, suspected to be mustard gas.

Grass has testified before, both to Congress and the Presidential Advisory Committee of Gulf War Illness. The Pentagon says that while his testimony "cannot be discounted," the judgment of commanders on the scene was that the readings were false alarms.

The Pentagon has notified some 20,000 troops who participated in the destruction of Iraqi munition stockpiles of the possibility they may have been exposed to minute amounts of chemical agents.

In June, officials announced that chemical weapons were present at the Kamisiyah weapons storage facility in southern Iraq. U.S. troops blew up ammunition stored there in March 1991.

Many Gulf War veterans have reported serious ailments, including chronic digestive problems, joint pain and fatigue -- symptoms that have been loosely categorized as Gulf War Syndrome.

Tuesday's testimony is before the House Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Connecticut.

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