Tags: Chembio | Suits | Limit | Iraq | War | Window

Chembio Suits Limit Iraq War Window

Wednesday, 13 November 2002 12:00 AM

Just moments before she fainted, another member of the team explained that while the suits were indeed hot, they are accustomed to working in them and are trained to withstand the physical rigors of wearing them, even in a desert environment.

Nevertheless, military officials have long maintained they are not eager to get into a summer war with Iraq as temperatures can reach as high as 140-degrees -- making fighting even in standard battle gear difficult. If Iraq unleashes chemical or biological weapons on the battlefield, all soldiers will don the two-piece suits for added protection.

But as many as one in 16 of the suits may have serious flaws, according to the General Accounting Office.

The weather in Iraq plays a heavy role in tactical U.S. war planning in Iraq. The 1991 Persian Gulf War had a six-month build-up, not only to intimidate Iraqi soldiers who had invaded Kuwait but also to allow the weather to cool down before what was assumed would be a long desert ground war.

Adding to the concern the New York Times reported Tuesday that Baghdad is trying to order vast quantities of antropine, an antidote to deadly nerve agents -- indicating Saddam Hussein may be planning a chemical attack and wants to be able to protect his own troops. The Iraqi military is believed to have large stores of chemical and biological weapons, some left over from its pre-Gulf War arsenal and more newly manufactured.

The soldier who tumbled into the first row of chairs in the room, Sgt. 1st Class Kerrethel Avery was quickly revived and led out of the room. The other soldiers suited up in various chem.-bio suits were red-faced and sweating under the television-ready lights. They were directed to unzip and stand at ease.

"I've never felt anything like that light before," Avery told reporters after the briefing, having doffed the chemical-lined suit that contributed to her downfall. She said she did not lock her knees -- a frequent cause of soldiers' fainting while standing at attention -- and had opened the suit at the cuffs to let in air.

Avery is a member of the Army's Technical Escort Unit, which does the dangerous work of explosive ordnance disposal and identifying enemy chemical and biological agents on the battlefield.

But all soldiers who deploy to a possible war with Iraq will be issued the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology.

Capt. Regan Edens, also with the Army's TEU, told United Press International he had operated in his suit at temperatures as high as 137 degrees.

"It's tough but its nothing we can't handle," he said.

The suits are lighter and more durable than the version they replaced, but even so the program has been plagued with problems. In October, the General Accounting Office revealed that as many as 250,000 flawed JSLIST suits may be mixed in with the Defense Department's inventory of more than 4 million intact suits, a situation Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., likened to a game of "Russian roulette" for soldiers who may face just such threats on a battlefield in Iraq.

A company produced more than 750,000 suits with tears in them, and at least 120,000 of them were issued to U.S. soldiers serving in Bosnia. They were recalled but the Pentagon can only document receiving 500,000.

Moreover, New York's Newsday reported last week that the suits carbon-lining can break down and become ineffective when exposed to sweat.

The suits are expected to be replaced after 45 days of use to account for the problem, according to military officials overseeing the program.

The TEU team leader, Lt. Col. George Lecakes, expressed total confidence in the JSLIST suit.

"I can tell you with 100 percent confidence they will protect my life, his life ... there's no doubt whatsoever," he said.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Just moments before she fainted, another member of the team explained that while the suits were indeed hot, they are accustomed to working in them and are trained to withstand the physical rigors of wearing them, even in a desert environment. Nevertheless, military...
Chembio,Suits,Limit,Iraq,War,Window
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2002-00-13
Wednesday, 13 November 2002 12:00 AM
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