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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iron Horse soldiers investigate possible WMD site

by Spc. Vernon O'Donnell

TIKRIT, Iraq (Army News Service, May 6, 2003) -- Working from a tip by the local population, Special Forces soldiers located a possible Weapons of Mass Destruction site in northern Iraq near Bayji on April 25.

The site was secured by 4th Infantry Division (Iron Horse) soldiers and initially investigated by the division chemical officer, Maj. Ronald Gilliam. Two of Gilliam's field tests showed positive signs for blister agent.

The missiles and liquid-filled 55-gallon drums at the site were still under investigation with no final results available for public release as of May 6, said a Central Command official.

"We started with an aerial test to determine if the area was contaminated and the tests came back negative," said Gilliam, "then we opened the drums and tested with M8 paper, which came up positive for blister agent, and the M256 kit which also came back positive for blister."

With two positive test results, the 1/10 Cavalry, 4th ID, secured the area and an M93A1 Fox vehicle performed reconnaissance for any contamination nearby. A Sight Survey Team was notified of the potential chemical weapons so further testing could be performed on the rockets and containers, said Gilliam.

SST4 arrived at the location on April 27 to perform additional tests with more advanced equipment than is available within the division.

"We use the standard M8 paper test in addition to using the more reliable AP2C and APD2000 chemical detectors," said Lt. Col. Keith Johnson, SST4 commander. "These pieces of equipment and our training help eliminate some of the chance of this being a false positive reading."

The SST is an elite team of soldiers from various posts that have trained the last four months for WMD missions in the Middle East and Iraq, said Johnson. The training has included work with the CIA and visits to nuclear training facilities and chemical/biological weapons labs in order to better prepare the soldiers for the possible testing environments presented in the field.

"Our tests were not all positive for agents, but some of the new tests did come back showing signs of chemical agents," said Johnson.

Given the strong signs of toxic agents the Mobile Exploitation Team, a team comprised of joint services and countries, gathered a sample of the potential agent. This sample was then shipped back to the United States for final testing.

If the liquid turns out to be a chemical agent, the mission will turn to disposal of the WMD.

"This is the first find of this type for 4 ID in Iraq," said Gilliam, who has been a chemical officer for all of his 16 years in the Army. "This find is significant for 4 ID and the Army because it might prove the fact that we were right all along and that Saddam does have chemical weapons."

(Editor's note: Spc. Vernon O'Donnell is assigned to the 350th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)



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