November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website,, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.

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The following article is reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle as a "fair use" for educational purposes. Copies of this article may be available from the source on-line or via mail. This website has no authority to grant permission to reprint this article. At times we copy an article, with attribution, rather than link directly to the source as media links are often unstable, e.g. the article moves from the source's linked page to an archive, thereby creating a bad link on this site.

Army audit reports gas masks defective
Chemical weapons alarms also on the fritz

Kathleen Sullivan
Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, December 26, 2002

As American troops prepare for a possible war with Iraq, the Army is downplaying an internal report that says more than half of its gas masks and nearly all of its chemical weapons alarms were either "completely broken or not fully operational."

Capt. Benjamin Kuykendall, an Army spokesman, said the 2001 report by the U. S. Army Audit Agency "does read pretty bad."

Kuykendall said the Army was addressing the problems it uncovered, but said many defects could be fixed in the field.

"Honestly, anytime you take a look at a gas mask, you'll find that it has little tears, or that the air filter needs to be changed," he said. "Those are things that soldiers can repair."

A soldier is taught how to test his gas mask, Kuykendall said.

"If it doesn't work, he's going to tell somebody," Kuykendall said. "He will go to the NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) guy and say: Hey can you fix this?"

He said technicians could also fix malfunctioning alarms.

Kuykendall said Army auditors would only have been satisfied if they had found all the gas masks in showroom condition.

He said even a small tear -- say, in the hood that fits over a gas mask -- would render it "defective" in the eyes of auditors.

"As crude as it sounds, a soldier could fix that tear with duct tape," Kuykendall said.

Kuykendall said the Army had improved its alarms but acknowledged that they might still misfire.

"It's better to err on the side of false positive than to be blissfully ignorant and sleep through a cloud of gas," he said.

Kuykendall said the Army would also rely on roving reconnaissance vehicles, which will test the air constantly.

"If there was a chemical cloud headed toward the troops, they would warn the troops," he said.

He said the first method of defense against areas contaminated with chemical agents was to avoid that terrain -- if at all possible.

"If there's no military reason to proceed, nothing tactically significant to go into, we would avoid the area," Kuykendall said. "Obviously, if we had to go in for a military essential target, we would get into the suits and go do it."

Last month, the U.S. General Accounting Office, which has scrutinized the Pentagon's chemical defense program for six years, said "serious problems still persist" in its ability to safeguard soldiers against chemical and biological weapons.

"While we have found that (the Department of Defense) has made some improvements -- in equipment, training and reporting, and in the coordination of research and development activities -- we have continuing concerns in each of these areas," the GAO said.

The GAO said the Pentagon "could not easily identify, track and locate" defective suits in its vast inventory. Last July, the Pentagon could not account for the whereabouts of 250,000 defective suits, the report said.

"DOD could not determine whether its older suits would adequately protect service members because some of the systems' records omit essential data on suit expiration," the GAO report said.

Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the agency had done everything possible to find and identify defective suits and believed the 250,000 defective suits were used and discarded.

She said the Pentagon has substantially improved individual protective garments, gas masks and chemical detectors since the Gulf War.
Colin said the Pentagon has enough suits in its inventory -- including the 1991 model and the improved model -- to meet the needs of troops.


Army auditors found that a large portion of the Army's supply of gas masks is defective in some way, with rips in rubber face-pieces, expired filters or malfunctioning valves. Here are the key components of a soldier's gear that are designed for protection from chemical attack: HOW THE FILTER WORKS
1 Air first passes through an aerosol filter, which can remove biological particles such as anthrax which have a minimum size of <ETH>1 micron. Most filters remove particles as small as 0.3 microns.
2 Next, the activated charcoal filter removes certain organic chemicals. The activated charcoal is manufactured to have millions of openings on its surface. Carbon-based particles chemically attach to this surface and become trapped. However, once all the bonding sites are taken, the filter is useless and needs to be replaced.
Sources: GulfLINK; Virtual Naval Hospital;
E-mail Kathleen Sullivan at

Page created December 30, 2002 by Charlie Jenks.