America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
Operation Desert
Shield/Storm

With all the progress made between 1980 and 1990 came promises that the U.S. military was now the best-trained and best-equipped force in the world, even within the realm of CB warfare. In truth, Army units had not quite adapted to the new Chemical Corps's doctrine and training. The GAO, which had revisited the Army chemical centers several times since 1977 to assess the NBC defense readiness, gave the Army a below average grade once more.

The GAO performed a study just prior to the onset of Operation Desert Shield ( May 1989 to July 1990, more by coincidence than design) to determine the extent of the Army's ability to conduct combat operations in a chemical environment. This report focused on chemical warfare rather than nuclear or biological warfare in the tradition of past reports, chemical warfare being the most likely threat. This study was released to the public in May 1991 and confirmed many fears that soldiers were inadequately equipped and inadequately trained to survive and sustain combat operations in a chemical environment. They detailed their findings according to doctrine, training, leadership, and materiel programs. 1

The GAO found that the Army Chemical Corps had updated and published their manuals according to the new AirLand Battle Operations. Other Army branches, such as the Signal, Armor, and Infantry schools, continued to emphasize individual survival tasks but not the effects of NBC agents on their combat operations. Ten of the twenty-three field manuals examined either paraphrased the Chemical School manuals, provided general discussions of chemical operations, or inserted a paragraph or appendix with descriptions of the individual survival tasks. Specific tasks, such as entering and exiting an armored vehicle in a contaminated environment, were not covered in the Armor School's field manuals. Nearly two-thirds of the doctrine writers at the Signal, Armor, and Infantry Schools had not been aware of the CANE tests, exercises, or results, and therefore had not changed any of their training approaches.

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