Slippery lubricant rules create conflict for Army
Scripps Howard News Service
Recommended for weekend release
By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
For a soldier in combat, nothing is more important than a rifle that works. In a recent handwritten scrawl from the front lines of Iraq, Army Spec. Justin Carroll put that fact succinctly: "By me being an infantryman fighting on the front lines of this war, my weapon is my life." But as reports of jammed rifles filter back from the trenches of Iraq, Carroll and other U.S. troops are charging that a key military-supplied maintenance item for their weapons is effectively putting their lives more at risk in an already deadly environment.
At issue is an Army-issued weapons lubricant that some troops say is mucking up their weapons and leaving them vulnerable to jamming in the dusty, desert environment of Iraq. Equally disturbing, they say, is the Army's refusal to supply what they consider a far superior, commercially available product that many in the military and law enforcement already swear by and that the Pentagon in the past had endorsed.
In fact, a number of troops spent their own money to buy the rival lubricant _ called Militec-1 _ before they deployed to Iraq. Others, such as Carroll, have written or e-mailed Militec Inc. from the front lines, asking the Maryland firm to ship it to them as soon as possible.
"I spent my own money to buy a rather large supply of Militec before we deployed," Marine Cpl. Richard XXXXX e-mailed the company this week after his return from the battlefield. "Without a doubt, using Militec in Iraq saved my life and the lives of several other Marines."
The Army, however, maintains that the lubricant it has approved _ called CLP, for "cleaning, lubricating and preserving" _ represents "state of the art" performance, according to a May e-mail from Army Gen. N. Ross Thompson, commander of the Army's Tank, Automotive and Armaments Command. The Army's specifications that a "multipurpose lubricant" must meet were developed with input from soldiers, scientists and private industry, Thompson wrote to Militec President Brad Giordani. CLP meets those requirements while Militec does not, the general wrote.
"One of the Army's primary objectives is to place the best technology into the hands of soldiers," Thompson wrote. "The test data shows that Militec-1 does not meet the minimum specified requirement for cleaning, lubricating and preserving military weapons." Thompson wrote.
Even so, the Army has embarked on a study of lubricant specifications. Giordani insists that the current specifications that are the problem, particularly for the dusty, hot and windy climate of Iraq. "We do not intend to meet this specification because we feel it does not work," Giordani fired back in an e-mail to Thompson.
Unlike CLP _ a wet, oily substance that acts as a virtual magnet for the omnipresent sand and leads to mucked up weapons that can jam or otherwise malfunction _ Militec is a dry conditioning agent to which particles don't adhere, Giordani and others said.
A May "lessons learned" endeavor by the Pentagon to assess what worked or didn't during Iraq combat backs up Giordani's contention. Investigators reported that "soldiers provided consistent comments that CLP was not a good choice for weapons maintenance in this environment," adding that troops found "Militec to be a much better solution."
Giordani notes that his product has been used by the military for a decade, and is the lubricant of choice for the FBI, elite Navy SEALS and the Beretta weapons company.
A host of unit commanders of combat outfits now in Iraq _ the Army's 3rd Infantry, 1st Armored, 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne divisions _ have ordered Militec on their own, says Giordani, who has a growing sheaf of testimonials from scores of troops like Carroll and XXXXX.
Giordani says the Pentagon had ordered $100,000 worth of Militec last year, but cancelled it shortly before the war in Iraq began in March. While acknowledging the heavy financial hit the cancellation called his small company, Giordani says he is even more outraged because he believes that the military's decision puts its soldiers at undue risk.
So far, no casualties have been officially linked to the use of the CLP lubricant. The most publicized case of jammed weapons is that of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, the unit to which Pvt. Jessica Lynch belonged, which Iraqi forces ambushed in March. Eleven soldiers died, seven were captured and nine were wounded. Released last week, the Army's report on the incident blamed "inadequate individual maintenance," not sticky lubricant, for the malfunction of most of the unit's rifles and other weapons.
But for Army 1st Sgt. XXX XXXXX, there is no doubt that using the wrong lubricant is dangerous. A reservist now in Iraq _ who in the United States is a special agent
with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service _ XXXXX wrote Militec Inc. to both rave about that product and express his concern about going to war
without it. "At home, I trust my life to my weapon, a Glock 26," XXXXX wrote. "I find it incredible that being in a combat zone, I cannot get the same protection."
On the Net: www.militec-1.com/
(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com)
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