A tale of American soldiers in Iraq stealing water to survive

Posted May 12, 2009 by Nikki Weingartner
Did military soldiers experience extreme water rationing while serving in Iraq? It's a question that has been asked due to growing health concerns and former soldiers coming forward with their stories.
Soldiers in Iraq
File photo: U.S. Paratroopers boarding a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. James Selesnick
It's over 120 degrees in blowing sand and limited shade, carrying an added 100 lbs of equipment and constantly moving from place to place. Is this the environmental conditions where water rationing is appropriate?
In a recent piece running by a Houston station, it appears that is exactly the case for some United States military soldiers.
Our body needs water to operate as it helps regulate temperature and moves nutrients to the adequate places.
In fact, our body is comprised of nearly three-quarters water and needs roughly half of the human body weight in ounces every day to replenish it. If you are active and sweaty, subjected to extreme conditions, those numbers rise.
Some soldiers who spent time in Iraq are now telling stories of how they would drink from area taps, stealing replenishment where they could due to a supposed rationing of approximately 1.5 L per soldier per day. And according to the training manual for soldiers in the desert, the body can experience a loss of up to four gallons every day with replenishment needs of about a gallon per day minimum for basic survival. So were they restricting soldiers from the correct supply of fresh drinking water in desert conditions?
Some soldiers claimed they abandoned their duty in lieu of finding drinking water due to dehydration sickness they experienced such as fainting and vomiting. Others have come forward telling of severe health conditions that they attribute to a lack of water.
In the KHOU story, one former soldier who was discharged due to health conditions explains of his ongoing kidney problems, allegedly since his return from serving in Iraq:
“I take 26 different types of pills a day,” {he} said. “I’ve had kidney stones, almost on a daily basis.”
He tells of his service in the extreme conditions, explaining how at times he had simply run out of water and would resort to sticking his head under a civilian tap for a drink. The former soldier also told of rashes of dysentery that moved through his company as what he believed was due to the stolen nips of water. Water in Iraq is often untreated.
Trucks full of treated water were said to be made available to the field soldiers; however, some of those soldiers describe problems with their availability, claiming a shortage of trucks at the time, and even the inability to drink the heavily treated water they housed causing some to vomit.
Another soldier revealed a 2007 event where his own sergeant set out of find water so they could survive. They did find water at a civilian contract facility.
As recently as 2008, video taken by a soldier showed water pouring from taps showed to be yellow in color at Camp Taji. The area in the war zone also sells Subway sandwiches and Burger King fare as well as expensive jewelry and other Post Exchange (PX) luxuries. But clean running tap water?
Clean water on bases was said to be the responsibility of the Texas based company, KBR. However, one man's attempt to uncover the lack of treatment of the water was explained in the interview:
Carter, a water purification specialist, was the one to blow the whistle on it all. He said he first noticed a problem when he found a live maggot in a base toilet at Camp Ar Ramadi. He subsequently discovered that instead of using chlorinated water, the soldiers’ sinks and showers were pouring out untreated wastewater.
But when he wanted to inform U.S. forces, Carter said KBR supervisors gave him a verbal lashing.
“The military is none of your f-ing concern, uh, which was shocking to me,” Carter said.
In an internal KBR report, the company sites “massive programmatic issues” with water for personal hygiene dating back to 2005. It outlines how there was no formalized training for anyone involved with water operations, and one camp, Ar Ramadi, had no disinfection for shower water whatsoever.
KBR is said to have since rectified the treatment issues, although a report last summer reveals an ongoing issue regarding Fraud, Waste and Abuse with KBR including serving contaminated food, being sent to dangerous camps if people complained and even contributing to the death of a soldier who was electrocuted in the shower.
Some soldiers who were questioned reported ample water and Gatorade supplies, giving rise to the deployment and time frame as the differences in experience. However, despite the rebuttal that adequate resources were available to the soldiers, the military has set up a treatment program in Iraq designed for kidney stones. Even a report on the Army website itself claims the biggest non-trauma health issues include:
The more common non-trauma diagnoses in soldiers deployed to Afghanistan were diarrheal illness, respiratory illness, fevers, heat injury, kidney stones and dental problems. The combination of dehydration, high altitude, and a high protein diet typical of the MREs caused kidney stones to be a significant burden for medical evacuations. She estimated that during her time in the emergency department, one person a week had to be evacuated out of theater.
These soldiers are telling their harrowing tales of fighting for basic water supplies, forced to drink the untreated stuff when supplies ran out. So what type of consequences will occur when these young survivors deal with the long-term health issues?
For the young man with severe kidney stones, it is a medical discharge without much pay. His family faces foreclosure and has moved in with relatives due to his medical condition that he attributes to the lack of water he suffered during his time of service.
Million dollar contracts and high tech ammo, protective gear and even chain fast food supplies. But water? Lets hope that certain preventions, including checks and balances, are in place for our soldiers serving in Afghanistan.