"Weapons Lube Issued by Army May be Costing Lives in Iraq
By Jim Hoffer
(New York-WABC, November 18, 2003) — In a four-month investigation that reaches from the sands of Iraq to the halls of the Pentagon, we found that weapons given to tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers may not work in the desert. All because of a defective product. And it could be putting American troops at risk. The Investigators’ Jim Hoffer is here with his findings.
The key to surviving any war is to have a weapon that works. To that end a good, reliable gun lubricant is critical.
But our investigation has found that a lubricant supplied by the military may be actually causing guns to jam. What’s worse, soldiers say they were blocked from getting a better lubricant at a time when…
they needed it the most.
A Purple Heart does little to heal the aching heart of a mother who’s lost her son to war.
Arlene Walters, Mother: "He was conscientious about everything."
Sgt. Donald Walters was in the same convoy as Private Jessica Lynch when Iraqis ambushed it, killing Walters and 10 other soldiers. A Pentagon report on the attack shows that many of the soldiers could barely fight back because of multiple "weapons malfunctions."
Pfc. Jessica Lynch: "When we were told to lock and load. That’s when my weapon jammed."
The report suggests their weapons failed perhaps because of "inadequate individual maintenance". In other words, the Army says that the soldiers may have neglected to clean their guns.
Arlene Walters: "That shouldn’t happen to everybody. It seems that it’s a fault of something that they are using not the fault of the soldier that he didn’t clean the gun."
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic, Firearms Trainer: "They would stop and jam."
Kovacic, a retired lieutenant colonel who trained thousands of soldiers for the Iraqi invasion, says this grieving mother’s suspicions are right on target.
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic: "Those weapons if properly lubricated will work better than anybody else’s. But they have to be properly lubricated, CLP is not the proper lubrication."
Col. Kovacic contacted Eyewitness News outraged that the military was equipping soldiers with a government-issued lubricant known as CLP.
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic: "It didn’t work when I was a tank commander and it’s not working now."
Eyewitness News obtained a copy of a general’s "lessons learned" report which details weapons performance in Iraq. The report says soldiers repeatedly stated that "CLP was not a good choice for weapon’s maintenance", claiming it "attracted sand to the weapon."
We heard similar complaints about the lubricant from some New Jersey Marine reservists back from Iraq:
Corporal Steven Gentle, Montclair NJ: "I used it as little as possible.
Jim Hoffer: "You used it as little as possible? Why?"
Corporal Steven Gentle: "Because the CLP attracted the sand. It made the sand stick to the weapon and clot up, causing the weapon to jam."
In telephone conversations and e-mails from soldiers we heard numerous complaints about CLP. One sergeant told me it is a commonly known fact that the military-issued gun lubricant doesn’t work in the desert. We’ve learned that some soldiers have been so desperate for a lubricant that works they’re writing their families for help.
Art Couchman, Father [reading from letter]: "’Dad, that Militec is working great!’ …"
Art Couchman sent his son, a soldier in Iraq, a commercial lubricant called Militec. A firearms trainer for police in New York, Couchman became quite concerned when his son told him that the military-issued lubricant attracted dirt and sand to his gun. That’s when Couchman sent him bottles of Militec.
In a recent letter, his son thanks his dad for the shipment of Militec, calling the lube, "pretty amazing stuff."
Art Couchman: "I think it could probably save some lives if they had more of this stuff."
Even that "lessons learned" report put out by the Pentagon states that soldiers considered "Militec to be a much better solution for lubricating weapons" than the military’s CLP.
And now many are questioning why just as the war began, the military cancelled all troop orders for Militec.
Brad Giordani, Militec: "They were unable to get the product after the orders were cancelled."
The commercial lubricant’s inventor says he knows why. Because the military invested millions of dollars developing CLP, Brad Giordani says Army bureaucrats feared their product would be outshined.
Brad Giordani: "(The orders) were cancelled by civilians within the Defense Department that realized our orders were getting to be such large quantities that if they would have allowed these orders to go through we would now be the standard lubricant within the army."
The Army declined an interview but in a statement to U.S. admits that in the middle of the war, it stopped filling orders for Militec. It doesn’t explain why.
The Army says Militec is now available, and further states that because of "mixed reports on the performance … of lubricants" it plans to "rapidly evaluate … and test" various products for possible future use.
Colonel Kovacic says Militec is already proven in desert combat. And as long as CLP remains the government product of choice, he says, then that’s what most troops will get, leaving the better lube on the shelf and soldiers lives on the line.
Ret. Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic: "There’s a better product. I say we give the kids the best we can give them. I’m telling you CLP is not the best weapons lubricant, they even said that in a report."
For nearly seven months, the military blocked soldier’s orders for the rival Militec. Only in October, in the middle of our investigation, did the Army again begin to fill orders for Militec."