Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Hazardous Exposures and Health Conditions at Overseas Military Base

Feb 20, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 20, 2020)- On Thursday, February 27, 2020, Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, will hold a hearing to receive testimony from U.S. servicemembers who allege they were exposed to chemical and radiological hazards when they were deployed to Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base in Uzbekistan after September 11, 2001.  

The hearing also will examine the continued efforts of K2 veterans and their families to seek recognition from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the health risks associated with their service.

Last month, Subcommittee Chairman Lynch and Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney launched an investigation and requested information from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the VA about potential contamination at K2 and related adverse health effects of U.S. personnel who served there.

WHERE:  2247 Rayburn House Office Building

WHEN:  Thursday, February 27, 2020

TIME:  12:30 p.m. EST

A livestream of the hearing will be available here.

BACKGROUND

  • Shortly after September 11, 2001, U.S. forces were deployed to K2—a former Soviet base—because of its close proximity to al Qaeda and Taliban targets in northern Afghanistan.
  • According to a December 19, 2019 McClatchy report, U.S. forces at K2 were exposed to multiple chemical and radiological hazards, such as “pond water that glowed green” and “black goo oozing from the ground.”  These hazards reportedly were caused by a prior explosion at a missile storage facility; as well as fuel, solvents, and other chemicals from abandoned Soviet maintenance facilities.
  • In a 2015 study cited by McClatchy, the U.S. Army found that veterans deployed to K2 were more than five times as likely to develop a type of cancer—malignant neoplasms of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue—than their counterparts who deployed to South Korea.  The same study found that more than 60 veterans who deployed to K2 between 2001 and 2005 “had been diagnosed with cancer or died from the disease.”
  • The VA has not acknowledged a causal relationship between deployment to K2 and a subsequent cancer diagnosis.  According to one retired special forces officer:  “After returning from combat years later, we are all coming down with various forms of cancer that the [Department of Veterans Affairs] is refusing to acknowledge.”  A retired U.S. Air Force veteran stated that this treatment felt like a betrayal and that “nobody wants to help with it.”

WITNESSES

Paul B. Widener, Jr.

K2 Veteran

Retired Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Force

Kim E. Brooks

Spouse of Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Brooks, U.S. Army

Scott W. Welsch

K2 Veteran

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Army

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116th Congress