Viewpoint: Robert Strongbear Bates

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Viewpoint: Robert Strongbear Bates

Branch: US Army

Job: Senior Medic NCOIC (Also a Veteran of Vietnam as well)

Location: Lojwa, Marshall Islands

When: Sep. 1978-April 1979

Quote: “I’m proud to have served my country and would do so again. I just wish they had been up front with us from the beginning…”

Viewpoint: Robert Strongbear Bates

Q – Before you were sent to the Marshall Islands, what did you know about the location or the mission?

A – Before being sent to the Marshall Islands, I was told I was being asked to ‘volunteer’ for a special duty assignment in the South Pacific: somewhere called Enewetak. My First Sgt knew that I was a scuba diver and told me it was going to be like taking a once in a life time vacation. Prior to that, I’d only heard about the place once before, back when my Dad had told me about being there himself during WWII.

We were sent to Hawaii first; Hickam AFB where we were billeted in NCO Transient Billets (which were more like a Holiday Inn with maid and room service). Then we went to Schofield Barracks for a day of in-processing, then back to Hickam where all I had to do was check in that  morning by phone and then was free for the rest of the day for the next three days.

Q – What was your job while you were there and what sort of protective equipment did you use?

A – My first day on Lojwa, they had us dress in the ‘banana suit’ then paraded us around.  (I thought that was more like a frat hazing.) Other than that, my uniform was usually just cutoff Jungle fatigue shorts, grey tee shirt, OD green socks, Jungle boots and Boonie hat. I wore a mask just one time.

As the NCOIC, I had the task of setting up the schedules for the medics, (such as who was going to be on which Island on what day) as well as making sure we had all the proper supplies for our medical bags (a challenge at times). As a medic, I was responsible for treating wounds, injuries and any illnesses, watching out for heat injuries (especially among the ‘Newbies’), reporting any personnel not fit for duty, as well as keeping logs of any and all injuries and reporting them to command.

Q – When did you first realize or suspect that the work environment you were once subjected to wasn’t right?

A – As far as when I began thinking something wasn’t quite right there, it was my first day on Enjebe (Janet). My medic shack was basically with the Air Force FRST (Field Radiological Survey Team, the guys who checked intensities and background levels of radiation contamination). They seemed concerned, so I asked them what was wrong. I was told that with the particular levels they were reading that our men ‘really’ should be in protective gear to ensure their safety. So when I returned to Lowja that night, I asked why we didn’t use or have any protective gear in the field. I was told that the radiation levels were really low level/borderline and that the gear wasn’t needed. I explained how the AF FRST guys had said that we probably should get some to which I was then told, “In a perfect world we might have everything that we need but we were in the military, so get back to your job, and don’t be a trouble maker.” We’d all be okay, I was basically told to tell everybody to shower off good and not eat the sand!

Q – What prompted you to share your experiences with the world?

A – I feel what we did there was important, at least if cleaning up some of the mess our country made really helped. (If all of that was just ‘eye wash’ then why were we there?) Places like Enewetak and the recent disaster with the nuclear power plant in Japan clearly show how nuclear power really isn’t so safe. I’m proud to have served my country but just wish they’d have been more upfront with us and given us the proper equipment to do the job right (and safe) to begin with. I’m sure that the majority of men I served with would say the same. Because like me, they cared about our country and served with honor.

Q – If you could commandeer the cameras and the mics at the next State of the Union Address, and address the entire nation about your time and the repercussions AFTER the Rock, what would be the message you would convey?

A – I’ll give you this parting remark; We were once young, trusting and naive soldiers. Now we are older, smarter, AND NOT SO TRUSTING. Just remember, as Edmund Burke stated, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We did something, didn’t we? Hopefully we made a difference.

I am but one of a few of the survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission that took place in the Marshall Islands.

A major focus of this group has been to help one another with information and moral support during some of the challenging times we’ve encountered following our time in service at Enewetak.

A secondary focus/goal is to urge Congress to change current law and recognize Cold War Era soldiers of the Enewetak Cleanup Mission as “veterans who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

By obtaining this second goal, individuals experiencing health complications resulting from radiation exposure at Enewetak Atoll will be eligible to apply for benefits that have previously been set-aside for other Atomic Veterans who have already been recognized and acknowledged for their service by RECA.

We urge our supporters to encourage their politicians to support legislation which will include Enewetak Atoll Atomic Cleanup Participants in the U.S. Government’s definition of a veteran “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Article written by T-M Fitzgerald, a published author and self-professed Veterans Advocate.

Request for Interviews: Over 8,000 people participated in the 1977 – 1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission. I’ve already interviewed nearly 25% of the Atomic Cleanup Veterans who have reconnected with our group. If you participated in the mission, please contact me, T-M Fitzgerald so you can schedule your 30 minute interview too. I’ve been told I’m easy to talk with and I am not shy to say I feel honored every time I meet another Atomic Cleanup Veteran.

Please Sign and Share Our White House Petition (Expired 10/15/2015)

We are but a few of the Survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission in the Marshall Islands.

Our Original Mission was to relocate radioactive fallout and debris from the surface of the islands of Enewetak Atoll so the dri-Enewetak Islanders could return to their beautiful homeland of 40 Islands at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

We accomplished our Humanitarian Mission in 1980. Currently, some of us have health challenges.

On September 13th, 2015, we took the initiative to create a White House Petition so the President can be made aware of our challenges and take steps required by Congress to change the law.

After creating our petition, we were made aware that we had a hard deadline of obtaining 100,000 signatures before the President would be informed of our petition.

We found out the White House policy is, if we cannot obtain 100,000 signatures within one month, our petition is removed along with all our signatures and we have to start all over at ZERO.

We encourage you to read, learn and the act on our petition NOW. Our deadline is October 13, 2015.

(MISSION FAILED: ARCHIVED BY THE WHITE HOUSE 10/15/2015 WITH 342 SIGNATURES.)

This is our White House Petition:

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

Add 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Cleanup Veterans to the “Atomic Veterans” definition by the Veterans Administration.

Atomic Cleanup Veterans are not currently considered as experiencing “at-risk” exposure to radiation while relocating radioactive materials contaminated by 43 atomic tests at Enewetak Atoll.

Urge Congress & Veterans Affairs to include within the definition of “Atomic Veterans” the Veterans involved in the Atomic Debris Cleanup of the United States Nuclear Test Site at Enewetak Atoll from 1977 to 1980 making them eligible to receive compensation and health care benefits from the United States Government as specified in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (“the Act” or “RECA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2210 note (2012) established an administrative program for claims relating to atmospheric nuclear testing and claims relating to uranium industry employment.

We do not expect anyone to blindly sign our petition without knowing our backstory.

We have been fortunate to have gained the attention of several news agencies.

Read the most recent article from a weekly newspaper in Mobile, Alabama called Lagnaippe at http://bit.ly/LagniappeEnewetak

Stars and Stripes Magazine republished a great article written by Abigail Curtis of Bangor Daily News in Maine on 3/24/2015 http://goo.gl/289NYC

On 8/15/2015, KITV 4 News released their story about us in Hawaii http://bit.ly/1NaDXAQ

These are not the only stories news agencies have produced about our current situation.

As much as we appreciate our increased exposure to the general public, we need your help and need your actions to be a top priority.

We’ve been asked “How can I Help?” from most every supporter who takes an interest in our group of Atomic Cleanup Veterans.

Here is a list of “To Do Items” that makes it easy for you to help us in the quickest amount of time:

  1. Sign Our White House Petition at wh.gov/inXsb
  2. Share wh.gov/inXsb on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & the rest of the internet social networks where you have influential connections.
  3. Write your local newspapers and ask them to share our petition with their subscribers in their publications.
  4. Call your local television and radio stations and ask them to share our White House Petition with their dedicated audience.
  5. Contact your local military & veterans’ associations & ask them to encourage their members to sign our petition.
  6. Ask your friends and associates to sign our petition.
  7. Ask your spouses, adult children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, adult grandchildren and other loved ones to sign our petition so the White House Administration can act on our behalf.
  8. Contact your Federal Senator: Senate.gov/senators/contact/ and share our wh.gov/inXsb White House Petition Link.
  9. Contact your Federal Representative: House.gov/representatives/find/ and share our wh.gov/inXsb White House Petition Link.
  10. Please return to our White House Petition and tell us (in our comments) which signature number they assigned to you at wh.gov/inXsb

Remember: The government refuses to admit our exposure to radiation during the cleanup mission was considered a “radiation-risk” activity. The government continues to state our exposure to radiation was “occupational” in nature. With your signature, we are one step closer to obtaining the health care some of our group members desperately need.

Please write your federal representative and let them know you support our efforts to change the current laws by including the 1977 – 1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Cleanup Veterans as Atomic Veterans (as defined in RECA) as experiencing radiation risk exposure to radiation.

Continue to learn more about us from various resources shared by supporters and cleanup participants in future AtomicCleanupVets.com articles. Our articles contain photographs, videos, documents and stories written by the actual participants who cleaned radioactive contaminated soils and materials from the surface of the islands at Enewetak Atoll.

Article written by Girard Frank Bolton, III. 1977-1979 (14 month) participant with C Company and HHC S-3 (Operations) 84th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) (Fwd) Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands.

Our Current Mission is to help health challenged Atomic Cleanup Veterans become included in the Veterans Administration’s definition of an Atomic Veteran so we can qualify to apply for funds set aside for veterans “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Glimmers of Light – Introduction and Questions

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They are but a few of the Survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission in the Marshall Islands. My name is T-M Fitzgerald but they call me Fitz.

They adopted me as their little sister because I like to ask questions that have refreshed memories that are funny, sad and enlightening.

Atomic Cleanup Veterans’ first hand accounts of the 1977 – 1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Cleanup Mission need to be shared. Now, sit back and read what they’ve asked me to share with you.

Introduction: “Where in the World is Enewetak?”

Enewetak Atoll is just one of many atolls and islands in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Island chain. Located about 2,365 nautical miles SW of Hawaii (just north of the equator), the Marshall Islands were once a major testing ground for nuclear weapons post WWII. This island chain is also home to the project called Cactus Dome, a 350′ wide blast crater located at the northern end of Runit Island that has become known as the ‘Nuclear Trashcan of the Pacific.’

Between 1948-58, forty-three nuclear weapons were detonated over Enewetak and its sister islands. Among these tests were ‘Ivy Mike‘ and ‘Castle Bravo‘ (a device 1000x as powerful as the bomb ‘Little Boy‘ which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan post Pearl Harbor.)

In 1977, a coalition of United States military forces and civilian support teams were sanctioned to ‘clean’ the islands of residual radioactive fallout. Men, many who were mere teenagers back in the day, were tasked with cleaning the contaminated fallout from the nuclear testing that occurred throughout the previous three decades. Keep in mind, that as recent as 2012, the United Nations reported that the cumulative effects from all nuclear testing had effectively caused near-irreversible environmental contamination. There was a problem beginning in 1977 and currently, effects from that exposure have begun to manifest, taking toll on many surviving Enewetak Vets and contractors today. Four decades later, survivors are telling their stories because the world needs to know.

The Questions:

  1. Before you were sent to the Marshall Islands, what did you know about the location or the mission?
  2. What was your job while you were there and what sort of protective equipment did you use?
  3. When did you first realize or suspect that the work environment you were once subjected to wasn’t right?
  4. What prompted you to share your experiences with the world?
  5. If you could commandeer the cameras and the mikes at the next State of the Union Address, and address the entire nation about your time and the repercussions AFTER the Rock, what would be the message you would convey?

Also need: Branch of military, MOS/Job Code, your base camp location when you TDY’d on the Rock and Year of Service there….

Request for Interviews

Over 8,000 people participated in the 1977 – 1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission. I’ve already interviewed many Atomic Cleanup Veterans. If you participated in the mission, please contact me, T-M Fitzgerald so you can schedule your 30 minute interview too. I’ve been told I’m easy to talk with and I am not shy to say I feel honored every time I meet another Atomic Cleanup Veteran.

 

We urge our supporters to encourage their politicians to support legislation which will include Enewetak Atoll Atomic Cleanup Participants in the U.S. Government’s definition of a veteran “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Article written by T-M Fitzgerald, a published author and self-professed Veterans Advocate.