U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady is scheduled to sit in on an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today in Washington where the discussion will focus on faulty electrical systems on U.S. facilities in Iraq that have killed 10 American soldiers, one Marine and two U.S. contractors.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Lee Everett, 23, son of Lorraine McGee of Huntsville, is among the 13 who have been electrocuted.
Everett, a member of the Texas Army National Guard, was electrocuted in September 2005, while using a power washer to clean sand from beneath a Humvee.
Everett was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 112th Armor Regiment, 56th Brigade Combat Team out of Arlington in North Texas.
Brady (R-The Woodlands) is not a member of the committee, but he has been granted permission to participate in the talks that start at 9 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Brady has been instrumental in bringing attention to the issue.
Brady met with McGee and her husband, Alton, in early July when they spent a week in Washington, and she testified before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee investigating electrocution deaths of troops in Iraq.
The hearing was called to take a closer look at the failure to correct faulty electrical work on military bases.
Brady and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, have sent letters to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the electrocutions.
Brady sent a strongly worded letter to Gates, urging the Pentagon to expedite all congressional requests for information concerning the matter, and asking for an accounting of steps that have been taken, or are underway, to inspect and correct poorly grounded equipment in military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During her testimony before the committee July 11, McGee said, “I plead with you to do something to bring an end to this unnecessary cause of death to our soldiers. They should not have to worry about stepping into a shower or using a power washer in the safety of an established base.”
McGee said that Houston-based contractor KBR Inc. and the Army knew of the electrical problems before her son’s death.
McGee said she had been told by the Army that her son’s death was unique.
An Army report blamed his death on an improperly grounded generator that powered the power washer.
McGee said she was told Everett’s death led to all generators in Iraq being properly grounded.
But in April, she learned from a report the Army had issued a report on soldiers’ electrocutions calling them the “unexpected killer.”
The report urged the Army to ensure contractors properly grounded electrical systems.
“All this time, I thought Chris’ accident was an isolated incident,” she said. “My son should not have died. Proper grounding is a basic safety requirement. The problem was known about long before Chris’ death.”
Brady deputy press secretary Bonnie A. Buchanan said Brady has urged the Pentagon to expedite all congressional requests for information concerning the matter, and asking for an accounting of steps that have been taken, or are under way, to inspect and correct poorly grounded equipment in military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“To lose one American solider due to faulty grounding is unacceptable,” Brady said prior to McGee testifying in July. “To lose many more is simply unforgivable.”
“Thinking this was the first death by electrocution of a soldier in Iraq, Mrs. McGee initially interpreted the death as an accident,” Buchanan said. “However, Mrs. McGee was horrified to find that there have been at least 13 similar fatal accidents and many more injuries.”
McGee also met with Cornyn, and he sent a letter to Gates, saying, “Our troops worldwide have a reasonable expectation that their living areas and equipment will be safe. As I know you agree, our troops are our most precious resource.
“They should be able to focus on fighting our enemies abroad without having to worry about the safety of their facilities and equipment. I request that you give this issue the attention that it warrants.”