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Electrical Faults Scourge US Troops

It doesn’t need me to tell anyone that war zones are dangerous places, and in these times they seem even more so, with pockets of insurgents mounting attacks under the guise of civilians. But for US troops in Iraq, another killer has infiltrated their barracks in the form of faulty wiring, which has now claimed the lives of at least 16 men. This highlights the difficulties of maintaining camps with sparse resources and also how dangerous the general state of Iraq’s electrical grid has become...

News was released late last week that inspectors had found major potential electrical hazards in 15,000 of the 41,000 they had visited since August. Half of these have been fixed, but there remain about 65,000 sites to be inspected.

The inspections had been prompted following a series of electrocutions, several involving showers, including the death of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth who was killed while showering at Radwaniyah Palace in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein’s former estate. Soldiers had complained several times of shocks from the shower before Maseth was killed. It was determined that a water pumped overheated, causing the circuit breaker and wiring to fail.

The problem, claims contractor KBR which oversees maintenance at Radwaniyah, is the shortage of qualified electricians and the terrible state of Iraq’s electrical grid, which indicates the size of the work facing contractors in rebuilding the country’s shattered infrastructure following the invasion.

Other deaths from electrocution have occurred during maintenance of equipment, contact with power lines and while using a swimming pool. All this is proving to be awkward for officials in the US, with arguments raging over who is to blame, the Army or the contractors? Whatever the conclusion, this story is a stark reminder of the conditions servicemen from all countries are required to work in and the importance of electrical engineers to the armed forces.

Have you worked as an electrical engineer for or with the armed forces? What were your experiences? This is an area I would like to cover within the magazine and your contributions would be most welcome. Please email

Enjoy the newsletter,

Richard Scott

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