Cadets brave the gas chamber to rely on their equipment


U.S. Army photo by Hannah Hunsinger.

Sometimes leaders have to do things they don’t want to do, no matter how challenging the tasks may be. On July 6, 1st Regiment Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets at the Leader Development and Assessment Course had to test their mental and physical strength in a task they didn’t want to do.

The regiment was the first group to go to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear training site at the LDAC at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. They concluded the training with walking into a gas chamber. The gas was a non-lethal irritant called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, a component of tear gas. CS gas, as it is more commonly called, comes in tablets that Cadre broke over a large can that cooked the pellets.

Staff Sgt. Mesnah Ward, Range Safety Officer, said he thinks having CBRN as a part of the Cadets’ training will help them identify with the Soldiers they will one day lead.

“How I feel, everyone should be on the same playing field, so it’s a must that the Cadets go through [the gas chamber],” said Ward.

Before entering the tent that served as the gas chamber, instructors briefed Cadets on how to identify a chemical agent and correctly don their gear. During the briefing, Cadets wore Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology, which included a heavy hooded jacket, high-waisted pants with suspenders, gloves and a gas mask.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Burwell, Infantry Instructor, told Cadets how to infer that chemicals could be present in an area.

“If someone flops over and starts doing the funky chicken, it might be a good time to put your mask on,” said Burwell.

After the briefing, Cadets trudged up steep paths where they simulated an encounter with a chemical that required them to quickly and correctly put on their masks. Before reaching the gas chamber, they ran uphill to get the feel of a fast heart rate and heavy breathing in their gear. When it was their turn to go inside the gas chamber, a haze clouded the air. One by one, they approached an instructor who asked them to remove their mask then answer a series of questions before they exited the tent, usually with swollen, red eyes and mucus running from their nostrils.

Cadet Benjamin Brown, Bravo Co., 1st Regiment, of Greensburg, Pa., and a student at the University of Pittsburg at Greensburg, is prior service and has gone through a gas chamber before. He said watery eyes, difficulty breathing and the burning sensation on the back of his neck and in his throat were necessary to training.

“It’s almost like a protective measure to take,” said Brown. “It prepares you for the possibility of being put in that situation.”

Cadet Sven Alm, Bravo Co., 1st Regiment, a student at Central Michigan University and from Mount Pleasant, Mich., is also prior service, but he said being exposed to CS gas never gets easier. He said entering the chamber and removing his mask reaffirmed his faith in his equipment.

“Right now, that proves that this [equipment] can save your life,” he said.

Story by: Monica Spees


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