Everyone goes into the gas chamber in bootcamp, that’s just the way it is, it’s part of the training.
The sole purpose of the gas chamber is to introduce the recruit to NBC: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training, and the usage of the basic equipment needed to exist and function in hazardous environments. So…. Instead of putting recruits into a room and tossing Mustard Gas or a Nerve Agent, CS Gas or “Tear Gas” is used as a less than lethal agent to simulate an environment. CS gas won’t kill you but it will make your morning less than pleasant.
In my day, the Gas Chamber exercise was a bit different than what they do today. In my day they had an extra twist, I will explain:
They herded us into the chamber with Gas Masks on as normal, and instructed us on the purpose of the exercise.
I remember there thinking, what could possibly go wrong here!
Well, the instructor in the center began to enact the CS agent and the room filled with a light mist of smoke. At first there wasn’t an issue, but then in moments the exposed skin on my body began to burn, that is also a reaction to CS gas, exposed flesh is irritated..
Ok, no big deal right, “Marines” I can handle a little burning sensation, it’s not like I was on fire !!
It was at this point the real fun began, while all of our exposed skin is tingling, we are then instructed to do some basic exercise, normally this is a 40 count of “Side Straddle Hops” or jumping Jacks for you civilians.
Remember the Corps does nothing just for the sake of doing it. The purpose of the “jumping Jacks” it to get your heart rate up and increase your breathing, simulating the bodies reaction to panic in case of a real gas attack.
So here we all are; blood pumping and breathing rapidly, skin burning, and a general feeling of what the hell is going to happen next.
The next step in training here is to make sure that the Drill Instructors class room instruction paid off and that we all know how to put on our gas masks in an emergency situation.
So, we are then instructed to take a deep breath and remove our gas masks, then when instructed to do so, Put our masks back on which is called “Don and Clear” You have 9 seconds to complete this task.
Now when taking off your gas mask, one thing you should never do is open your eyes. remember CS gas effects exposed skin surfaces, so stupid me, as soon as the mask came off, I opened my eyes. That move lasted for a micro second, and in that microcosm of a moment,
my eyes immediately caught fire, I can’t explain to you the level of discomfort I was in. When the call came to “Don and Clear” our masks, I can’t tell you how fast I put my gear on.
Now here is the picture, my heart rate is up, my breathing is extremely elevated from the jumping jacks, my skin is burning; hands, neck and bald head, and now my eyes are on fire. But wait !
Now in the modern Corps, it is at this point they usher all the recruits out of the door gas masks on and everyone is happy RIGHT . . . NO!
In my day, I guess in order to see the true cohesiveness of a unit, the next part of the exercise involves team work because non of us were allowed to leave the room until all of our masks were off and put away in our side pouches both buttons locked as in photo above.
removing the mask from my face my entire head immediately burst into flames … why?
My physical body state at this point had produced enormous amounts of sweat, and sweat mixed with CS gas is like pouring gas on a fire.
Marines Right! I can take this
As I put my mask away and clipped both buttons, I was beginning to become uncomfortable (understatement), I suddenly realized that I was running out of air in my lungs and I needed to breathe. With my eyes closed i could hear the sound of controlled chaos in the room, pouches were being filled people were coughing and there was erratic movement on all sides. I on the other hand now could no longer hold my breath, You know that moment where you can’t hold any longer… well, I had to breath my lungs were going to imploded. so I let blow out all that the useless air and I took the deepest breath you could possibly imagine, only to my horror, what I took back into my lungs , was not air, it was 80% CS gas, I immediately expelled it, and wouldn’t you know, guess what, I still needed air, so another load of CS gas went back into my lungs. Somewhere between the expulsion of my second breath and inhale, we started to exit the room, but we didn’t get out before I took that 3rd gigantic breath of CS gas.
I was that guy you see in the Gas Chamber videos that comes out and immediately blows breakfast all over the floor. yeah that was me. Snot, mucus and tears… but I have to say, that first breath of free and clear air was amazing.