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All gassed up

The Soldiers of E Company 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, who stepped into the CS gas chamber had some idea of what the experience would be like beforehand.

“They’ve practiced the procedure in a classroom environment and been through the initial NBC training,” said CPT Mike Vansteenkiste, company commander. “By the time they get into the chamber, they’ve already committed certain things to memory.”

Before entering the chamber, the basic training Soldiers were lined up outside with pro masks donned. Drill sergeants checked the masks, ensuring they had a good seal. Within the chamber, the Soldiers lined up around the edges of the room, backs to the wall. The drill sergeants told the Soldiers to remove their masks, and put them back on their faces within nine seconds, ensuring that they “cleared” them, a task completed by pressing down on the filter of the mask and blowing air out through their mouths.

Shortly after, the Soldiers were told to completely remove their masks, fully exposing them to the CS gas — an aerosol used as a riot-control agent. That’s when the questions began: “What are the three general orders?” and “Who is the secretary of the Army?”

“We ask the Soldiers these questions to see if they can focus and to see if they’re clear-headed enough to follow orders,” said SFC Bernie Brooks, drill sergeant.

The gas chamber is designed to serve two purposes: teach Soldiers how to properly put on their masks and teach them that they can breathe when exposed to CS gas — instilling the warrior spirit.

After the questioning, the back doors to the chamber opened and the Soldiers exited the building, some coughing and drooling.

“I’m a little blind and I felt like I was going to throw up,” said PFC William Blum, immediately after exiting the chamber.

“The burning of my eyes was the hardest part, and my skin still burns,” said PVT Nicholas Palmer.

After the Soldiers walked two laps around the training area and recovered from the CS gas, they took a seat on the bleachers and shared their experiences with each other.