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December 9th, 2009
11:16 AM ET

A Soldier's Story: Recruit is 'changing before our eyes'

Editor's Note: We're tracking three recruits from their final days as civilians through to deployment. It's an unprecedented look inside the life of a soldier. CNN's Jason Carroll reports for American Morning's special series, "A Soldier's Story." Watch part one and two, and tune in to American Morning on Wednesday for part three.

Army recruit Will McLain wears a gas mask for a drill on the dangers of a potential sarin gas attack.

Army recruit Will McLain wears a gas mask for a drill on the dangers of a potential sarin gas attack.

By Adam Reiss, CNN

Correspondent Jason Carroll and I returned to Fort Leonard Wood Monday to check back in on the recruit we are profiling for our ongoing series, "A Soldier’s Story." You may remember meeting Will McLain when we first met him in his hometown of Rosamond, California.

We spent the first couple days of basic combat training with him and now he is with his platoon in his third week of basic training. Will is changing before our eyes both physically and mentally. He has lost ten pounds and is really on his way to becoming a U.S. Army soldier.

He has been assigned a battle buddy, Demetrius Daniels, 23, from Detroit, Michigan. A battle buddy is an interesting concept. The Battle Buddy system is the policy of pairing Initial Entry Training (IET) Soldiers into teams for the following reasons:

– Mutual support and assistance
– Teaching teamwork
– Developing a sense of responsibility and accountability for fellow soldiers
– Improving safety during training
– Reducing the likelihood and opportunity for sexual harassment, misconduct, and suicide gestures or attempts.

Essentially you do not go anywhere without your battle buddy, and Will and Demetrius seem to get along just fine.

On Monday, all the soldiers went through a drill in the NBC chamber. It is where they drill the soldiers on the dangers of a potential sarin gas attack. For the purposes of the test, they use small plastic pellets that they cook on a grill in the chamber. The result is stinging throat and eyes.

Soldiers go in fifteen at a time and go through several exercises before they are ordered to remove their masks. Most of the soldiers begin jumping up and down and try to do anything to ease the pain. One soldier couldn’t make it and ran from the chamber. Will was successful and passed the test.

Please tune in next Wednesday for part three of A Soldier’s Story with Will McLain.

Filed under: A Soldier's Story • Military
soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. joe, nj

    Has this Carroll person been in the gas rooms?
    If not, how can he write about it properly?

    December 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  2. Stormer

    The gas chamber was part of my USN basic training back in 70. It was part of gas mask training. Sort of the final test of how well you put your gas mask on. Then, just to show no favoritism at all, we had to take off our gas masks, recite the 11 General Orders, and calmly march out of the gas chamber. I had duty right after that and didn't get to shower the CS off until after my watch. I STILL can put my mask on correctly in under 10 seconds!

    So get over it!

    December 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  3. Joe

    I still remember a huge tree outside of Ft. Leonard Wood's CS chamber. More than one recruit ran into and yes people do run out. It's an instinct.
    Fort Devens had a tree just outside the door too if I recall.
    God Bless Our Troops

    December 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  4. Marcus

    When I went through it it affected a lot of people differently.. for myself and others, it hardly affected us at all.. being little more than an a slight irritant. For others you had the puking, etc.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  5. Mike - 12B

    Dave – the new masks only have the one canister, but the side it is on depends on if they are right or left handed to accommodate their shooting hand.

    Combat Engineer OSUT at Fort Leonard Wood summer of 95 – the best summer of my life.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  6. Semper Fi

    Gas mask training is no big deal. Total SOP stuff. You go in the gas shack, remove you mask and breath gas and evacuate. This is the military, for god sakes. Maybe the army is more delicate than the Marines.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  7. Phil

    Did this in the USCG almost 30 years ago, without a gas mask. But it was just smoke, not tear gas or anything else.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  8. Lt Rod

    I've had to participate in this training every year for the last 11 years. It ensures that one knows how to properly use their gear. The fun part is the IronMan Challenge afterwords. Many times at the end of the day those who want to participate will go in, remove their mask, and see who can last the longest. I've never won, but I've never been the first one to quit either.

    December 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  9. Dave J. (Scoop0901)

    The troops, not the "reporter", need to be writing these installments. There are a few blunders, such as calling the mask a "gas mask" - it never gassed anyone. They are desiugned to protect you from the effects of the CS (riot control) gas cooke in the chamber. There are no lasting effects, and it is not like sarin gas.

    As for the trainee who ran from the chamber, I want to know how additional times he had to go back hrough the chamber and do things correctly.

    I did my first chamber in early 1982, followed by several others though 1989. Good stuff, and if you're congested or fell as though you're getting sick (head cold, etc.), then the CS Gas was just thing you wanted: you woul be cleaned seemingly from deep, deep within the body (only the lungs, though), back to the throat and nasal passages/ Talk about the mighty Niagara Falls.

    December 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Jacko

    What a bunch of whiners! This just teaches you how to put your mask on and give you some motivation to do it. I have seen the tough old sergeants who give this training go all day in the chamber without a mask and never even blink!

    December 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  11. Dr. Tyler Frank

    I went through at Ft McClellan. The filters in my mask did not work. I was told to go outside and a Drill stopped me at the door. "Name, rank, and serial number?" ".......Uhhh, Frank, private, Uhh..get the f... out of my way". I drooled and coughed and snots poured from my nose. I felt the outline of my lungs. It went away after 15 minutes or so. The next morning I had a huge blister on my hand where the gas had settled into a fold in the skin. I still have the scar from that.

    December 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  12. David Biddle

    What's new! This was done when I went through Army basic training at Fort Knox in 1956. It is routine and meant to expose trainees to the use of a gas mask and a harmless gas (tear gas), In the event of war and exposure to a more harmless gas, each trainee learns how to put on the gas mask and adjustit quickly, so it will not leak to protect the soldier. Actual combat is no place to learn for the first time.

    The reporter is new not the ongoing training activity.

    December 11, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  13. Ryan

    i would do it again in a heart beat, the next month after the gas chamber was the clearest my nose and throat had ever been. good stuff no doubt. put me in coach ill do it again!

    December 11, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  14. Great memories

    You have to love reading these stories – they bring back so many memories. I was the idiot who failed to seal his mask the first time I went through the CS Chamber. Of course, I was too scared (as a recruit) to mention it but I did learn a valuable lesson. Never had a leaky mask after that. -- For Bubba who wanted to know the point of this exercise. The point is to learn what harmless gas does so when in a battle situation where the gas is not harmless, you know what to do and not freak out. Hopefully the average civilian, such as yourself, will never experience the horrors of gas.

    December 11, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  15. Dennis

    When I went thru basic at Ft Benning in 1966 we went thru two chambers one was CS and the other chlorene gas. Everbody survived clean sinuses and all. We had a 1SG in 1968 at Ft Carson that wiffed too much chlorene and was sick for awhile but survived.

    Cops going thru training these days get a direct blast of pepper spray in the face and also get taised.

    It is just part of the training. Suck it up and get over is

    December 11, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  16. Brandonj

    The gas they're using for this is tear gas. I went through the same experience in 1992 in Navy Boot Camp and again in 2001 for a Shipboard Damage Control/CBR course. It will clear your sinuses and make you temporarily miserable, but that's about it. While it may be true that the military exposed troops to harmful chemicals 40 years ago or more, that's not what's going on here. Nearly 18 years after the first exposure, I've had no problems from the gas mask training nor has anyone else I've known.

    December 11, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  17. JT

    I remember doing this when I went through basic training. The drill instructors would not allow anyone to run anywhere in the chamber, they carefully escorted and ensured orderly evacuation of the chamber. The last thing anyone wanted is someone running blindly into a stone wall. Also we were not told to move, we were told to constantly repeat name, rank, and SSN.

    When I went through the test myself and a lot of my fellow recruits had a cold so this actually helped us out by clearning our congestion, also the big thing later in the night was to take luke warm or cold showers because they warned us that taking a hot shower would reactivate the CS gas and could cause some further potential irritation.

    December 11, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  18. Sam

    Sheesh, quit picking apart the story just because you were in the military. The item is not meant to be a verbatim accounting of BCT using precise military lingo. True the chamber's intent isn't to train on reaction to Sarin Gas attacks but the writer is more than likely just going on what he was told from various personnel on site.

    No one really cares if you say NBC or CBRN or if you say Gas Mask or Pro Mask. The intended audience is people who don't know what it's like to enlist, train, and deploy; not a bunch of back-seat first sergeants of whom I'm sure have all used incorrect terminology while they were in uniform. Let them have their taste in peace and if they want to know more they can pursue it on their own.

    It's refreshing to see CNN do a story on the military that's not about how many people died today. Recognize and respect what the story is about rather than tearing it apart due to technicalities.

    December 11, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  19. Stephen McConnell

    Jason needs to go through basic himself. Then, he can truly report on it.

    While service in Germany in the late 70's and early 80's, we had to "do" the chamber once a year. And during exercises, tear gas was used to insure that we knew how to don the protective gear and the mask correctly. At the time, the threat of a chemical attack was pretty serious. Staying in the mask/protective suit for several hours, changing filters (the new masks are SOOOO much easier to change the filters), even working at setting up a mobile radar site while in mask and suit were regular events we practiced.

    December 11, 2009 at 9:30 am |
  20. ronvan

    OH Yes, remember it well! But we do tend to use "incorrect" terminology or get "excited" in telling stories. Although it has been "a long time ago" for me, 1965, Gilbert's comment is right on! This is not a "gas mask" and unless things have changed, was always referred to as your protective mask and the sole purpose of removing the mask in the chamber was to prove to the soldier how good it was! Now I am sure that today's mask is an improvement over what I had, but would be curious about current filters? Remember that, god forbid, you were in a real chemical attack the filters were only good for 8hrs.?, then you had to be removed from the front lines, sent to a decon facility for complete decontamination and issued new filters.

    December 11, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  21. Alan

    The exercise also opens up your skin pores, which make the experience all the more pleasant!

    December 11, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  22. SGT ONeill

    Boot Camp is very soft these days... Soldiers are coming to their first duty assignments having the wrong mindset. BCT should revert back to the old ways where Soldiers were broken down and built back up properly. Big Army is making life easy for recruits but harder on the NCOs.

    December 11, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  23. Dave

    I curious about the new style protective masks with the large filter can on the left side. The old mask I used had filters inside the mask on each side, so both left and right hand people could still sight and shoot their rifle. How would a left handed person use this type of mask and be able to shoot with the large filter on the left side?

    December 11, 2009 at 7:08 am |
  24. luke58

    CS gas – gotta love it! Good times.

    But wait – isn't that torture???

    Next thing you know, they'll be subjecting the troops to sleep deprivation and loud noises!!


    Go Army!

    December 11, 2009 at 6:34 am |
  25. Robert

    I remember going through the gas chamber while in boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Base. Something I will never forget.

    December 11, 2009 at 5:22 am |
  26. tear gas

    Yeah this is standard for every branch by no means unprecedented

    December 11, 2009 at 3:32 am |
  27. Whornet

    The exercise to simple to torture recruits.
    That and the laugh...

    December 11, 2009 at 12:24 am |
  28. Whornet

    The exercise is to torture stupid recruits...
    Just for the laugh

    December 11, 2009 at 12:22 am |
  29. alex

    Back when I went through, if you tried to run from the chamber you would get choke slammed by a drill sergeant. I suppose this is today's Army.

    December 11, 2009 at 12:05 am |
  30. A Recruit's Mom

    I have an 18-year-old going through the first week of basic right now, and I'm just learning about the miltary. Even I know it's tear gas and the purpose is this exercise is to learn about the efficacy of the equipment. The Air Force and the Marines both have actual videos from each week of boot camp training on their websites. Pretty interesting to watch.

    December 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  31. J. Walsh

    Oh, how I miss Heartbreak Hill... {sniffs}

    December 10, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  32. Gene Ekholm

    Gilbert is right-on. I went through the tear gas chamber at Fort Dix
    during basic training in 1964.It is a test to see if you are going to panic
    or use your gear as you were trained. Everybody gets a whiff of the stuff and the ones who mess up get more.

    December 10, 2009 at 7:21 pm |
  33. Victor Bobier

    Yeah I went through this training @ Ft Jackson SC, I was taught how to clear the mask and how to wear It and also to walk slowly through the tunnel, exit tunnel, take mask off, then retrace ones steps back through the same tunnel without running or one would go back through there without said mask. Needless to say I passed, But this was a long time ago back around 1979.

    December 10, 2009 at 7:19 pm |
  34. Gene Ekholm

    Gilbert is right-on. I went through the tear gas chamber at Fort Dix
    during basic training in 1964. It is a test to see if you are going to panic or use your gear as you were trained. Everybody gets a wiff
    of the stuff and the ones who screw up get more.

    December 10, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  35. Ted Rankin

    I remember my dad who was a Drill Sgt there running people through the gas. There was a lot of vomiting.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  36. Paul

    It is not Sarin, it is CS. Sarin is a G-Series nerve agent. CS is a riot control agent.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  37. Luke

    Gilbert and Chuck are correct. The exercise is intended to instill confidence in the soldiers in their protective gear. Went through the "chamber" in 1985 at Ft. Lewis. When the gas is introduced you can immediately smell it through the mask. Was my mask leaking? Was it defective? After removing the mask and having to answer questions until the instructor was satisfied I had inhaled a good dose, there was no doubt in my mind the mask had been working properly! Trust your equiupment and it will get you through.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  38. George

    The Gas chamber is a rite of passage for every solider. In Desert Storm the soldiers even slept in them. The chamber gives you a feeling what it feels like to be helpless against a gas attack.

    December 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  39. Rebecca Saxton

    I agree, Bubba. Running from the chamber was not an option when i went through. Puking was expected and accepted, but running away? never. What is the Army coming to?!

    December 10, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  40. Dan G.

    Obviously "Bubba" does not have a clue. The pellets are CS Gas, same used by riot police. Purpose of the gas chamber is to demonstrate that, yes, the mask does work!

    I remember when I went to Basic Training at Fort Knox, we found another use for the mask while we were doing our field training: stinky outhouses. The mask protected us from that too!

    December 10, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  41. ComplexNumbers

    They should have been having a snowball fight with the children of the elite in college.

    December 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  42. David Chorney

    The point of the "gas chamber" is to instill confidence in the Protective Mask for the trainee. You will have "snot ropes" and probably vomit, but no life threatening injuries. That is "the point" of this vital training, confidence in your equipment is paramount.

    December 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  43. Scott Miller

    Went through it in 89'. Navy boot in San Diego. Wasn't that big of a deal. It stung and made your nose run, spit, and eyes water, but that's it. We started with our masks on, then had to take them off and recite the 10 General Orders a few times. The purpose of the chamber is to build confidence in your equipment, your ability to use the protective gear, and learn to recognize chem agents. And looking back, it was a little fun. Just don't touch your face afterward, even for several hours, it will stay on your skin and clothes for quite a while. If you do, the whole thing will start over again.. Lol..

    December 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  44. Ken

    I ran gas chamber training exercises at Fort Dix and had my share of chamber training in the 70s. The instructors would normally be inside the chamber during the entire exercise. I personally have spent an hour or two continuous in a gas chamber on several occasions as soldiers shuffled through. Tear gas is used – not fun but not a persisting effect. Same stuff used on rioters and that which the rioters throw back at the police. The drills as said by other writers are to instill confidence in yourself and your equipment. Soldiers take off their mask to realize the effects of gas and how much happier they are to be wearing a working, properly sealed gas mask. And, to realize that they were actually in an environment that was not hospitable (again, proof that the mask works).

    People who really earn their chops are the guys and gals who work with tazers. Don't think I'd let anybody jazz me up with a tazer to convince me that it works.

    December 10, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  45. Kirk Kalvar

    Wow that really brings back memories. Although the gas chamber drills aren't on the top of my list, army IET/AIT training was one of the best parts of my life. Wouldn't trade them for anything.

    December 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  46. DrewH

    These are basic trainees.

    Recruits technically have not yet been sworn in.

    December 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  47. Cody

    Oh yes. I remember going through it in AF Basic. It burns like hell but goes away in a few minutes. After basic I became a cop and have since been hit OC Spray and an x26 taser. Now THAT was a bad day.

    December 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  48. Sgt. Alley Cat

    I have not-so-fond memories of the gas chamber at Ft. Dix in 1980 with A-2-3. Looking back, it wasn't so bad. But, everyone goes through it. Best wishes to all who serve now and all who served in the past.

    December 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  49. ToneyG

    Things sure have changed since I was a Drill Sergeant in the 80's, and I want to know who open the door for him to leave!

    December 10, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  50. Sgt Legg USMC

    The gas chamber is a once a year event for US Marines and this story brings back good memories of every year that I went into one. Before we would go in at the end of my days of active duty, we went through an obsticle course and a quarter mile run in full gear and then went into the gas chamber.

    December 10, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  51. LarryJK

    Walk, don't run was the rule for the gas chamber in Sept '67 at FLW. Other than having a panick attack and my eyes killing me it wasn't a big deal.

    December 10, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  52. Matt

    Marine's go through the gas chamber once a year, even after boot camp. The purpose of the gas chamber is to familiarize and instill confidence in the gear, and your ability to use it. They do not use 'plastic pelets'. It's CS gas. The purpose of using the gas is to provide a stressfull, realistic situation to use the gear. If you can't do it in a controlled enviroment, what are you going to do in a combat situation when you really need the gear to survive?

    Semper Fi.

    December 10, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  53. Cpl Scott USMC

    The gas chamber is not a big deal, but it is interesting that they let soldiers run out crying...I know when I went through Marine Corps Boot Camp this was not an option...Drill Instructors stood on the outsides of the doors, pushing their body weight against them so you could not escape...Army Strong...Hooah...

    December 10, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  54. Zulu36

    Gas chamber was a annual requirement when I was in the Marine Corps. Sometimes more than once per year. I had plenty of confidence in my gas mask after six-years in.

    December 10, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  55. Dan H.-Old Navy Guy

    Why is this news?

    December 10, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  56. al bishop

    They are called "protective masks" not "gas masks". This equipment uses charcoal particulate filters to remove airborne impurities, a "gas mask" has a self contained breathing system (such as those used by fire fighters). A "protective mask" will not allow you to breathe in heavy smoke etc. (I retired after 38 1/2 years in the military and was always correcting this same statement over and over). Some personal, who did not know the differance, lost their lives wearing masks such as these into burning buildings, abandoned mine shafts, etc.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  57. John Kerr, A. Draftee

    The "gas chamber" was not new in 1955, during the Cold War, when my buddy Pete and I went through it at Ft Dix. The tear gas simulated chlorine and other lethal gases. A morale-boosting excercise, actually, similar to a couple you practice for scuba-diving, although a couple of guys were incapacitated in our group (15 too?!–ahh, Army tradition!). Scary were the Biological and the Radiological portions of the CBR training, especially since there were no impervious suits ("too expensive!") and all we could do against lethal mists was try to cover all exposed skin as we "took cover," whatever that might be. And use our gas masks!

    We US guys made it through all right–don't know about the RAs and NGs, what with their being so challenged...!

    December 10, 2009 at 10:27 am |
  58. Rick Endris

    Don Armstrong is right, this has been going on for many years. I recently received copies of my fathers military service as a US Marine in WWII. I was surprised to see 'passed through the gas chamber" as part of the training.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  59. Sean

    We should only treat our prisoners so well. Wait, they are actually treated better.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  60. Joe

    It's required of most any military member. It's relatively harmess aside from the tiny minority of us who have a bad reaction to the chemical. I had a nasty reaction to it and ended up in the hospital with anaphactic shock – it was actually pretty touch and go for the first hour. My heart beat was down to 20bpm. and it blistered my skin.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  61. Kris

    I went though all of this in 1991 at Ft. Jackson, SC- yes the dreaded gas mask training. The purpose of "gassing" is to let the soldier know how well the gas mask works. It is tear gas only- I cried, nose ran, lungs burned, everything, but the symptoms went away shortly afterwards. Not a huge deal,,, if the soldier can't do this, he or she needs to be required to do it again until they pass. If they still can't do it, they should not graduate from basic training.The author of this story is not getting the point,,,,,,, and basic training today is politically correct and the recruits have it alot easier than I did when I went through.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  62. Hobo

    Been there and done that at Ft Cambell Ky, 1969!

    Purpose of the chamber was to prove to the recruit that the gas mask actually does filter out the CS gas and gain confidence in the equipment. It was the culmination of the week long classroom training for CBN.

    Running from chamber was not an option, released upon completing one or two circuits around the perimeter and group excercise, depending on the DI's satisfaction of your misery.

    I believe we had to have our canteens with us to flush out the CS from our eyes after the exposure.


    December 10, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  63. Em

    I have been through it many times. Actually I was the NBC (Old School) NCO and I got to burn the CS powder to make the CS gas. I used to use way more powder than necessary so that I could get a nice heavy smoke going! Loved to see 'em puke and gag when they came out of there! On a more sullen note, I popped a lid off of a can one day not knowing what was in there and the CS powder puffed up into my face – pay back is hell! If it aint raining we aint training!!

    December 10, 2009 at 9:51 am |
  64. adrian westover

    I have done it many times when i was regular Army and I kind of wondered why take off your mask to inhale tear gas. the point is use your mask to breath safely. But this is to let you know that without the mask how much difference there is.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  65. Glenn

    Ah, but dripping water up the nose of a violent terrorist is "torture". Can you imagine the uproar if the guys at Gitmo had to go through a CS gas chamber?

    December 10, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  66. Scott

    Fun stuff... we were never required to breath it... just remove the mask, replace it, clear and seal. I do remember it burning, like you got a steam burn, anywhere you had exposed skin. Seems like a lifetime ago. 92, Ft. Jackson.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  67. John

    Do they have a pole painted yellow straight outside the chamber like they did at Ft Jackson when I went through the chamber in 1983. You learn why it's important to get your mask on and sealed properly. The gas chamber is a great teacher, and hopefully you go through before lunch.
    I remember the instructor asking us how many have a cold and he says "well you'll be wearing it after this" Boy was he right.
    Yeah please try and use the correct terminology. All you have to do is ask.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:37 am |
  68. Franco Piccione

    One of the key training purposes is to insure that the trainee knows how to properly prepare, don, and clear his/her mask. Trainees are told what to do multiple times and practice before going into the chamber.

    Yet despite all the words and practice, the number that forget to clear their masks (blow air out to clear the mask vs inhaling) is amazing. Once they've gone through this drill they remember. Better with a little CS in a controlled environment to learn this than when on a battlefield with a gas or nerve agent in the air.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:37 am |
  69. Mike

    This training was not a big deal. I was blinded for a few seconds and almost ran into a tree. On the up side, all my boogers came out and I could breath so clearly 🙂

    It's been over 30 years and I can still feel the stinging on the back of my closely shaved neck and the smell of CS all over my clothing.
    mmmm.....great times!

    December 10, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  70. jim

    if they don't learn now, in a battle situation they won,t have tme to think. goo job for sticking it out guys, and our prayers go with you!!!!!!

    December 10, 2009 at 9:32 am |
  71. Robert Cummings

    "It was'nt that bad, i did it back in 84, at Ft. Benning "Harmony Church" not even there anymore.. I had the best Drill Sargent "Drill Sargent Killingsworth".....wish i could thank him today.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  72. Mike

    You dont take big huffs of this stuff. You're instructed to take a deep breath before removing your mask. While the mask is off, at least when I had to do it, you say your name, rank, and SSN. The smart one's dont breath back in after saying it...and are permitted to leave the chamber. It does irritate any exposed skin with a burning feeling. Your eyes water and the powdery type of gas lingers. Flapping and waving your arms helps to get it off your body and skin. There's no permanent effect from it though. Typically you also wash your eyes out with fresh water. It is something you remember forever, but it's also something that's important to learn so you wont freak out in case the real thing ever happens.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  73. passinggas

    At Parris Island S.C. in 1969 we were tear gassed, then removed our masks and sang the Marine Corps Hymn while doing bends -and -mo-fo's (squat thrusts to you army pukes). Good practice for hippie riot control duty. Plastic pellets-what a crock!

    December 10, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  74. Maddy

    My mother, a WWII WRAF shared an experience of being gassed. As my mother's experience goes ... some rules were broken by members of her unit.

    All the women were taken off base and brought to another area nearby. The approached a hut of some sort and were asked to walk through it - they had no clue what was happening. As they did, they were choked up with some sort of gas agent. They had no protection, whatsoever.

    Their unit commander stood by and watched this take place. As they exited, she was crying and so upset that she had to watch this. (Apparently, the punishment came down from an upper official) The affects of this experience not only left physical, but mostly emotional scars.

    Our family sat numb and in shock as my mother shared her experience. To this day, I still remember my 87 year old mother's tears she shed as she recounted this terrible experience.

    December 10, 2009 at 8:35 am |
  75. john

    The grass outside the gas chamber at Norfolk Naval Base was incredibly healthy in its appearance, being regularly fertilized by some of the most copious mucus gaffing I've ever seen as we stumbled out the door.

    I think it should be required of all high school seniors. Yes. That just might do it.

    December 10, 2009 at 8:09 am |
  76. Navy Girl

    AHHH the gas/confidence chamber, everyone has to go thru this no matter what branch. It is definately something that one never forgets. As far as the people in this blog that are picking the author apart for this story, I say Bravo to CNN for even caring and this story makes me smile as I look at Will's endeavor and it makes me smile as I remember my own military career. Good Luck Will, thank you for your service!!!!

    December 10, 2009 at 4:14 am |
  77. CSM Michael Stuart

    Debra Carter has probably been a slacker and a hypochondriac all her life. Glad she was not in my unit. CS is not a gas, its not a toxin and has no lasting effects. And yes, I am a doctor....

    December 10, 2009 at 12:53 am |
  78. joe, nj

    In 1956 I had to breathe in a chlorine gas room and ina tear gas room. No big deal, I'm still here.

    December 9, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  79. Marc

    I was a NBC guru in the Marines from 99-04 and I'd run about 18 of these gas chambers per year as it is an annual requirement for Marines. Nothing like the sweet smell of CS in the morning, or giving the wife a big hug when I get home in the evening! 😉

    December 9, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  80. Steven DeLuca

    If the DI's didn't like you they couldn't understand it when you took off your mask and said your name, rank and serial number. If you shoult it out twice you are out of breath. The third time you are sucking in tear gas by the quart.

    Smart asses in the army (I was one) were tested more harshly than others but I don't rember anyone thinking running out was an option. If you ran you would have to do it more times.

    December 9, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  81. D

    The point of the Gas Chamber is to show that the mask works (prove to the soldier) and that if the mask seal is broken you can clear and re-seal the mask and be ok. It is also somewhat of a right of passge. It does have legitimate training purposes. To some it is a psychological hurdle. It will clean out your sinuses.

    December 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  82. 11bravosoldier

    ahh i remmeber those days about 5 yrs ago! lol then i did 2 tours in ramadi and am now out... Gosh the gas chamber is always fun i went through it like 5 times... it really sucks haha i was the small guy that the drill sergeants pick on!

    December 9, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  83. Old soldier

    I went through this stuff at Ft. Ord in 1959 and every six months while stationed in Germany from '60 to '62. It's a normal part of Army training.

    December 9, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  84. Debra G Carter

    I think that it is important to realize that my experience was in 1976, and I was in the Army. Now I am aware that there are EPA problems from Ft McClellan, Alabama, an army base outside of Anniston, Alabama.

    December 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  85. GasolineAshtray

    Safety Note to any Drill Sgts:

    Don't lean against the EXIT door of the CS chamber trying to be funny.

    One Ft Knox Drill tried that when I was on my way out, the door which didn't open on the 1st try, so I kicked the door open and into the mud he went.

    That CS is sucking in pepper and jalapeno juice then having someone wrap a 30 hole belt around your chest and rapidly pulling it tight to the last hole.

    December 9, 2009 at 8:25 pm |
  86. Kristy

    Don't worry, if the whole gas chamber thing doesn't kill you our government will. I too, went through the "gas chamber" experience in 1987 during basic training at Ft. Jackson, Columbia, SC. Yes your sinuses drain, your eyes weep, and the occasional puking does occur. You do survive though. What they don't tell you, until it's too late, is that when your in the suck, in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91 and your own government destroys sarin gas bunkers with disregard to all the soldiers downwind of it. Yep, took them about 5 years to admit that one. Think I'm lying google Kamiyashi + Sarin gas + US troops. I routinely get bulletins from the VA since I was exposed. But you know WTF!! People forget how much freedom costs. Another lamb for the slaughter, all so we can drive our SUV's, and luxury cars. Peace is patriotic too!

    December 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  87. Don Armstrong

    Interesting..but..gas chamber drills have been the norm in military
    training for years...and the "gas" is tear gas. Ive been thru it twice...
    once in AF boot camp and again in Navy bootcamp...its not that big
    of a deal...and the time actually passes very fast. Every service man
    has been through it I believe...


    December 9, 2009 at 6:21 pm |

    First, it is no longer NBC, but CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological nuclear).
    Second, soldiers are jumping inside the chamber because of drill sargeants ordering them to do so, as a way of increasing lung intake of CS gas

    December 9, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  89. Laura, A Military Mom

    Will will do fine, he appears to have the determination to succeed. I wish him the best in his Service, and Thank Him for signing on the line for our country.

    December 9, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  90. Richard Gateley

    Many holes in the reporting here as well as incorrect terms being used. The Army has a language all its own, and to report it correctly makes a big difference. I cringe at some of the things are being said on here.

    December 9, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  91. Debra G Carter

    I recall having that same training back in 1971, when I was in basic training. Now I am 57 and suffer with the ravages of the chemicals that I was contaminated by. Maybe back in 1971 they were not as careful when exposing us to gaseous toxins. Check out Ft McClellan, Alabama if you need verification.

    December 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  92. CJ Smith DO

    As a former Army Dr., we all had to go thru the "chamber", a wild experience indeed. All the sweating, coughing, and stinging eyes gave me an acute appreciation of the folks in Desert Storm and the beginning of OIF. When the way had been paved in Iraq by late 2003, my JSLIST suit never left my duffle bag.

    Desert Storm trrops had to wear the older generation of NBC suits in combat, in the desert. I could barely tolerate it for a day of training in Texas.

    The battle buddy concept was visibly obvious in the hospital where I worked. These tired and sometimes pretty sick recruits gained moral and even physical strength from their counterparts. It kept equipment and personnel accounted for as well. A great idea.

    December 9, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  93. DC

    My son just finished BCT at Ft Jackson. the changes physically and mentally are mind boggling to say the least. he is a much improved version of his former self, with confidence in his ability to do anything he sets his mind to.

    It was an honor to meet many who will be serving in the near future for our country.

    December 9, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  94. Rick Preston

    I did this same excersise at FLW (Fort Leonard Wood) while BCT I(Basis Combat Training). in early 1968. All BCT trainees go trough this. No big deal. At worst your eyes still like hell and you might get sick and vomit. This is when your buddy (what ever they are called now) steps up and helps you out. There are no lasting effects and its a valuable training excercise. This is not a new exercise and was not designed to harrass the trainee. Going on sick call with all your assigned gear was worse.

    December 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  95. Chuck

    This exercise is to build confidence in themselves and the equipment they are issued, in this instance the gas mask. They will learn same lessons in marksmanship, land navigation, etc...

    December 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  96. gilbert

    The author really needs to correct the purpose why trainees go through the NBC Chamber. The author states "it's to drill soldiers on the dangers of sarin gas attack", that is a falsehood. The purpose of having trainees go through the NBC Chamber is to demonstrate the ability of the NBC Protective Mask and to build the trainees confidence in the equipment. It also trains trainees on the proper techniques for putting the mask on and how to properly clear and reseal the mask in the event of an accidently leak or accident where the mask comes off or the seal is broken.

    If the author is going to tell the story please use the facts and not attempt to dramatize the events.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  97. Bubba

    Maybe the one who ran away is the smart one? Maybe we'll be hearing about little plastic pellets that turned out to actually BE sarin, or Agent Orange or something later on. Do you get points for lying down on the floor, or are you supposed to take big huffs of this stuff and then hurl? What's the point?

    December 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  98. Jason

    how is this unprecedented? Ask any one of the millions of people who've gone through basic of ANY branch, and they will tell you exactly what this whole blog is talking about .

    December 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  99. Kristi

    AAH ....the gas chamber I remember that feeling! I went through basic at Fort Lost in the woods also(:

    December 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  100. bubba551

    I do not recall running from the gas chamber being an option.

    As I remember, total evacuation of all mucous from the sinus cavity was mandatory, while vomiting was optional.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
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