Rite of passage Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 May 2008
Story and photos by Carolyn Erickson
GUIDON staff

Basic training CS chamber builds Soldier confidence one tear or cough at a time 
Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, experienced the effects of CS, a chemical irritant, in a time-honored military training tradition, April 25.

Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical training remains critical to Soldier readiness on the modern battlefield, and all basic training Soldiers must run the NBC chamber gauntlet to graduate.

 “The ... chamber is a big confidence builder.  It lets them know they can make it,” said Staff Sgt. Marvin Brown, a Co. B, 2-10th Inf. Bn. drill sergeant.

Another drill sergeant in the company spoke about where the NBC chamber stands in significance to other basic training events.

“In terms of barriers they need to overcome, it’s hand-in-hand with NIC at Night and the Warrior Tower,” said Sgt. 1st Class Erika Phillips, Co. B, 2-10th Inf. Bn. drill sergeant, referring to the Night Infiltration Course and tower obstacle that basic trainees must conquer on the road to graduation.

Soldiers from Co. B, 2-10th Inf. Bn., don their protective masks prior to entering the CS chamber, April 25. The CS chamber is part of basic training.
Another unit drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Timothy Wright, himself a member of the Chemical Corps, pointed out the value of NBC training and taking off your protective mask.

“It gives them confidence in their mask.  They have to know it will protect them.  You don’t know what your mask is protecting you from until you take it off,” Wright said.

The chemical in the NBC chamber is CS powder, which is often used by the police to break up riots or during hostage situations. The most common reactions include a burning sensation wherever the chemical touches, resulting in burning skin, eyes and lungs.  The human body tries get rid of the chemical through tearing eyes, running noses and lungs that almost try not to breathe.

The Soldiers of Company B waited their turns to don their masks and enter the NBC chamber.  Some Soldiers told jokes, others practiced putting on their masks repeatedly, and still others stared at the ground silently, waiting for the drill sergeants to call their platoon to the ready area.

When the first group of Soldiers donned their masks and lined up to enter the chamber, cheering broke out among the remaining Soldiers.  Shouting, clapping, and hand waiving accompanied the small band of Soldiers filing through an open door into a dark chamber, and abruptly ended when the door slammed shut behind them.

The group became nearly silent, with Soldiers rarely speaking above a whisper, waiting for the first group of Soldiers to emerge.  A few minutes later, that group of Soldiers emerged from the chamber with streaming eyes clenched shut, mouth and nose dripping, and lungs hacking.

Soldiers gain confidence in their NBC protective mask by entering a buiding containing a chemical irritant.
Reaction levels to the chemical varied among the Soldiers, with some barely feeling any effects, to others who fell over upon exiting, causing potentially dangerous pileups as the Soldiers behind them clawed forward for fresh air. 

Experienced drill sergeants positioned Soldiers wearing protective masks at the exit to guide their fellow Soldiers safely to a recovery area.  The exit area Soldiers grabbed those who looked the worst off and kept them moving, and also guided their near-blind charges safely to a breezy area where they could do the “flapping chicken” to recover.

“It brings them together. It’s a shared experience they can talk about the rest of the cycle.” Phillips said.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 May 2008 )