FORT EUSTIS, Va. -- Time in the gas chamber was order of the day for more than 180 soldiers assigned to the 331st Transportation Company, the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and the 53rd Movement Control Team, all part of the 24th Trans. Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade as the unit conducted Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear training Wednesday morning, Nov. 2, at Fort Eustis’ Training Area 26.
“Today’s training is required based on the subtasks set forth in our unit’s Mission Essential Task List,” said Capt. Christina Shelton, company commander, 331st Trans. Comp. “Not only will our soldiers go through the gas chamber, but they will also train on how to relocate a company under CBRN conditions, and how to defend their assigned area, all required based on our METL.”
The soldiers donned their protective masks and stood in line waiting for their turn to enter the metal building. Once inside they remove their masks and wait… wait for the effect of the CS gas to take hold whereupon they then must exit the building in good order.
Training non-commissioned officers are on hand providing instruction and conducting safety inspections throughout to ensure each soldier is aware of what they will experience inside the chamber, and after they’ve been exposed to the CS gas. As the troops exit the chamber, the NCOs direct the soldiers to a rally point.
“This is the second time this year we’ve gone through the gas chamber,” said Sgt. Kyle Fergusson, a combat engineer and the training NCO in Charge for the 331st Trans. Comp.
“It’s gone well; good training for the soldiers.”
Maintaining soldier’s skills is an essential part of a unit’s deployment readiness as expressed by Capt. Shelton.
“This is a perishable skill,” she said. “In order for our soldiers to be ready to deploy at any time, in any kind of environment, this type of training is important.”
As the soldiers exit the chamber the effect of the gas is all too noticeable. Whether it is watery eyes, coughing or a runny nose in the extreme, the training brings home the motto, “train as you fight”, but for one young soldier, the effects were most tolerable.
“This is my second time through the chamber,” said Pfc. Allison Lowber, a watercraft operator assigned to the 331st Trans. Comp. The 27-year old Seattle native found little discomfort during her time in the chamber. “We have good NCOs, and leaders, who informed us on what to expect before, during, and after,” she said. “It was good, it didn’t really bother me.”