FORT CARSON, Colo. – Hands held aloft, soldiers rushed out of the small concrete structure, coughing and sputtering, flapping their arms wildly as if attempting to fly away from the horror within.
Soldiers assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, reaffirmed trust in their equipment during protective mask confidence training at the Fort Carson chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear gas chamber, Aug. 6-10.
Each day, CBRN specialists assigned to 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, guided dozens of masked “Raiders” into the CBRN chamber, filled with 0-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS gas), a vapor that causes intense irritation and a burning sensation to the eyes, nose and throat, without lasting side-effects, most commonly used to break up riots.
The gas caused minor skin irritation to soldiers as they shuffled into the chamber, but their masks kept the primary side effects at bay.
“It burns, but I think this training actually builds morale,” said Pvt. Christopher Johnson, infantryman, Company A, 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Regt. “It proves that you can do something other people are afraid of, or don’t want to do.”
To validate the Raiders’ ability to properly use their M40-series protective masks, CBRN specialists directed their students to remove the masks from their faces for five seconds before replacing them, expelling any gas trapped inside and then resealing the masks to their faces.
“Once you’re confident in your mask and know the proper procedures, you have nothing to worry about,” said Sgt. Denver Stennet, CBRN specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Regt. “If you stay calm, you’ll be fine.”
When used properly, a pro-mask could save a soldier’s life from countless situations, Stennet said. He emphasized the importance of training with the CBRN equipment in preparation for possible attacks during deployment.
After each group cleared and resealed their masks, the CBRN specialists directed them to take their mask off, hold it above their heads, and recite their last names and the last four digits of their social security numbers as they exited the chamber.
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Lambert, CBRN noncommissioned officer, 1st Bn., 22nd Inf. Regt., said this final phase of the training demonstrates the masks’ effectiveness to soldiers.
“[Taking their masks off], soldiers really feel the CS gas,” he said. “It’s hard to doubt your mask after trying to breathe in there without it.”
Lambert said reaffirming Raider soldiers CBRN skills will make them more well rounded and efficient warfighters capable of engaging an enemy in any situation.