One of the most common concerns with new recruits is their fear and feelings of anxiety regarding the CS gas chamber that all new military personnel are required to experience. Although the collective voice of experience will agree that it is not a very pleasant training session, millions of people have gone through it before, and millions more will follow without incident.
At the heart of every CS gas training evolution are a few core principles that justify the entire training session. Although it’s a bit frustrating that the mandate to undergo this particular training is not up for negotiation, it’s pretty normal for soldiers, sailors, marines, and the like to be subject to elements and tasks they don’t necessarily agree with. Put simply, “welcome to the military”.
Fortunately, it’s a short evolution, and overcoming the unpleasantry and effects of CS gas only takes a few minutes. In terms of unpleasant experiences, there are far worse things. The whole process will go something like the following:
– Recruit commanders brief the division on the most common side effect of CS gas, which most frequently are involuntary crying, sneezing, coughing, itchy or burning eyes and skin, difficulty breathing, among others.
– Division commanders will also walk recruits through the logistical elements of the training evolution. Including how to file in, what should be done once in the chamber (prior to exposure to the CS gas), how to put on his or her gas mask, what each recruit needs to recite once exposed, how and if to put the gas mask back on, and how and when to file out of the chamber when training is complete.
– According to instructions, recruits will file into the gas chamber alongside their recruit commander. Once inside and filed according to the briefing, capsules containing CS gas will start to be vaporized by trained personnel. After this, the recruit commander begin qualifying the division by requesting gas masks be removed. Depending on the size of the division and how well instructions are adhered to, this can take as long as 20-30 minutes. Training also seems to vary depending on each branch’s requirements and frankly, the mood of the recruit commander.
– Once recruits have completed the in-chamber part of the evolution, most of the time, they are filtered out into the open air to recover. In many cases, this part of the training session involves a lot of saliva, mucous, and tears. As such, there may or may not be a subsequent cleaning party to ensure bodily fluids are properly disposed of.
As mentioned, at the heart of this seemingly sadistic training session are a two key principles that will serve recruits out in the field.
1) Trust your gear. If a soldier or sailor is faced with a real situation in which he or she must wear a gas mask, it’s vital that any reservations about gear performance be eliminated.
2) Focus on the task. Even in high stress situations involving tremendous physical discomfort, it’s important that recruits prove to themselves that they have the ability to stay focused even in spite of pain and physical ailment.
A third element, though not as emphasized during boot camp, is that recruits will walk away from this training session a bit more confident than before. While this principle overshadows almost all aspects of the basic training period, it’s especially true for CS gas training because of the enormous amount of anxiety surrounding it.