By Cpl. Tyler Viglione, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego -- style="line-height: 200%; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">“GAS, GAS, GAS,” is screamed by the instructors as recruits rush to put on their masks and file into the chamber, unsure about what is going to happen.
Recruits of Golf Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, endured the effects of the Confidence Chamber, Dec. 8, on Edson Range at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
The chamber event teaches recruits how to properly employ the equipment used during biological and chemical attacks. The chamber was filled with chlorobenzylidene malonitrile, or CS gas, a non-lethal tear gas and riot control agent.
Before recruits entered the chamber, they received classes on everything they were about to endure.
“We teach recruits the assembly of the M-50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, have them check the serviceability of the masks, (conduct) immediate action drills and discuss the effects of the CS gas,” said Sgt. Travis B. Armstrong, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist, Weapons and Field Training Battalion. “Our number one goal is getting them confident with the equipment and making sure they know what to do when under pressure.”
Recruits didn’t fully understand what the gas’ full effects were until they actually entered the chamber.
“I was in the third group to go into the chamber,” said Recruit Zachary V. Maderak, Platoon 2151. “I heard all the other groups go, and all of the noises they were making made it more nerve racking.”
The chemicals in the gas cause a burning sensation to the skin and are particularly stringent to the eyes, ears and mouth. Most recruits wind up with tears streaming down their faces, coughing, runny noses and restricted breathing.
During the event, drill instructors yell to get recruits moving quickly in order to cause chaos and confusion, according to Maderak.
“We got in the chamber, it was kind of chaotic,” said Maderak, a native of Chicago. “We had to shake our heads, which made me dizzy for a few seconds.”
Recruits were required to perform three exercises while in the chamber.
They shake their heads to demonstrate a correct seal of the mask, they conduct jumping jacks to elevate their heart rates, and finally are required to break the seal of the mask to expose their faces to the gas, according to Maderak.
“It was awful,” said Maderak. “My whole body had a burning sensation, and I was violently coughing, causing all of the mucus to come out of my face.”
When each recruits mask was off of his face, they were told to place the masks back on and breath normally again.
Several recruits felt panic as the effects of the CS gas took its toll on their bodies, and just when the recruits thought they were finished, they were told to take the masks off once again.
“I could compose myself better the second time,” said Maderak. “It was easier to breath, but it still didn’t feel good.”
Once Golf Company recruits passed the Confidence Chamber, they had less than 24 hour before they began the Crucible, which is the last test the recruits face before earning the title Marine.
“It’s good that we got this training early on in our careers,” said Maderak. “You never know what kind of war we will be facing in the future.”