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Always ready

By Lance Cpl. Brendan Roethel | | September 19, 2013

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Marines equipped with protective clothing and gas masks conducted annual gas chamber training to maintain a constant state of readiness at the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Training Facility aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Sept. 12. 

“The class is designed to build confidence in the Marines and give them the knowledge needed to survive a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle Rudd, the training noncommissioned officer for the CBRN Training Facility. “With everything going on in the world, especially in Syria, we make sure to drive the point home that this training is important and can save your life one day.” 

Prior to entering the gas chamber, Marines took a refresher course to learn about various forms of CBRN attacks and to familiarize themselves with their M50 Joint Service General Purpose Gas Mask and Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear. The gas mask is designed to filter harmful chemical and biological agents to allow the wearer to breathe safely. The MOPP suit is a garment that covers the Marines uniform and protects the wearer’s skin from chemical and biological agents.

After the class, Marines lined up outside the chamber door with their gas masks donned, prepared to face the gas chamber. 

The chemical used during training is chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, or CS gas, a non-lethal substance used by the military and police departments as a riot control agent. The crystalline gas particles get caught in pores, creating a burning sensation on the skin. The gas is heat and water-activated, so if Marines rub their faces they could cause further irritation to their skin, making the effects of the gas stronger. 

“The gas chamber provides Marines with serious training, but it was never something I was afraid of,” said Sgt. Colby Jenkins, the warehouse noncommissioned officer in charge for Marine Aircraft Group 31. “I made sure to stay calm, rely on my training and train as if I was going through an actual chemical warfare attack.”

The Marines spent approximately five minutes in the chamber performing basic exercises to get their blood pumping, increase respiratory rates and build confidence that their masks won’t come off during movement. This is crucial to teaching Marines the limitations of their gear. 

“Once I broke the seal of my mask, gas flooded onto my face,” said Jenkins. “Before resealing my mask, I felt my eyes tear up and my throat become sore, but I remained calm. I then cleared my gas-filled gas mask and prepared myself to vacate.” 

After completing all of the required tasks, the Marines left the chamber and removed their masks once they were at a safe distance from the building to avoid recontamination. The Marines then removed the rest of their gear and made their way back to work, refreshed in their CBRN training, and prepared to face any CBRN attack at a moment’s notice.


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