June 22, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky- Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, learn to trust their equipment at the Gas Chamber during Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Training, June 5, 2012 at Fort Campbell, Ky.
If you have ever watched a police movie then you might have seen a small canister spewing a pale white smoke being thrown into a room where the bad guys were and the police were wearing masks as they went in. Ever wonder what that smoke was?
The white smoke is known by many names according to the Webster's dictionary. The scientific name is o-Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile (CS) but the police refer to it as tear gas and the U.S. Army as "CS" gas.
It can be used as a tool to make people uncomfortable and want to leave the area or can be used by the U.S. Army as a training tool.
"I went into the chamber to learn to trust my mask," said Pfc. William Alarcon, a Soldier in Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Bn., 320th FA, 4th Bde., 101st Abn. Div., and a native of Orange County, Calif., "You have to trust your equipment to be able to do your job."
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces are exposed to CS during initial training, and during training refresher courses or equipment maintenance exercises, using CS tablets that are melted on a hotplate.
This is to demonstrate the importance of properly wearing a gas mask or a Protective mask, as the agent's presence quickly reveals an improper fit or seal of the mask's rubber gaskets against the face. Symptoms are a burning sensation on any moist skin, whether due to perspiration or other fluids such as tears or in the nasal membranes.
These exercises also encourage confidence in the ability of the equipment to protect the wearer from such chemical attacks. Such an event is a requirement for graduation from the U.S. Army's Basic Combat Training.
"Inside the chamber they gain confidence in their M40 protective mask," said 2nd Lt. Joshua Thurman, from HHB, , 4th Bn., 320th FA, 4th Bde., 101st Abn. Div., and a native of Albany, Ga., "They don, clear and seal their masks in a contaminated environment."
The Canadian, Norwegian and Australian Army train their Soldiers with "CS" gas in a manner similar to that of the U.S. Army, as it is a basic part of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) training or more recently within NATO, CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) training.
Gas is released by burning tablets, usually in a tent or a small building reserved for this purpose (a "gas hut"), and soldiers are exposed to it on three occasions.
During the first exposure he removes his gas mask and leaves the tent or hut. The second exposure the Soldier must remove the mask, receive facial exposure, then replace and clear the mask. In the third exposure, he enters the tent unprotected, then must fit and clear the gas mask before leaving. Other drills such as drinking and under-mask decontamination are usually also practiced yearly.
"I advise the commander on CBRN events, training and maintenance of the equipment," said Spc. Michael Patrick, the CBRN specialist from HHB, 4th Bn., 320th FA, 4th Bde., 101st Abn. Div., and a native of Greeley, Colo., "After the experience in the chamber the Soldiers will have confidence in their equipment in a contaminated environment."
"It sucked taking the mask off in the chamber," said Alarcon. "But I know now that my mask works."
The "CS" gas was discovered by two Americans, Ben Corson and Roger Staughton in 1928 and the chemical gets its name from the first letters of the scientists' surnames.