US, Kuwaiti service members bond in gas chamber
October 24, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, alongside Kuwaiti soldiers from the 94th Brigade, Kuwaiti Land Forces, conducted chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training Oct. 3-4, near Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Partnership training is conducted regularly, building military ties and promoting security and stability in the region.
The training between the 94th Brigade and 3rd ABCT included proper wear of their chemical suits and protective gas masks, and a trip into a CS gas chamber to ensure their equipment worked effectively. CBRN training is standard training the Army conducts annually for familiarization and recertification purposes.
Staff Sgt. Charles A. Marvel, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist assigned to 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID, explained that CS gas, a common form of tear gas used for riot control, reacts with the moisture in the skin and eyes causing an instant and intense burning sensation, severe coughing, drastic nasal discharge, restricted breathing, dizziness and disorientation.
Some of the soldiers expressed nervous comments and shared "are they serious?" looks as Marvel described what they could expect in the chamber.
One Kuwaiti soldier jokingly asked if he could be excused from going into the chamber due to an alleged medical condition. Although the medical condition was not specified, he gestured toward his throat and breathing. His fellow soldier handed him a bottle of cough syrup and the classroom erupted in laughter. Even in the midst of training, soldiers displayed high morale and a sense of humor.
The morning of Oct. 4, U.S. and Kuwaiti soldiers gathered near a tent at a training area in the vicinity of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
"There's a little language barrier, but with hand signals and gestures we could understand each other enough to interact," said Spc. Henry Rios, a fire support specialist assigned to 3rd BSTB, 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID, who participated in the gas chamber training.
Anticipation rose as soldiers from both nations put their chemical suits and gas masks on. The Kuwaiti commander and U.S. noncommissioned officer in charge ensured that all soldiers' gas masks fit properly and that their suits were on correctly.
With gas masked donned, Marvel and several other U.S. Soldiers entered the tent and set off the CS gas tablets.
The soldiers awaiting instructions to enter the gas chamber got a pat on the shoulder, a thumbs up, and a come on in.
As the flap to the chamber opened and the first group of soldiers filed in, CS gas could be seen in the light spilling through the cracks and seams of the tent.
Some of the soldiers bumped into each other as they scrambled through the entryway. They couldn't see well with their masks on. The Kuwaiti and U.S. leaders in charge shouted muffled orders, "You go this way," while another soldier shouted, "You go that way." Amidst the chaos, soldiers packed shoulder to shoulder and waited.
At the signal from their leaders, soldiers removed their masks, and took a deep breath of the CS gas.
"There was absolutely no difference, as soon as they break the seal on their pro mask reality hits them, as well as the gas," said Sgt. James-Ryan Varner, an imagery analyst assigned to 3rd BSTB, 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID. "Everyone was choking, drooling and coughing. We can't ask them to do anything we won't do so when we took our masks off, we couldn't stand to be in there any longer than they could."
"With all their gear they were fine, we showed them it works," said 1st Lt. Jose Solis, assigned to 3rd BSTB, 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID. "But once they took it off, just like us, they kind of freaked out. They said their names and they were out of there quick."
After exiting the chamber, both U.S. and Kuwaiti soldiers walked around with their eyes shut and noses running waiting for the effects of the CS gas to wear off.
As quickly as the effects wore off, laughter and joking ensued.
"I hate CS gas, I hate it!" said Spc. Derrick Ramey, a public affairs broadcast specialist for the Sledgehammer Brigade. "You come running out, your skin on fire, and you squeeze open an eye to see another soldier no better off than you and the first thing you do is smile. It's amazing how easily people turn to laughter and friendship in terrible circumstances."
"The importance of this training is to show them that the equipment they have works," said Solis. "This gets them comfortable with their equipment and if the need comes they know it works and they will be proficient with it."
Soldiers assigned to Fort Benning's sole brigade combat team will continue training, strengthening military ties and forming personal bonds with their Kuwaiti counterparts throughout the duration of their Kuwait deployment.