Fort Hood, Texas -- In the Army, readiness is the No. 1 priority. Soldiers train vigorously to always be ready to deploy in support of the nation's defense. While training efforts focus on weapons proficiency and physical readiness, one critical task is sometimes overlooked, but it's something that can quite possibly save a life.
Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, braved the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear chamber, Jan. 17.
Known as the confidence course, the CBRN chamber allowed the sustainers to test the capabilities of their assigned M50 protective masks, learn CBRN warrior skills tasks.
Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Smith, a 17-year senior CBRN noncommissioned officer with 13th ESC, believes in what the training does for Soldiers, "Soldiers need to be confident in their equipment," Smith said. "As a CBRN NCO, I have more confidence in the protective masks because we execute live nerve agent chamber missions as a graduation requirement for advanced individual training and the senior leader course."
After going through 11 weeks of CBRN training during Advanced Individual Training, Pfc. Muirne Cooney made it a priority to do everything she could to bring attention to the unit's CBRN program.
"I feel like CBRN gets overlooked and that people don't care, but I want to make them care," Cooney said.
Having graduated AIT in October 2017, this was Cooney's first time being able to set-up and train Soldiers, but it's something she knows is crucial.
"It's important for Soldiers to understand the importance of their protective equipment," Cooney explained. "A lot of Soldiers didn't want to go in the chamber because they didn't want to breathe in the gas, but that's kind of the point. We use protective posture to negate that and provide Soldiers with confidence in their equipment, and that's what training in the chamber provides."
Training with the new M50 protective masks was an upgrade from the older version of the mask Soldiers used to don.
"They made the filters more compact in design in comparison to the M40s," Cooney said. "So they are easier to fire weapons with, because you don't have to worry about the filter, or lack of filter, getting in the way. I also like the lens because they give you a much wider field of vision."
This training event allowed Cooney to finally execute the training using the skills she learned in CBRN training.
"This was the first chamber that I've been a part of in the planning and execution phases, so that was really exciting for me to learn the ins and outs of running a chamber," Cooney said.
Spc. Matthew Martin, 13th ESC legal specialist, hadn't been through the chamber since he graduated basic training over two years ago, and found this time was an all-around better experience.
"It didn't hurt as bad as it did the first time," Martin said. "I handled it way better than when I was in basic."
In total, 78 Soldiers were successfully trained, and Cooney hopes this eases the nervousness some feel about the chamber.
"CBRN training isn't scary, it's meant to be informative," Cooney said. "You have a CBRN NCO in every unit and there's a reason for that."