Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Visit to the Gas Chamber...Army Style

Yesterday, I posted a little about my military service and thanked my fellow veterans. On Memorial Day many people mainly think of those who gave their lives for our country and rightly so. I don't want to take away or diminish what those brave souls did to keep our country free. However, there are many service men and women who never faced combat for one reason or another, but nonetheless, dedicated themselves to do so if called upon.

I was one of those who signed the dotted line to serve my country during a time of war but never faced combat. I was fully prepared to face our enemy in combat to protect our freedom if it came down to it. Fortunately, I didn't have to do that. As a matter of fact, after visiting the recruiter's office, I was prepared to enlist in the infantry. However, my dad (also a veteran, during Vietnam), asked me what I would do when I got out. I distinctly remember him saying, "There's not a big demand for killing people," referring to my possible job choice. He encouraged me to learn a skill that would serve me in the civilian world. He said aircraft maintenance would be ideal if I could score well on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - it's basically a skills test to determine what jobs you're eligible for). I scored well enough to get a job as a helicopter engine mechanic (68 Bravo).

While I wanted to enlist as an elite fighter in our military, I quickly learned in Basic Training that I wouldn't have enjoyed the rigorous lifestyle of an infantryman. Basic Training, I learned, was a real son-of-a-bitch in itself! It was all of the gung-ho shit I was prepared to do, concentrated into 2 months. I had my fill in that time. I'm glad I listened to my dad. In my opinion, he was smarter than I gave him credit for at the time. Only now do I realize the value of his advice. Today, I want to share with everyone something that every service member will most likely remember: their time in the gas chamber. This is an experience I am confident stays with a veteran throughout his or her life.

I doubt any service member escapes the torture or experience of the gas chamber. In Army basic training, every soldier has to endure this form of torture. Usually, it's encountered during the NBC phase of training, which stands for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare. During this time, you're taught how to respond to chemical agents in the field. You learn the value of your gas mask, a device issued that normally resides in a canvas bag on your hip and only adds to the weight of the gear you carry (at least this was the case when I was in the military. As a member of the 7th Infantry Division, we carried everything we had on our back and humped (marched) everywhere we went). Since my time in service, the military has upgraded from the old M17A1s that I used--hand-me-downs from the Vietnam conflict. I don't know what the military uses now, but I can only imagine that the upgrade is a definite improvement.

Today, I want to give veterans a chance to reminisce about their trip through the gas chamber and for civilians to have a chance to witness the experience that service men and women have to endure as only a minor, but memorable, part of their service. If you've never experienced CS gas before, here is another reason to thank a veteran...even those who never saw combat. Thank your lucky stars you escaped this torture.

In the video, the person you hear speaking clearly is a Drill Sergeant, basically asking the impossible from young recruits experiencing their moment in hell:

Thanks for stopping by, and please, thank a veteran this weekend for the freedom you enjoy today!

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