Basic Training: Inside the Gas Chamber

By SGT Volkin


 The gas chamber is probably the most mentally challenging exercise you will have to overcome at army basic training.  Recruits have to breathe Ortho-chlorbenzylidenedimalonitrile. Wow, that sounds scary. Actually, it is just the active substance of CS gas. You might recognize the name better as the common riot control formula called tear gas. Now, the bad news is yes, you will have to go into an isolated room and breathe this gas in your lungs and it does sting a little bit. The good news is as soon as you walk outside, the exercise is over. The CS gas leaves your system quickly and any pain you are feeling dissipates within seconds. In fact, the most painful aspect of this exercise is the anticipation of the exercise itself.

I am often asked why this exercise is even necessary. Some would say that Drill Sergeants are jerks and like to torture recruits, others would say the gas chamber is necessary because you need to train your body to get used to the CS gas. Neither of those explanations are true. The real reason all recruits must go through the gas chamber is you need confidence in your chemical gear. If you are not confident your chemical gear will work, then you will not be confident in combat if chemical or biological warfare should occur.

The following is a brief explanation on how you will most likely experience the gas chamber. You will walk in the gas filled room with a dozen other recruits with your face mask on. You will notice instantly that your chemical gear works. Then you will have to take off your mask and sing a portion of the Star Spangled Banner (or other similar song) and breathe the gas. The best advice I can give you at this point is to not hold your breath. If a drill instructor sees you holding your breath or lip-syncing the words to the Star Spangled Banner, you will have to do the entire exercise again. Not to mention the other recruits that are in the room with you will be waiting for you to finish. I am sure they want to get out of the gas chamber as much as you do. Plus, you need all the friends you can get at basic training.  After the exercise the gas will dissipate out of your system very quickly and the whole incident will be a memory.

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categoriaUncategorized commento3 Comments dataApril 24th, 2010


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Sergeant Michael Volkin is a U.S. Army veteran and one of America's most successful military authors focusing on basic training. He served in Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom as a Chemical Operations Specialist and received an Army Commendation Medal for his efforts and for the military fitness programs he designed to help his fellow soldiers. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Science from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and also a Real Estate Brokers Degree. Note from the author: "I knew absolutely nothing about the military when I entered basic training. I had no immediate military family history and no prior desire to ever join the military. It was on the tragic morning of September 11, 2001 that I realized what I was taking for granted all these years. Freedom, as wonderful as it is, is an uphill struggle, and comes with an enormous responsibility. It wasn’t so much a decision, but a calling, that I joined the military - the Army Reserves. I departed for basic training without an ounce of military knowledge one month after September 11, 2001. However, I used this lack of knowledge to my advantage. I took notes on everything, with the ambition that no military recruit would have to go through boot camp like I did, with no knowledge of what was in store for me. I listened to hundreds of soldiers share their advice, tips, and tricks on surviving basic training. When I was deployed shortly after basic training to serve in Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom, I had the time to organize the notes, add to them, and assemble the most practical basic training guide ever written. The Ultimate Basic Training Series is straightforward, easy to understand and applies to every branch of the military. Take advantage of the military fitness routine in these books. Many hours of research and trial and error went toward creating the program. I believe there is no other fitness program that can get you in shape for basic training faster." SGT Volkin is currently a real estate broker and marketing consultant.


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October 8th, 2010

How many times do recruits have to go in the chamber during training? Is it just one time?

PVT. Tiffany Carrender
January 28th, 2011

Yes, during BCT you only have to go through the gas chamber one time. Or at least I know that is Fort Lenardwood’s expectations.

September 30th, 2011

When I went through AF basic in Aug-Sept 2008, our gas chamber experience was a little different. We went in wearing full chem gear (boots, pants, coats, glove inserts, gloves, and mask with the coat’s hood up covering our necks and heads). Once we were all in the room with the gas, we did jumping jacks (to prove that not only does the gear work, it works during physical activity, too – you CAN move around and do stuff in your gear and still be protected). Next, we removed our hoods and spent a little time feeling the burn on our necks where our dog tag chains were. Finally, two at a time, we stood before the Sgts, removed our masks, held them to our chests, and gave our reporting statement. Once we had given the statement (and you have to give the whole thing clearly), we were given an thumbs’ up and allowed to WALK to the back of the room and out the door. If you did anything wrong, you got to stay in there and do it again and breath in more gas. It is extremely important to pay attention to instructions when you go for chamber training.

Once outside, we walked with our mask in one hand and both arms out-spread. Outside the chambers there was a bunch of big gravel to catch your spit, drool, snot, etc. Then you’re on grass/dirt and have to walk, arms still out-stretched, three laps around your other gear you grounded earlier when you were in formation (two flights at a time means a pretty good area to walk around). Once you’d completed your three laps, you found your gear, removed your chem gear and stowed it.

I didn’t suffer too much from the gas, having not inhaled much of it, but it did effect my eyes. For most of my first lap around the gear, I literally could not get them open beyond a milimeter for half a second at a time, and of course they were streaming. If you feel sick or blind after the chamber, don’t worry – by your third lap, you’ll be fine and wishing you could do it again. :)

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