The Gas Chamber

Continuing my tribute to our military this week…

This is for those who have been interested in what they actually have to do in Basic Combat Training (BCT).

If you don’t already know this and many people don’t – the new Soldiers go through 18 specific requirements in order to graduate. I won’t list all 18 but in addition to the grueling physical fitness tests, here are just some things they must successfully complete:

  • Rifle Marksmanship
  • M16A2 Qualification
  • Live Fire Exercise
  • Hand Grenade Qualification
  • Night Infiltration Course
  • Long Distance Foot Marches in full battle gear

The exercise that seemed to create the most stress for our darling twins (and many others!), even before they left is formally referred to as the “NBC Confidence Chamber.” I wish NBC stood for watching the whole thing on NBC television but it actually stands for nuclear, biological, and chemical.

This website has a good description:

“The gas chamber is a room that has a controlled concentration of CS (orto-chlorobenzylidene-malononitrile) gas, more commonly known as tear gas. Tear gas is the active ingredient in Mace™ and used for self defense and for riot control by the police. Tear gas is an irritant; specifically, it irritates mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, causing tearing, sneezing, coughing, etc.”

When we got their letters this past summer and I shared my relief that they both got through “The Gas Chamber” so many people had questions that I asked Rachel if I could just reprint her letter home right here.

Bonus – you all get a picture of their platoon preparing to enter and at the end, a picture of some of them exiting and one of Rachel too.


Mom & Dad,

I almost forgot to tell you about the most recent accomplishment! We conquered the gas chamber. It sucked sooo bad. I think it sucked worse for me though. I was in the first group with Lizzie, Kirk and Campfield. The lady came and checked all of our masks to make sure there was a tight seal. Me and Campfield got approved, but Lizzie and Kirk needed more adjustment so they had to be in a different group.

Two minutes later Campfield & I were being herded into the chamber. It was a big, dark cement room. There were 4 drill sergeants walking around to help. The minute I entered my eyes started burning and watering and my throat was burning and so was my skin. It was also harder to breathe. I also began to snot, which was not very pleasant. I quickly came to the conclusion that my mask was not properly sealed.

At first, I remained calm. Deep breaths, well sort of, actually I was trying to breathe as little as possible. I raised my hands and stomped my feed. (One reason I knew my mask wasn’t sealed was because Campfield was just standing there breathing fine while I was panicking.)

When the drill sergeant came over I told him my mask wasn’t sealed. He cleared it once, and I told him it still wasn’t good. He waved his hand and said I should be fine…oh, ok, I will just sit and suffer until it’s my turn to say my name & info.

I stood there for like 2 of the longest minutes of my life with like a 2 foot string of snot hanging out of my nose. (I feel bad for the next person who would have to use my gas mask.) I could barely open my eyes after that. When it was my turn to say my name, rank and Social. I lifted my mask and got my name and rank out and coughed my Social. I had already been exposed to the gas, so I could barely talk while everyone else could.

I then put my mask down and cleared it (even though that did nothing) and waited for everyone else to finish. After everyone was done, we lined up at the door and took off our masks to say the Soldier’s Creed. By that point I was about to run out, but after about 30 seconds they finally let us out.


I didn’t throw up though I wanted to, I just gagged, snotted and tried to open my eyes.

Overall, it was a great experience. I’m glad to have that under my belt. I will try to write again soon. Maybe I will get to call.


She’s a wry, funny kid in case you can’t tell.



And along with her darling twin, they are both braver than I will ever be.

Next time your teen complains about being bored or how horrible it is to live at home with all your silly rules…suggest military service.


Full Disclosure: Regarding yesterday’s post, for anyone who does not get our very dry, deadpan humor…Rachel aka Roger Leroy did not and does not have gonorrhea nor did she ever have a testicle (removed or otherwise).

One year ago..

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