1st Regiment had the chance to step into a gas chamber and breathe in tear gas during their protective gear and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) training on June 12 while at Cadet Summer Training Advanced Camp in Fort Knox, Ky.

“The purpose is for them to have confidence in their protective gear,” said Staff Sgt. Paville Simpson, who ran the training inside the chamber and is from the 172nd CBRN Company. “In the event that someone wants to use chemical weapons against us, they know how to properly use their mask. Like how to properly put it on, check for the seal.”

Once in the chamber and the masks come off, it doesn’t take long to realize the effectiveness of their equipment. The truly interesting part of the training? Breathing tear gas on purpose.

Cadets from 1st Regiment react to the tear gas after taking off their masks in the gas chamber at Fort Knox, Ky. The Cadets went through a gas chamber, with non-lethal tear gas, to exercise their trust in protective gear during Cadet Summer Training on June 11, 2021. | Photo by Anna Pray, Cadet Summer Training Public Affairs Office

Around 30-40 Cadets went into the chamber for every round. The Cadre then prepares a capsule of the gas while the cadets watch. They go through some exercises with the mask, then take it off completely.

Then Cadre instructed the Cadets to sing. 

“I know when we were singing in there, we took one gasp and we felt like our voices were gone and we couldn’t sing,” said Cadet Janelle Jacobs in Bravo Company and from East Carolina University.

“I got a few words into the song we had to sing and then it hit me,” said Elizabeth Ryan in Bravo Company from Ithaca College. “My squad had to sing Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ song.”

The reactions continued outside of the chamber, too.

“Coming out of the gas chamber, I was coughing, my eyes were watering,” said Jacobs. “I’m pretty sure I ran into the tree because I couldn’t see, but it’s all part of the process and I would do it again.”

When asked, a Cadet surprisingly emphasized that she was excited to go through the process.

“I was a little bit excited for it actually,” said Ryan. “It’s something that you never really get to experience anywhere else.”

It was quite the bonding experience, according to the two Cadets.

“Everyone was spitting and coughing, but you could hear people laughing afterwards,” said Ryan.

“It was fun,” said Jacobs. “My platoon has really good morale so we were all trying to hype each other up and not cough and die while in there.”

Though Simpson ran the training in the chamber, he said it gives him flashbacks of his own experience.

“To watch them go through it brings back memories of when I went to Fort Knox for Basic Training back in 2008,” said Simpson.