At Fort Knox, Ky., future U.S Army officers are required to go through a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) exercise during their time at Cadet Summer Training (CST).
“CBRN training consists of eight tasks,” said Lt. Col. Janice Vogan, the officer in charge of warrior skills.
A few of the skills learned from performing the required tasks include maintaining their protective mask, protecting themselves from CBRN related injuries, and how to react to various CBRN attacks.
“The ninth (task) is they’re going to go into the gas chamber, the NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) chamber,” said Vogan.
Once in the chamber, the Cadets would be required to remove their masks and breath in CS gas, following which they would sing the ABCs and exit the chamber.
This jaunt into the lessons of chemical warfare can be the cause for excitement and anxiety for the Cadets participating in the training exercise. The ninth task in particular, the NBC chamber, can stir emotions.
“I was excited to do it and I wanted to get it done,” said Cadet Michael Cotto, from the University of New Haven, Connecticut, “I’ve always thought about it being pretty cool.”
The gas within the chamber causes irritation on the skin and when inhaled.
“I didn’t think it was going to hurt,” said Cotto, “I just thought it was going to be like a little weird feeling at the beginning, and it was definitely weird. My throat [felt like] closing up and all of my face and neck was itchy and just burning a little bit.”
Once exposed to clean air, the gas clears from the body almost as quickly as it enters it.
“Maybe it was a little bit more bad than I thought it would be,” said Cotto, “Then it just stopped right away as we left the room.”
Despite the effects dissipating quickly, the act of facing something as unpleasant as CS gas caused several Cadets some level of trepidation.
“I was set on [going through the training] and then once I got to the location of the training, I got nervous,” said Cadet Youna Steves from Virginia Tech.
Steves found herself with a similar mindset to Cotto after facing the chamber.
“It was actually not that bad at all,” said Steves, “The pain didn’t hit me until the middle of the ABCs and then once I got tired, it was pretty easy.”
Going through CBRN is necessary to complete CST. While the test may inspire a range of emotions from the Cadets facing it, they show their virtues through their willingness to learn and experience all that CST has to offer.