By Whitney Allen
Feature Photo by Melissa Scott
A long line of 10th Regiment LDAC cadets waited their turn at the gas chamber. A mixture of emotions was in the air. Several cadets were nervous and unsure what to expect, while others had experienced the gas before. Despite their nerves and the lingering gas in the air, cadets jumped around and cheered for their squad before entering.
On the other side of the chamber, where the exit is located the scene was much different. Squads filed out of the chamber one by one, their reaction to the gas was evident. Tears, mucus, and an occasional scream escaped from the cadets.
The anticipation of the after-effects of the gas was what made University of Weber State Cadet Stephanie Mathias nervous. “I was most nervous about the feeling after and not knowing how your body is going to react to it because everyone reacts differently,” Mathias said.
There were certainly varied reactions to the gas. While several cadets coughed and gasped one cadet exclaimed, “Go Bulldogs, yeah!” as soon as he stepped out of the chamber.
The Bulldogs fan was Cadet Ben Hemingway, an ROTC student at Mississippi State in Starkville. Hemingway was an enlisted soldier prior to joining ROTC. This was the third time he had been in a gas chamber.
Unlike cadets in LTC, the LDAC cadets must unmask inside of the chamber. Upon unmasking, the cadets must answer multiple questions before they can exit. Cadets are asked basic questions about where they’re from or how many fingers the officer in the chamber is holding up.
Although inhaling the tear gas isn’t enjoyable, Cadet Hemingway said this was his best experience yet in a gas chamber.
“I thought it was more encouraging. Here they’re more focused on trusting your gear than just getting smoked,” Hemingway said, referencing his experience in Basic Training. “Your mind was in a more positive place so it’s easier to answer the questions. These were the best instructors I’ve had.”
After the gas chamber, the cadets broke into their squads and completed a simulated mission where they had to put their new gas mask and chemical knowledge to use.
Cadet Ryan Oeler from the University of Delaware in Newark was assigned the role of squad leader for the mission. Although this was Oeler’s first experience using a gas mask he wasn’t nervous when it came time to lead his squad through the mission.
“My university has prepared me to lead (squads in training) lanes,” Oeler said. “I was excited to use the new technology.”
Following this training, cadets will learn First Aid, all in preparation for Platoon Ops training, which will last several days.