Leadership burns in gas chamber on LDAC 3 and 4
by DeJanay Booth
The small building had white brick walls, decorated with a drawing of a person wearing a gas mask. The sun poured in through the windows, giving the only form of light.
“This is going to be on the most memorable thing about this training,” a Sgt. 1st Class said.
In a single-file line, a group of Cadets walked in and stood against the wall in suspense. Wearing a suit, gloves and mask, they stretched by bending over to touch their toes and then raising the arms in the air, repeating the steps. They danced around as they waited for their turn. A few did the ‘YMCA’ and ‘Jump On It’ routines to loosen up.
Suddenly, a few sergeants broke capsules over a burner, releasing the gas and forming a semi-thick fog in the building, taking shape of the chamber. One at a time, a Cadet walked up to a sergeant.
“Alright, take off your mask,” the sergeant calmly said. The Cadet took off his or her mask and inhaled a small amount of gas before answering the first question.
“What’s your name?” the sergeant asked.
The tear gas evidently snaked in their noses, seeping into their throats and invading their chest. Barely able to breathe, let alone function, questions were continued to be asked.
“What school do you go to? Where are you from? What’s your major?” The sergeant asked one question at a time.
The first instinct was to answer the question and move along to the next. But answering them was harder to do as the gas lingered like a shield. Breathing become choppy and increasingly difficult as the Cadets coughed out their answers. Tears welded in their eyes and ran down their cheeks like a water leak.
Sweat on their foreheads stung from the gas and their throats felt as if they were closing up, leaving their chests to suffer just as bad. Their necks felt a tingle as the gas laced across the exposed area.
As they stepped out of the building, fresh air allowed their breathing to return to normal. Flapping their arms like a bird to keep from touching their face, they walked down a small trail and walked in a big circle with other cadets like a merry-go-round.
Lt. Col. Decker Hains, of Boca Raton, Fla., and the CBRN committee chief, said the training focuses on cadets’ leadership in a chemical environment.
“These are all going to be future officers in the United States Army,” Hains said. “They’re going to be leaders so they need to not only have the skills but appreciate the challenges associated with leading soldiers in this type of environment, wearing this equipment.”
Hains said the equipment limits the Cadets’ sight, feel and force them to, “gain confidence in their equipment and confidence in themselves.”
Cadet Lena Atkinson, a junior from the University of Missouri-Columbia, said she thought of a way to not make the experience as
“I tried not to take deep breathes,” Atkinson said. “I know people sometimes will freak out and start breathing it in and it starts setting your lungs on fire. It was reasonable.”
Cadet Eric Ramage, a junior from St. Louis University, said: “You just go in, take it and tough it out.”