Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Durango Colorado, the right knee-pit of Colorado
The Post Sergeant Major…
This will take a bit to set the stage, please bear with me here…..
I had transferred over to the 5039th USAR school from another unit and taken a position as an NBC instructor.
The school hosted a 80 hour/two week course in NBC defense. If you were taking the course as a week-end warrior, than it was 80 hours (five weekends). If you took the course at an AT, which were always given down at Fort Leonard Wood, then it was two weeks.
It was my second year.
There were eight other NBC Instructors at the school, and they worked in teams of two.
I normally didn’t.
I worked alone unless we had a new person that needed to get their feet wet. So I became the NBC Trainers, Trainer.
The reason this happened is because, before I came to the school, I had been assigned to be the Battalions NBC NCO with the 139th Medical Group. I was holding the position of chief radio operator, but as an E-5, they had double-slotted another operator in it who was commo trained but two grades higher than me. )However, I had time-in-service on him by some ten years.)
During that time, I was also a collector of NBC Defense Gear; and since my college degree was in history, I spent a lot of time studying NBC as a hobby.
Talk about a hobby becoming work…..well…this was it….
I had developed a four hour lecture on NBC equipment and the use of Chemicals in warfare, ranging from
The Greeks to the present.
Two hours was spent on the History of Chemical warfare and two hours on the equipment of Chemical Defense. So, my course was unique in that on the first weekend the first four hours of the course was all about the history of chemical warfare.
It is something that is NEVER taught to active duty troops.
Well… this history course helped build more confidence in their equipment and in themselves to survive a chemical attack. They see what their fathers had to work with, and their grandfathers….once you’ve seen that gear, it DOES instill a greater confidence in the current gear.
And it was a lead-in to the normal TRADOC training they were required to perform.
Now………another thing that I did, that none of the other instructors did, was to run a gas chamber.
I had been taught some years earlier while serving with the 12th SF here in Kansas City (another reserve unit) and had become ARCOM certified to do it. I was the only one at the school with this type of certification.
My training for individual decontamination was harder than TRADOC requirements. I spent more time on suiting up and how to check each other before entering the chamber and how to get out of the chamber and unsuited without getting “Hit” by the residual gas power that was sure to be on the chemical suit. (there are a couple of short anecdotes I can tell you about this sort of thing, but I will wait until later on them)
Once in the chamber, I had you perform simple movements that helped simulate the work you may have to do while suited up. Also, the trainees performed light PT while in the chamber. The exercises were designed to either show the individual that he/she had suited and masked correctly… or…. They did it wrong and that is why they are puking now.
I also worked with at least two inside safety people and two more outside (the other instructors HATED going into the chamber so they always volunteered to help OUTDOORS.)
Once last thing…………if you were in my chamber……….you couldn’t see more than five feet at any given time.
I always ran a HARD chamber, a very hard chamber. Even some of the active duty people that came to our unit for training sometimes, hated my chamber…..
However, If you passed this phase, and you could pass anything the Army could throw at you.
Now that I have set the stage.
The course was being taught at Fort Wood, and was going along smoothly. The Post NBC NCO & NBC Officer worked with me a lot during this time. They were really good people and had better than average training on NBC. However, they admitted, that they didn’t get as much of a chance to train as we seemed to be able to do
This was the second year we, as a USAR school, had been down here so we had developed a good working relationship with them……and the GTA department...
This time, when it came time to use the post gas chamber, we had to wait until the National Guard unit used it before us. I know that they were a Missouri unit, but I didn’t ever find out who they were.
While I was giving our people their safety briefing over in the bleachers, they were going into the chamber.
They must have had their briefing somewhere else, because as soon as they jumped off the truck, they masked up (no suits) and entered the building.
Well…. they were Pansies… they didn’t even charge the chamber, they just ran into the building and ran right out the other door…….throwing their masks to the ground and drooling everywhere.
Some were puking…..
Actually…………. MOST of them were puking
I couldn’t understand this, hadn’t they been trained??
I went over to talk to the SFC in charge, and no, they hadn’t “been trained”, they had read the STP manual and performed the tasks back at their Armory, but no one had ever checked their equipment.
I ask to inspect their gear to help him out and he said OK.
The masks they had were ALL defective. Some had no valves in them at all, which created a straight path to their lungs. But…..it wouldn’t have mattered… every mask I looked at was bad….just so much junk…..crap, or whatever other word you wish to use.
If they had been in combat, in a chemical environment, they would have all died.
I told him that he should fire his unit NBC NCO.
He whole heartedly agreed, relating to me just what evils he was going to visit on the guy, then he and the troops left, still puking……
It was our turn and as the other instructors got the troops suited up and checked out, I and my safety team entered the building (we were already suited up).
HEY!!! THIS IS NEAT!!!! Look at all the powder all over the place!!!
It was obvious that this chamber had been here awhile. This building replaced the building that I had taken my Basic training Gas chamber exercise in so long ago.
For those of you who don’t know. CS Gas (and most of the gases in this chemical group) is really a micro-pulverized power. The powder is placed onto some sort of burner and the result is CS Gas. The heat fumes it into the air. And as the powder cools, it retransforms to its solid state, the powder. When we use a chemical fogger outside, the plume spreads according to the prevailing winds. But as it travels farther away from its generating source, it cools and settles to the ground. Out in the open like that, the powder will soon be washed out and become nonvolatile again.
BUT……inside a building like this, when it cools, it has nothing to “weather” it and make it nonvolatile. So it forms a light coating on everything, like dust.
This chamber …………had its insides coated with it………to about two inches deep!!.. on the window sills, on the handrails, on the desk, tables…..everywhere.
No wonder the NG guys exited so soon…. They didn’t even HAVE to burn anything, this place was a living CS chamber…. You could get hit standing twenty feet away if the doors where left open, even with no wind….
We began our set-up ritual. I & my safety team would perform the same things that we expected the troops to do upon entering the chamber.
OK…. Everything look good, everyone was properly sealed.
The safety guys scooped up the deep powder layers with their hands (gloved, or course) and placed it in the burner.
The burner was a hot-plate with an old frying pan on it. The pan was about an 8 inches and about 1 inch deep.
When they were finished piling the powder on to it, they flipped the wall switch and the burner sprung to life.
One thing to note here, the pan was now filled to overflowing with the powder they scraped from the …well… from everywhere…. They had a ten inch pyramid in it when it fired up….and as the pile started to heat up and melt, it became obvious to us that this chamber exercise was going to be a doozy!!
As the fog got thicker, they piled on more…..then more………then more…………until the pan had a small, black, bubbling pool of sludge, fuming smoke into the air. It looked like a miniature LeBrea Tar Pit!! With columns of dark tan colored clouds flowing upward and then spreading out over the ceiling like a volcanic cloud formation.
In the window of the shack, there was a Halloween skeleton hanging in it., You know the kind, one of those paper things that you hang in your window??…Well…… you couldn’t see that thing from outside now at all!!!! And it was hung about one inch away from the glass!!
One of my safety guys went out to see if they were ready to come in.
The outside instructors lined them up and broke them into groups of eight .
Each set of eight would be lead in by my inside safety team and monitored every step of the way.
They had been told, that if they get so much as a small whiff of the stuff, they were to raise their arms above their heads and the safety team would get them out.
OK.. the first group is in and doing OK… the exercise begins….
“Place your feet shoulder width apart, hands on your hips.”
“Bend at the waist and shake your head left & right as if saying NO”
Ok… no one has an ill fitting mask.
“Now…. We will do four repetitions of the four count jumping-jacks…ready begin”….
OK…. Breathing rate is now heightened and no one has a mask leak.
And we do a couple of more movements, but those two prove to me that they have masked properly, and their suits are holding.
The safety team guides them out and then bring in the next group.
The outside team begins the decontamination ritual….
In about an hour, we have moved everyone through the chamber exercise.
Back at the bleachers, the debriefing went well….. two or three people got a whiff of the gas as they were doing the decontamination part of the exercise outside; but it wasn’t enough to hurt them. It did teach them that it is just as dangerous AFTER the attack, when you are going through the decontamination process, that you can STILL get hit if you don’t take the proper precautions
We did have one instructor get hit. He had touched the shoulders of one of the students and then rubbed his eye with that hand. He was effectively out for a while. At least the other instructors acted quickly and started flushing his eyes with cool water.
After the debriefing, the students were released to go clean up and go to lunch.
Now, it was the other instructors turn.
These guys didn’t want to suit up, so after some further warning from me, our platoon SFC let them do it.
My team & I ran them through the chamber in two groups and then they left.
We had to stay behind and do a shut-down procedure on the building, check the area for different things and close and lock the driveway gate on the way out, and flip the sign that warned others that there was an exercise going on.
My team & I were so heavily coated with the powder, even after we decontaminated and placed everything into plastic sacks, our uniforms still had some residual powder on them. So we went straight back to the barracks to shower and change and we elected to skip lunch..
Which turned out to be a very wise decision…..
You see…. The other instructors, you know, the ones that WOULDN’T suit up??
They went to the mess hall……..and their uniforms immediately cleared the mess hall out……
I was told that people were running everywhere, abandoning their food and bolting for the door….
I looked like a hundred crazed women at a fire sale a Sears!!!
The cooks were yelling at them, the troops were yelling at them, and………..
The post Sergeant Major, who was seated at his table just yards from them…..was yelling at them….
The School Commandant heard about this one!!!!!!
The ANOC & BNOC instructors are in deep kimshi!!!
And the Post Sergeant Major………………..
Esse Quam Vidiri