‘Sabers’ in the chamber: Troopers ‘MOPP up’ for chemical training
Spc. Brandon A. Bednarek,
4th BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. – Although the use of chemical warfare is uncommon this day and age, the military still spends time preparing its troops for the necessary tasks required for such an attack.
For more than 130 troopers assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, those necessary tasks became very purposeful April 12 and 13 when the unit conducted its biannual gas chamber training at McGregor Range
During the two days in New Mexico, “Saber” Soldiers maintained their skills on mission-oriented protective postures, or MOPP, and protective mask confidence drills while navigating a confined metal building, fuming with CS gas.
Before filing into the chamber one-by-one, Soldiers quickly dressed themselves in the unique suits used to protect their skin and lungs from hazardous environments.
With protective boots, pants, overcoats, gloves, hoods and their masks, troopers ventured into the chamber for about 15 minutes. Once inside, the Sabers encountered low levels of physical stress while attempting to perform various tasks without masks.
“Normal [CS gas] chambers are set up for Soldiers to just use their mask, but it’s not practical,” said 1st Lt. Albert La Fleur, the squadron’s chemical officer. “It’s not what they’d do in war and it’s not something we’re going to do here.”
“We tested the [chemical agent detectors] and then we broke our mask seals and did a few exercises,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ellis, a cavalry scout assigned to C Troop, who admitted that his second time in the chamber was much easier than his first.
“It allows you to have a nonlethal, real-world situation where you can use an agent you can feel the effects of,” said Ellis. “There’s a burning and tingling sensation. You remember how it was from basic training and you think it’s going to be a lot worse than it really is.”
While the effect of CS gas may be more subtle than their previous encounters, the only thing that will help Soldiers during a chemical attack is equipment confidence and effective preparation, said La Fleur.
“It lets Soldiers know their equipment works,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Litherland, also a scout with C Troop. “You always have to be ready.”
“In any sort of chemical attack, the only thing you can really do is be prepared,” La Fleur said. “We’ve been blessed that we haven’t necessarily had an attack, but it hasn’t stopped people from trying or wanting to use them against us.”
Despite the fact that the chamber is conducted biannually, La Fleur said the squadron will continue to incorporate mask confidence drills and MOPP readiness until the entire squadron has successfully completed the training.
“Our squadron commander certainly takes this seriously,” said La Fleur. “This will not be a one-time thing.”
“It doesn’t take much of a chemical weapon to kill or hurt somebody,” he said. “Had this been a real large-scale chemical attack, this is exactly how they would respond to it. That’s what we want them to get used to.”
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