About three weeks into boot camp, during Weapons and Field training, recruits will be trained on how to use a gas mask. As part of this training, recruits will be led to a gas chamber where they will have to take off their masks. It’s not a particularly pleasant thing to experience, but no permanent damage will occur.
It is preceded by classroom training, where recruits are instructed on how to use a gas mask and why it is important.
Q. What kind of gas is used in the Marine boot camp gas chamber?
A. The gas is called chlorobenzylidene malonitrile, CS gas for short. The gas is non-lethal, used by all military branches and police departments. It’s the gas that is commonly used to disperse riots, unruly gatherings, and so on.
Q. How long are recruits in the gas chamber without their masks on?
While it may seem a lot longer, the truth is that recruits are only in the gas chamber for a matter of minutes, usually 3-5.
Q. What happens inside of the gas chamber?
Recruits enter the gas chamber with their gas masks on. The door to the gas chamber will then be closed. It is a somewhat disconcerting feeling, but it is done for good reason and recruits all go in together at the same time. Recruits are then instructed to break the seal on their gas masks. Recruits will inevitably feel and inhale some of the gas and recruits eyes will start to water, some coughing usually happens. They will then be told to re-seal their masks again.
Then, recruits will be instructed to remove their masks more by putting them on top of their heads. This time recruits will start to feel the gas more as it reaches their lungs. Their eyes get very watery, coughing gets more intense and the gas can be felt on the skin…a mild burning sensation similar to a sunburn. Some recruits tend to start to panic at this stage as they feel that they are losing control. That is actually one of the points of this exercise, to help train recruits to regain control and rely on their training.
The recruits are directed to put their masks back on, regaining control again. Then, for a third time, recruits are instructed to remove their masks, this time entirely. They are told to hold their masks out in front of them. They are then told to leave the gas chamber with their arms spread out. Recruits typically come out with watery eyes, coughing…some recruits even throw up.
Q. What’s the purpose of the gas chamber in boot camp?
The goal is to get recruits to understand and have confidence in their gas masks. It’s to train them that the mask will protect them so that they will not have doubts about it when it’s actually being used in battle or on a mission. It teaches them that if they do inhale tear gas, they will not die from it. It teaches them to regain control if they start to panic.