MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
A plume of tear gas rises from the center of the dark and claustrophobic room, where three Marines stand beside each wall. After the Marines are instructed to break the seal of their masks, the gas slowly fills the room as the Marines hold their breath.
Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted their annual chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear training here, Oct. 21. The exercise allowed Marines to refresh their skills and their knowledge of Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear in case of a CBRN threat.
“It’s important to receive this training every year,” said Gunnery Sgt. Andrew J. Walters, staff noncommissioned officer, Food Service Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG. “If the Marines are required to use the training they learned here in a combat situation, they need to know how to use their equipment proficiently.”
The Marines were instructed by CBRN specialists on the elements of the new M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask that offers more protection and capabilities than the previous mask, the M40.
Before the hands-on qualification, Marines received instruction on the proper usage of the MOPP gear, including the mask, protective over-garments, contamination testers and decontaminating resin kits.
Upon completion of the classes, the Marines hiked to the gas chamber where they tested the masks and their ability to clear them. Once in the confidence chamber, the Marines performed jumping jacks to raise their heart rates while a CBRN specialist burned pellets, releasing the gas.
According to the Web site “Absolute Astronomy,” the gas used during the qualification is 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, more commonly known as tear or CS gas. The chemical reacts with moisture on the skin and in the eyes, causing a burning sensation and the immediate forceful and uncontrollable shutting of the eyes. It is commonly used by police forces to temporarily incapacitate or subdue aggressors, but for the training it was used in place of deadly gasses that could be deployed on the battlefield.
The agents most used against Marines today are not nuclear or biological, but are known as hazardous agents. The chemicals used in improvised explosive devices may be hazardous materials that need to be decontaminated, said Pfc. Brandon E. Sutton, CBRN defense specialist, Headquarters Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG.
Once the chamber was filled with the vapor, the Marines lifted the masks off their faces in order to breach the seal. After holding their breath for about 30 seconds, the Marines donned and cleared the masks by sealing the outlet valve of the mask and exhaling with enough force to push the gas out of the mask. If the Marines failed, they felt the painful burning of gas in their lungs, eyes, and sinuses.
“The exercise went great,” said Maj. Rugsithi D. Meelarp, G-4, 1st MLG (Forward). “This was my first time with the new masks; training beforehand was definitely useful.”
The rest of the day went smoothly as the remaining Marines finished testing and clearing their masks. The Marines left the chamber, confident in their masks and qualified before their upcoming deployment this spring.