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The horror of knickknacks and sitars

April 8th, 2009 by Brian

It is called NBC – nuclear, biological, chemical – warfare. First line of defense: gas masks. In boot camp, to drive home the lesson that a ill-fitting gas mask is a Bad Idea and that it’s a Good Idea to get that sucker in place Real Quick, this is what they make you do:

Strap on a gas mask carrier with gas mask inside.
Enter a building chock full of billowing clouds of tear gas.
Stand around for a few seconds while the instructor savors the moment.
Order you to don and clear.

If you get it right, the tear gas is on the outside of the mask.

If you get it wrong you have tear gas inside the mask with you and it fills up your lungs when you breathe. Or if you manage to clear but not seat the seal around your face it seeps inside when you breath and then fills up your lungs.

Not Pleasant. But it is a great way to clear your sinus cavities. Snot comes running out in a big hurry after a whiff of tear gas.

But I have learned that the Air Force is a manly outfit of manly men and I will never diss them again for having maid service and living in dorms.[1]

For the day’s climax, we sealed our gasmasks and lined up to enter a room where they’d demonstrate the masks’ efficacy. Inside that room, some fragrant incense was lit, and if you could smell it, it meant your mask was not secure. In a wartime situation, that would mean you were dead. Of course, none of us smelled the incense until it was our turn to take the mask off. Then, smelling the scent, we were assured of how the masks would have saved our lives if that room had been filled with mustard gas instead of incense.

Incense. My God, the horror: like shopping at a fussy store with a lot of breakable and non-interesting knickknacks. With sitars playing in the background. Forever.

[1] A lot of this is, yes, jealousy. One, the Air Force has a lot of cool toys. Two, the chow was superb. The Air Force had such good chow that rather than eat the food provided, many, many of us would drive to Bolling Air Force Base and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their dining facility.

So many of us did this that the Colonel ordered us to eat only at our mess hall when were on duty – essentially five days a week. Seems there was some kind of complicated accounting rule (so that’s why they made us sign in) and our mess hall was going broke because no one was eating there.

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52 Responses to “The horror of knickknacks and sitars”

  1. Andrew Says:

    since no one else is posting :)
    wahey first

    captcha 8,306,236 Redskins uh oh


  2. Stonewolf Says:

    I have this buddy in the Army Reserve. For the gas test they used CS. He was issued a defective mask. Both times. Plus he had the misfortune of being in the same foxhole as the recruit who pissed of the DI, who then threw a CS grenade at them. Suffice to say, my friend is no longer affected by such trivialities as onions or pepper spray.


  3. SPC Randall Says:

    I use to be an infatry man (11b). I changed mos to (74d) nbc im the guy that gives you your mask in the army. When i got into this job nobody told me that they were going to introduse me to a live nearve againt, lets just put it like this im airborne and that dont scare me as much as when i was in that room.
    CS dont even bother me anymore to im the guy that stands in the room without a mask on and laughs at all the other guys faces when they come trough.


    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 6:20 am:

    I thought chemical decon was 54B?


    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 6:44 pm:

    it changed to 74d in 2006

    Captcha: virtually rulers (noun) someone you rules virtually… See also Skippy


    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 6:53 pm:

    OK, y’all do smoke too? You re-trained at Ft. Leonard Wood, didn’t you? Was the live agent training in a building with a red roof. That was how it was at Ft. McClellan.

    (I was in supply with 11th Chemical Co. at Fort McClellan. I read on the internet that they deactivated at Fort Lewis. We did the operational testing on the BIDS system at Dugway Proving Ground.)

    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 7:13 pm:

    nope we did our live agent training in building 30 miles from nowhere.
    It is the only place in the u.s. that is allowed to make chem, and bio weapons.
    My seal broke in the chamber and i ended up in the hospital for a week. It was great times. I was doing the the training for lima 4 so i could go to fort lewis and work in a striker bde

    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 7:24 pm:

    4L– is that Fox scout vehicle crew? (Didn’t they use one in the movie Independence Day when they nuked Houston?)

    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 7:34 pm:


  4. Brian Says:

    laughs at all the other guys faces when they come trough.

    Our NBC NCO was demo-ing an atropine injector. Demo units are functional but do not contain atropine.

    “This is the blah-blah atropine injector. It will save your life. To activate, push this against your thigh like this and depress the trigger.”

    And then he depressed the trigger. Which, given the look of pain and anguish on his face I’m pretty sure he did not mean to do.

    Nothing like a little pain to liven up mandatory training.


    Minty reply on April 9th, 2009 8:58 am:

    Ooh, are they those air-pressured injectors? I heard those things can slice you up if you twitch at the wrong moment.


    Brian reply on April 9th, 2009 9:16 am:


    Other demos the NBC guys would punch through many-many layers of cardboard – very impressive.


    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 7:15 pm:

    the traing aid for a atropine injector is just alittle plastic tip on something that looks like one
    i know i have 50 boxes of them in my nbc room.

    Eben reply on April 10th, 2009 3:03 am:

    I work at an airport. On of the training lessons we get is never push or depress the ends of anything that looks like a fat pen. The reason given was a new hire who pick up a atropine injector that had lost the cap and proceeded to depress the springloaded end with his thumb. They tell us that the needle came out of the other side of his thumb through the nail.


  5. Speed Says:

    Yeah, in basic we had to go into the room with masks on, then take them off, do some jumping jacks, and then, one at a time, recite name, rank, and SSN before all could exit. The tears ran, the nose ran, but it was ok.

    Now when I do it with the reserve, we all get to laugh at the young LT who pukes his guts up & the tough talking pogue who blindly runs into a tree upon exiting the chamber.

    When I was in the guard, we didn’t have enough masks for all of us. Our LT told us he was popping gas when we did an ambush. He told my section, the guys without masks, that we’d have to tough it out. I told my guys to follow my lead. The ambush went off as planned, M-16s & M-60s blazing away with blanks and then the LT popped the gas. Me and mine ran away over the next ridge. LT had me on point the rest of the week, but I like point almost as much as trail, so, no big.


  6. M578Jockey Says:

    FT Knox used to have it’s gas chamber exit right in front of a very large tree. It was fun to watch all of the trainees come running out of the gas chamber with 3 feet of snot hanging out of their nosesand run straight into the tree. I have heard that in these days of a kinder and gentler Army that they have changed the exit to the entrance…..WIMPS!!!

    Captcha – wife curves…yes she has…in all the right places


    Compu-scout reply on April 9th, 2009 7:33 am:

    Oh yea I remember that tree. When I went through 19D school there back in the 80’s it was there. I remembered where that Tree was and when I got out of the Chamber I walked and avoided it. Others in my company well they ate bark.


    johnny reply on April 9th, 2009 8:50 am:

    that tree was still there in 02 when i was in 19k school out of my company only guy to volunteer to go again


    M578Jockey reply on April 9th, 2009 9:33 am:

    If you remember the tree you probably also remember Agony, Misery, and Heartbreak…..

    johnny reply on April 9th, 2009 9:39 am:

    yeah those where some fun the 15k we did went down misery and up heartbreak and the 20k well that just made my feet sore

    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 6:48 pm:

    to bad they shut down heartbreak in 05…
    To many people had heart-attacks on it

    Cris Picado reply on April 10th, 2009 6:26 am:

    I remember that tree both as a trainee and later on as a Cav instructor. We use to have a betting pool on how many would hit the tree. One year we had a trainee (last name Leach) that was immune to the stuff. He would cough a little but otherwise was immune. The DS’s would have him hang out in the chamber waving at the other trainees out the window. Do some pushups and ask the trainees why they are crying and snotting all over the place. It was as if there was NOTHING in the air.


    Compu-scout reply on April 10th, 2009 6:03 am:

    Oh yea, I remember those three hills. Now I grew up across the Ohio river in Indiana and hiked up and down their brothers, but it still didn’t prepare me for them. ‘Course the Drills had fun with me while I was there. You could see the roof of my parents house from the part of Ft Knox that backed up to the Ohio. They just loved to hae us go through that area and have me wave to the house knowing full well I couldn’t go home until family day and graduation.


    Donald Carter reply on April 14th, 2009 9:36 am:

    yup the tree its still there i went to basic in 03 5 privates ate bark and a bdu pile as far as the eye can see i couldnt hold the camera strate through the whole thing


  7. Jim A Says:

    A friend was a chemical warfare training NCO in the USMC. One time, a bunch of trainees were being marched past the teargas chamber at the end of the training day. He and his buddy opened the doors at both ends of the chamber at the same time. The breeze blew the CS out of the chamber and into the chamber. They were quite disappointed that instead of putting their masks on, the trainees just scattered and ran away in panic. So much for the “train so repetitively that an action becomes automatic,” theory.


    Jim A reply on April 9th, 2009 7:20 am:

    Sorry that should say “out of the chamber and into the trainees.”

    captcha: Metropolitan Helmuth –That’s the SMSA that Sunnydale is part of.


    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 7:42 pm:

    Yeah, I think we’ve used up a month’s worth of typos on this post; at least I have.

    (“Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream” [The reason I can’t type.]– does that remind you of Shakespeare or Hawkeye, et. al. reaching for another cup of joe at the end of a weird episode of MASH.

    Bonus points if you can recite the symptoms of mild nerve agent poisoning (except SPC Randal since he had it and it’s his MOS) and severe nerve agent poisoning. I’ll help you on the latter: …convulsions, unconsciousness, death!)


  8. Billy Says:

    Now, I used to be in the AF, and while I admit that it wasn’t as bad as the Army, I can dispell this myth along with the one that we do PT with a bike, at least, I know we don’t do that in the enlisted part, the officer I do not know about…

    I had the lovely luck of having a bloody nose after I put on my mask (my nickname in basic was Bloody Nose, first night, I soaked my plastic pillow and got it stained.) I think my nose is the only reason I didn’t have to stay in the chamber too long, they had us give our “war cry” and I, brilliantly enough, took a deep breath and my war cry became “HACK, HACK, COUGH!”. It was funny, walking out, marching around, carrying my mask and such and to hear a few seconds later “Hey, you! Bloody Nose!”


    Brian reply on April 9th, 2009 11:24 am:

    “I can dispell this myth”

    What myth? About the chow? That was no myth: the food at Bolling was at least as good as Luby’s. Maybe better.

    “along with the one that we do PT with a bike”

    I was told by a T/SGT instructor at computer school in Quantico that he was able to PT on a bicycle. Perhaps he was just funnin’ with us jarheads ..


    Weatherbabe reply on April 9th, 2009 5:56 pm:

    They asked us our favorite sports/football team…trying to come up with one quick was not easy since I don’t like football to much. It was fun to go through the gas chamber since the girls handled it better then our brother flight.


  9. Billy Says:

    Well, I never had anything to do with incense, and I know I never did PT on a bike, the only bike I ever saw was in tech school, and that was so you could get to walmart that was a couple of miles away. Then again, when I went in, camel backs were still experimental. As for the chow, I ate better in the AF then I do in civilian life, so thats no myth.


  10. E. Kervina Says:

    When I was in the AF, we got CS gas during mask training. And there was no avoiding it by putting the mask on right. We put on the mask, cleared and sealed, then they popped the CS. Then we had to take off our masks so we could find out first hand what our masks would save us from.

    There was a brief period where we did our PT tests on exercise bikes, but I think that was a sort of test program, because after a couple years we had to run again.

    But the chow was awesome.


    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 7:06 pm:

    In the ’90s there was an alternate PT test for people on physical profile. You could bike 6-1/2 miles (in a certain time) or swim 875 yards (in a certain time) or walk two miles. My section sergeant was on profile because a rock crushed her ankle in Korea (well cracked it in five places). One crack wouldn’t heal. She got out on a medical and put her PhD to work.

    Nowadays you read about the cyborg soldiers who get leg blown off and won’t get out; which led to this. Don’t what they do for PT tests.


    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 7:36 pm:

    http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/02/army_jumpmaster_021609w/ check that site out


    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 7:53 pm:

    Snake eaters! No seriously, that’s one brave and determined man. I bet Barry Sandler would have been impressed.

    CCO reply on April 10th, 2009 7:15 am:

    Oops! Sadler.


  11. Raven Prometheus Says:

    It’s not called NBC anymore, It’s CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear), and by damned if you submit a report using the old acronym, you’re going to be redoing it, and likely getting counseled, too.

    At Fort Leonard Wood, we didn’t have a tree, we had a waist high hand rail. Privates would disobey orders (when I open this door you will WALK out and take an immediate RIGHT TURN….), and hit that thing, and define the term “ass over tea-kettle.”

    Also, Phase 2 (the long phase) of EOD school is in Eglin AFB, FL. I would have to agree with the point on AF chow….


    kat reply on April 9th, 2009 6:38 pm:

    I remember that fence, I also have a vivid memory of someone NOT paying attention and flipping over it and landing on their face. If I had been able to breathe I would have been on the ground laughing. I think I handled it pretty well though, better than some of the boys, who puked…


    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 6:53 pm:

    Raven go to another part of the army its still NBC
    and yes that rail was funny
    privets do the dumbest things


    Jon reply on April 10th, 2009 9:51 am:

    Uhhh…. what is the difference between “Radiological” and “Nuclear”?

    When I was in the USN as a nuke, we just had CBR.


    Raven Prometheus reply on April 10th, 2009 3:32 pm:

    Radiological is basically devices that just have a radiation hazard, instead of an actual… how to phrase this… nuclear effect, the cascade that happens when all the right pieces fall into the right places…. Hope that helps.


  12. Dea Says:

    When I was in CAP we had the opportunity to eat AF chow and it was way better than the public school food I was used to., so I would have to agree with that.


  13. TeratoMarty Says:

    When I was a kid, my uncle Gene invited my brother and me out to his shed to test whether his old gas masks still worked. He got us kitted out… then ripped an immense, rotten uncle-fart. And the seals had dried out and were useless.


    CCO reply on April 9th, 2009 7:15 pm:

    In the civilian world they would test self contained breathing masks for use in radioactive areas by waving or rubbing banana oil on the testee and asking if they could smell the bananas. Then they went to a booth test. Not sure what that entailed since I didn’t do get fitted for a mask.


    SPC Randall reply on April 9th, 2009 7:20 pm:

    we use bannana oil in the army to
    the reason for that is most chem agents have a friuty, citrus, or flowery smell to them. We used a booth in the live agent chamber to. it was to test and make sure that a jlist suits were sealed.


    TeratoMarty reply on April 9th, 2009 8:16 pm:

    What can I say? Gene didn’t have any banana oil. Just a lot of chili.


  14. Jon Says:

    When I went through bootcamp in the USN (Orlando) we did the whole CS thing, with results as you would expect.

    The difference for us was that my company was filled with about 25% future nuclear engineers, and quite frankly we all “nuked” the aftermath. Whenever one of our drill instructors (a chief and Senior chief) would threaten us with things if we didn’t get something right, we would start chanting “Gas Chamber Gas Chamber We want the Gas Chamber!” To which they would just shake their heads and walk away. They never called us on it either, fearing that we weren’t bluffing. We really weren’t. We would have gone back with smiles on our faces just to see the looks of disbelief on their faces that we actually wanted to go back.


  15. Jim A Says:

    Since we have alot of CRBN nee NBC nee ABC expertise here, I have a question: Just how bad would it be to give atropine to somebody who had been exposed to BZ (QNB)? Since they’re both acetylcholine inhibitors I’m guessing that it would be somwhere between “a bad thing,” and “double-plus-ungood.”


    CCO reply on April 10th, 2009 12:19 pm:

    I don’t think there’s actually that much CRBN (NBC) expertise experience here. Everyone just went through the gas chamber in basic in all the services. I think SPC Randall is the only chemical puke here.

    What is BZ (QNB) anyway?

    When I was in the Army, we were told that you always used two drugs together. Atropine and 2-DAM-chloride. One to keep the nerve agent from killing the casualty and the other to keep the first injection from killing you.


    CCO reply on April 10th, 2009 12:22 pm:

    I think that’s 2-PAM-chloride.


  16. Christopher Says:

    I was in the Air Force and worked with the Army as a Foward Air Controller and we did the Air Force training….we used CS. I found it funny because they did the bit where you got gassed no matter what because at one point you had to take off your mask, take a deep breath, then re-don and clear. Before you could leave you had to answer a questions….usually it was something like “What is your favorite color?” or “What day of the week it was.” When they got to me they asked me what my date of rank was……as if I’d remember that easily. I just blurted out a date and left.


  17. Former Spc. 19K Says:

    I am the jealous.


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