Written by Spc. Jacqueline Robinson
A wave of coughs and sneezes fill the air as Headquarters and Headquarters Company 2-113th Infantry Battalion Soldiers approach the CS chamber during annual training October 22, 2018 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, NJ.
A safety brief begins and Soldiers display a wide variety of emotion on their faces from looks of nervousness and uncertainty to readiness and enthusiasm. As explained by 2nd Lt. Joshua Wang, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) officer, mask confidence training is set forth to provide Soldiers with the confidence that their masks will give them protection in a chemical warfare environment.
The first use of chemical weapons took place in 1915 during World War l at the Second Battle of Ypres. Since then, several treaties have been signed to move away from the act altogether, although in recent news accusations of chemical weapons being used have surfaced.
CS gas is the most commonly used in a training environment due to the fact that if exposed for a short period of time will not have long term effects. The gas is an irritant agent that does, however, attract to the moisture agents in the body causing a burning sensation on or in the skin, eyes and mouth.
During the next step in confidence training Soldiers don their masks using their palms to check the seal, ensuring that is it working correctly. The first group of Soldiers enters the chamber. Once inside, they are led through a series of breathing exercises to test the masks. “3, 2, 1 break seal!” is shouted by the instructor inside and the Soldiers voluntarily remove their masks! As they try to speak eyes squint tearing and coughs are uncontrolled. Why would anyone volunteer to take the mask off?
After the several groups of Soldiers go through the same process, HHC comes to the very last group for the day. The leading Soldier in this group is their 1st Sgt, 1st Sgt. Morgan McHose. Seeing this, Soldiers are driven with motivation and begin to laugh, cheer and anxiously await the outcome. 1st Sgt McHose goes in and repeats the same process.
When the exercise is over the door opens and he exits the chamber to find several Soldiers who have been waiting to capture photographs of their leading non-commissioned officer. A bond is made that could only be brought forth through suffering.
“Leading by example is the only way to lead, without it you wont be able to lead people across the street,” said 1st Sgt. McHose when describing the importance of the development of his Soldiers, “a great NCO is made by the ability to lead an inspire Soldiers.”