Ahh, today was the day we visited a hallowed place to many soldiers…the gas chamber. The instructors will tell you that the purpose of the course is to give you confidence in your mask. What they don’t tell you is the slightly sadistic pleasure they get out of seeing a bunch of (often) newly minted officers running out of the chamber, stomping their feet like babies, and flapping their arms like a bunch of preschoolers on the playground pretending to be pterodactyls. You might be asking how I know they laugh. Well, after I went through the chamber (I was in the first group) and had recovered my senses I went back to the exit with my trusty camera to capture some pictures of said officers stumbling out of the chamber is various states of disorientation, agony, and snottieness.
You might be asking, “Gas chamber? How bad can that be?” Some people will try and tell you that it isn’t bad, but the cold hard fact is that for the time you have your mask off in the chamber it is pretty much Hades. When you first go in, your exposed skin (i.e. hands and neck) begin to burn like a really bad sunburn. The NCO’s inside come around and make break the seal on your mask. You have to lift it off your face and say something. They made us say our name, rank, SS number. The NCO’s will then permit you to put your mask back on. After clearing and sealing the mask, that burning sensation you have been feeling on hands and neck is not on your face. It’s still not too bad because if you do it right, you don’t actually breathe any of it at this point.
Finally, the group moves around to the door and in groups of five they make take your mask completely off, say your name, rank, SS #, and class motto. Anyone who does not immediately remove the mask, leaves his buddies hanging because the group can’t leave until everyone has their masks off. After everyone has said what they need to, the NCO’s go around and make sure every gets a good breath of the CS gas and opens their eyes. By this time you are pretty much blind from your eyes watering and it feels like you can’t breathe. Finally, someone opens the door and you attempt to move towards the light without trampling the guy in front of you. When you get outside you proceed to walk around, flapping like a chicken in order let the air blow the CS off you and your clothes. Five minutes later, breathing has returned to normal, eyes stop waters, and for the most part the skin stops burning.
It is not a fun ordeal, but thankfully it does not last long and it is not something that has to be done very often. Now, for your viewing pleasure, some pictures from the gas chamber.