CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit were engulfed in clouds of CS Gas, a non-lethal riot control substance, during a different rendition of their annual chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense training Feb. 3, in the dense forest behind the Marine Corps Base Gas Chamber.
The Marines linked up with their instructors first thing in the morning to get a variety of classes along a wooded path that would eventually lead them to a small obstacle course. The instructors taught classes on CBRN Defense, ranging from decontamination procedures to responding to fallout, all while leading the unknowing group of Marines further down the trail where the inevitable ‘gas attack’ would occur.
At one point, the Marines came across a simulated improvised explosive device meant to distract them from the real threat that lay ahead. After Marines radioed reports on the simulated threat, they suddenly found themselves engulfed in a cloud of CS Gas from grenades and canisters set-off by instructors nearby.
The Marines who donned and cleared their masks in nine seconds or less were spared the gasses painful sting, and didn’t experience its eye-watering effect.
The exercise was a break from what many of the Marines were used to when conducting CBRN training.
“It’s a more realistic type of event that will allow them to understand it’s upon them to take the precautions, and additional steps necessary to protect themselves, vice someone telling them what to do,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian R. Barksdale, the CBRN officer with the 24th MEU. “It develops a sense of confidence that they will be able to react when the group, or the individual see something that is outside of the ordinary.”
The typical training involves groups of Marines moving into a gas filled concrete building to perform various drills, such as jumping jacks and donning and clearing, to develop confidence in their mask’s ability to protect them from harm.
The day of training also gave the Marines the opportunity to become accustom to their newly issued M50 Joint Service General Purpose Gas Masks, which has been phasing out the 1990s-era M40 Field Protective Mask across the Marine Corps since September 2009.
“They showed us how you don’t have to worry about the straps anymore, you can take it out of your pouch, and just force it to your face and it creates a seal,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob C. Sheffield, a data network specialist with the MEU, whose face remained unscathed by the gas throughout the training. “I cleared it, and I was good.”
The new mask boosts a number of capabilities over the old one, including: a wider field of view, dual canisters designed to be changed in a CBRN environment, a movable drinking system, better speech capabilities, and an improved material able to provide better overall CBRN Defense.
“It’s a lot more efficient and a lot easier to put on,” said Lance Cpl. Xavier Olivo, a Marine air ground task force planner with the MEU.