Fear is a powerful emotion men and women face during Basic Combat Training.
It manifests in many ways, including a fear of heights at the Warrior Tower and a fear of the unknown in the gas chamber.
Soldiers in Company E, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, faced their fear of the gas chamber during week two of training.
Staff Sgt. Michael Reclusado, drill sergeant for Co. E, said the Soldiers in the company have been “freaked out” about the gas chamber since day one, but it’s important to get events like the gas chamber out early because of what it can do for the Soldiers moving forward.
“They are already coming to the chamber scared,” he said. “When they come out, they feel like they have more confidence, because they completed something they were scared of.”
The fear of the gas chamber is often perpetuated by stories read online or told by Family members who have served in the military. The reactions to the gas are sometimes exaggerated for effect, but in all, most Soldiers find out it’s not as bad as they feared.
“I was very nervous at first,” said Pvt. Shaquarrius Hunter, “but it wasn’t that bad.”
The gas used in the chamber is nothing more than tear gas, said Sgt. 1st Class. Waddell, noncommissioned officer in charge of the gas chamber. It causes a physical reaction, including slight irritation in the nose, mouth, eyes and on the skin. Nothing major, just enough they notice something is there, he added.
Pvt. Cassidy Hodge, Co. E, 1-48th Inf. Bn., said she was looking forward to the gas chamber because her brother, who is also in Basic Combat Training, offered his advice to make it through. Now that she experienced it, Hodge said she was glad it was over.
Another benefit to the training, according to 1st Sgt. Jeffrey Reed, company first sergeant, is it instills confidence in the gear they are issued by the Army. These Soldiers need to know not only how their equipment works, but trust that it will work, he added.
Both Hunter and Hodge acknowledged the need to know how to react in case they ever find themselves in a chemical situation and need to put on a protective mask to survive.
“If you are ever in a situation where there is a lot of gas around you, what are you going to do if you have never experienced something like this before,” Hodge said.
Reed said it is important to get confidence instilled early through events like this so Soldiers can move on to the more difficult tasks of BCT.
“It’s very effective at instilling the confidence and getting the jitters out, so they are a little more focused once they get to the harder tasks of rifle marksmanship and passing the Army Physical Fitness Test,” he said.
Waddell concluded the experience of the gas chamber is something all Soldiers share.
“It can be considered a ‘rite of passage,'” he said.