MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII-KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii --
Gas, gas, gas, are three repetitive words Marines don’t want hear, but were the muffled shouts coming through the voice emitters of Marines at the gas chamber here, April 8.
While conducting annual training, the Marines of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, got a small taste of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare and also a dose of 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, better known as CS gas.
“It’s a refresher course for the Marines and a necessary thing to know,” said Sgt. Robert Manion, NBC chief, S-3, MARFORPAC. “It helps them keep (the knowledge) in their minds and not become complacent.”
Chemical warfare has been used throughout history and some countries still use it today, but the Corps has developed sustained training to better prepare Marines for NBC events in combat.
“You can name a country and they have (chemical and biological weapons),” Manion said.
Manion said the last major outburst of chemical warfare was in WWII, but from time to time the weapons surface.
“There’s been a few chlorine attacks used with improvised explosive devices in Iraq,” Manion said.
Along with chem/bio, he said there are seven countries with nuclear weapons, but even if it’s the U.S. firing them, there will be fallout and U.S. service members need to be informed on how to deal with it.
“In a nutshell, it’s generically called the gas chamber, but it should really be called a confidence chamber,” Manion said.
For the Marines going to the gas chamber, the only barriers keeping them from sucking gas in the chamber was the initial brief, their willingness to trust their mask and the mask itself.
Sgt. Nathanial Brooks, supply clerk, S-4, MARFORPAC, said he loves coming to the gas chamber and it’s motivating training to go through.
More than 30 leathernecks took their places in the stands outside the chamber awaiting the sensational burn on the back of their necks.
Sgt. William Patnode, training noncommissioned officer, S-3, Headquarters Battalion, MCBH, took charge of the group, revealing the eerie outcome and affects of chemical and nerve agents, describing symptoms and visual indicators.
Alertly watching and listening, the seated Marines stared in awe as he explained injecting the leg with atropine and 2-PAM chloride, the primary drug used to treat nerve agents.
Unlike the movie “The Rock,” the needle isn’t six inches long and not injected into the heart. It’s only an inch long and has to be taken in three doses.
Moving in to head the nuclear weapons brief, Cpl. Jeremiah Hendricks, NBC NCO, S-3, MARFORPAC, explained the initial blast, how to take cover if possible and how long to wait until standing.
Following Hendricks with the final life-saving brief, Manion gave a crash course on maintaining and properly fitting a protective mask.
Ensuring each mask had the proper pieces to prevent the Marines from sucking gas, the Marines disassembled and reassembled the masks.
“The masks work,” Manion said. “We used the same masks to go through our chemical chambers (during NBC training), with the alarms going off and (more potent nerve agents) right in front of you.”
Manion stated the training he went through for NBC was more extensive and could be fatal if the equipment didn’t function right.
Stepping into mission-oriented protective posture suits, the Marines entered the dark chamber, watching as the CS gas filled the small quarters.
Once the doors were shut Hendricks proceeded with calisthenics and then the final challenge of confidence where the Marines broke the seal on their masks and then had to evacuate any gas that seeped in.
After the all-clear command, the group exited the chamber into the light of day and fresh air.
“I try to stress what’s in it for me,” Manion said. “It’s a necessary thing to know and you have to have confidence in your equipment.”