Health & Safety

May 10, 2012

Marines gain confidence in new gas chamber

Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff
Photo by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison

The station’s new individual protective equipment confidence exercise facility, commonly known as the gas chamber, saw its first use by Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron Marines at its location near MCAS Yuma’s pistol range, May 8.

Before being used for training purposes, station  chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) Marine’s tested the new site May 4.

The chamber’s new location is a result of the ongoing Joint Strike Fighter-related construction, as well as to adhere to guidelines regarding such a facility.

“The reason they put it way out here was because the requirements to be away from the airfield and main traveled road,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Donald Johnson, the CBRN defense officer of Marine Aircraft Group 13 and a native of Ventura, Calif.

The facility also contains a new safety feature; Marines can now push open the inside doors to allow for speedier evacuation in case of accidents during training.

The gas chamber is part of Marines’ annual training qualifications. During the training, a CBRN specialist releases CS (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile) gas and directs Marines to perform various activities to ensure their equipment works properly.

Faulty gear can mean the difference between safety and a health hazard.

“We prepare Marines to operate in contaminated environments,” said Johnson. “The purpose of the chamber is to give them confidence in their protective equipment.”

Station military working dogs also participated in the facility’s debut. While their handlers wore their protective equipment, the dogs took commands including sit, lay down and also attacked aggressors who entered the chamber.

With the chamber’s new location, Marines must note gas chambers will now be handled like rifle range; Marines will be shuttled to and from location on buses. Personally operated vehicles are not allowed unless there is a nonparticipant driver, as Marines may not drive for at least an hour after exposure to the gas.

While chemical warfare has not been a major player in the Afghanistan theater, insurgents used it during Operation Iraqi Freedom, notably in Ramadi during 2004. As well as scattered attacks, including anthrax, it is imperative for Marines to know how to use their equipment if and when protection is needed.

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