“You’ll see,” he said. “It is a different kind of pain. You will see what I mean.”
By the time I was done I realized he was right and I decided I would be happy to never have that stuff on me again. I made it, but it was nasty.
“Not that the CS gas is much better,” he said. “It will suck too.”
We got to practice putting on our mask and doing a few operations in the gas. It was nice to see they worked. I still felt a burning on my skin.
Then we lined up in our formation. Every other person had a gas mask on. I did not. We interlocked arms so we would stay together. I was in the front row and my squad leader was lined up next to me. I am a pretty big person. She is a pretty little one. In fact, she may be the smallest person in the class.
I remember thinking, “If I can’t make it through, they expect her to drag me out.”
So the canister starts smoking, we start marching, chanting our class motto, “One team, one fight. One team, one fight.”
I hit that cloud of smoke and it gets crazy in my head. You can’t breathe. You can’t see. All I remember was choking and gagging and a burn in my lungs. I can’t remember what I was thinking. It was like tying to sleep when you have a really bad fever. Everything seemed confusing. I knew I just needed to walk. Really, I just needed to breathe.
Then I heard this little person next to me say, “Come on Randolph, you are almost there. Keep going, you are almost there.”
It was crazy. It was like she picked me up and carried me through the rest of the march.
I made it through. We switched roles. Those without masks put them on. Those with removed them. She marched through the gas with little problems. I think she was smiling.
I am not someone who likes to rely on others for help. When I am sick or injured I don’t want to be talked to or touched or helped. I want to do it myself. Even in athletics I have always been drawn to individual sports. I have always been taught to rely on myself first.
Last night I sat around thinking about my day. I told my wife that the pepper spray in my eyes may have been, physically, one of the worst experiences of my life. I told her about how the CS tear gas burned your skin where you were sweating.
But the most significant moment in the day was that little bit of encouragement from a teammate at a time when I needed it most.
I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t said that. I like to think I would have kept marching, gotten out of the gas and been fine. I would remember the incident as a time when I had to reach down deep and pull myself through and I had made it.
I would think back to a horrible day when I had to learn what it felt like to be exposed to some nasty chemical agents.
Instead, in several years when I hear some kid in the academy telling me about the day they are going to have to experience tear gas and pepper spray, I will remember the teammate who said the right thing at the right time and pulled me through.
Randolph, R. Basic Recruit, 07-BR-01
I think this is the favorite day of the academy staff. From the moment we arrived at academy we noticed the suspiciously happy looks on all the staff member’s faces. We were all trying to prepare ourselves for the torture we were in for, but there is no way we could have known how horrible it would be.
Let me back up. Last Wednesday we had our chemical agent lecture. We were given some information about the agents we would be exposed to, and we were also given instructions as to what we were going to be expected to do when we were exposed. After we were exposed to OC we had to fight, take someone into custody, and radio for help. All under the most excruciating pain ever! When we were exposed to CS all we had to do was march through it, which was hard enough in itself.
I’ve tried to describe the intense burning, pain and emotions that come along with being exposed to OC. I can’t even begin to find the words. As for the CS gas, I think nausea, saliva, mucous, burning, and not being able to breathe pretty much sum it up.
At the end of the day we had all passed chemical agents. We learned that we can fight through some pretty excruciating pain, and we learned, once again, how important it is to keep our minds just as strong as our bodies. It was very important to lean on our team members during the CS exposure, and we worked well as a team, living up to our motto of, “One team, one fight.” We came out stronger, and more eager than ever to move on in our training.
Congratulations, 07-BR-1, we have finally made it!!!!!