As the country remains on a high alert for terrorism, troops training at Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart are preparing for chemical warfare. It's a routine part of any soldier's instruction, but it's becoming more intense as we approach a possible war with Iraq. After inhaling some gas that makes you cough violently in a training exercise, soldiers like Private Second Class Christian Wiseman will not forget how to properly use his equipment.
"You could tell the difference between the mask, when you have it off and when you have it on, and you greatly appreciate this baby," he told us. "You see this is your best friend, it's your best friend when you have this mask on. I'll tell you what, I'm going to hold onto this real tight."
"The significance of this training is to help the soldier gain confidence in their M40 series protective mask," explained SSgt. Lynei Clark. "We want to ensure that the protective masks work and that they adequately fit the soldier's face to ensure safety during combat."
That's because, if Wiseman and his fellow soldiers are confronted with nuclear, biological or chemical warfare, these masks will be one of the few pieces of body equipment they'll have to protect themselves.
"It's going to make me take care of my mask better, it's going to make me appreciate having the mask, take good care of it, it's going to make me ready for any mishaps or anything that could happen while we're out in the field," Wiseman said of the exercise.
To make sure they're ready, soldiers have to be able to put on their masks in under nine seconds.
"If the soldier is not taken care of then we can't operate at all in the military," SSgt. Clark said. "This ensures that our soldiers can breathe and will be able to complete any mission that we need them to accomplish."
As all of the 187 soldiers completed this intense training exercise, they knew that when the time comes for them to be called to duty, they'll be ready. These soldiers are also doing what's called common task training, like first aid, rifle marksmanship, and map navigation before they'll be deployed.