The one thing that never fails… emergencies

In Army basic training, drill sergeants launch CS gas (AKA tear gas, pepper spray) grenades into formations of recruits. There is a set procedure:

  • close your eyes
  • hold your breath
  • pull down your glasses (if applicable). If you’re wondering: they stay around your neck because of the geek strap!
  • open gas mask pocket
  • pull it out
  • put it to your face (it’s already prepped for quick use)
  • pull the straps over your head
  • tighten
  • blow out
  • breath in to test the seal.

The whole process should take less than 30 seconds. We practiced over and over before the first test.

I have a good memory for procedures, but I still panicked the first time the CS gas hit my face. It burns so badly. If you open your eyes you can’t see because of the tears. You can’t breath because your lungs and throat feel on fire. More snot pours out of your nose in a few seconds than you thought humanly possible.

8 years and I still can vividly remember it.

Sometimes when an emergency project hits and people begin to run around like crazy, I can see the cloud of CS smoke drifting away from a formation. And as it clears I can see the one thing that never failed: at least one person freaking out. No gas mask. Weapon abandoned. Arms flapping in the air. Tears pouring down their face and dripping to their knees.

And you know what? It puts it all into perspective.

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