War Stories


GAS MASK

William R Hayes

Fort DIX New Jersey was my home for 18 weeks and the first part of those weeks began with basic training.
The army basic training course consisted of you learning a few elements of military life that when put together with your specialty MOS made you a complete soldier ready to go to work for good old UNCLE SAM.
One of the requirements needed before you completed BCT was to get the experienced of being gassed. The gas used was non lethal, but could ruin your whole day when exposed to its teary eyed, snotty nose, chocking cough producing effects. This gas was better known as CS or riot gas, and was used to break up many a gathering during the volatile 60`s.
The tear gas shack was situated on a small knoll, and the exit door was by some strange coincidence located in the path of a big oak tree. The position of the tree lead to some funny incidences when, coughing, gagging and running eyed shut trainees impacted with an unmovable object, the great old oak tree.

After the gassed and knocked senseless trainee begins his recovery back to reality, the drill sergeant is on his ass and explaining to the now prone solider on why it is important to keep your eyes open. The DI enforces this learning process by having the trainee push away mother earth until the DI gets tired.

I was standing in some sort of formation after my gassing and trying to recover from my training section, when at intervals you would hear the thud of impacting bodies and the following curses of the drills.

Standing and talking to some of my now recovered gassed buddies, I happened to turn my head and gazed upon one of the funniest instances of human oak tree bashing ever witnessed

A scream, followed by a fast moving green clad soldier exiting the gas chamber door, impacts full speed into that mother of an obstacle, a big oak tree. The sudden stop incurred by running into a solid object, rendered the babbling trainee unconscious.
Medics were on the scene with a quickness that amazed me and the other GIs who happened to witness the impacting. The medics began to revive the trainee by using smelling salts capsules crushed and placed under the nose of the prone individual...Soon the under constant eyes of the DI the soldier slowly recovered and was then placed in the medical jeep and taken to the on post hospital for observation.

The company later learned that the running troop received a concussion and had to be hospitalized. The reward for this troopers efforts was to be recycled which he had to go through training all over again but with a different training company. Bad luck for him because no one wants to go through basic training twice. You now will receive the bull shit from the DIs two fold. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.

Fast forwarding places me in the Republic of Vietnam, trying to survive the onslaught of bullets, bombs, and the environment. This Endeavour to survive meant you had to learn all about your equipment and how to use what you have so that you could complete the mission.

The opportunity to experience being gassed by the enemy arrived on a number of occasions. The first gassing I received was my company walked in to the enemyís base camp and they popped there version of cs gas on us before the fire fight broke out. I did not have to use my protective mask only because I got my ass shot up and I was medivaced from the battle field. On other occasions I learned how useless our proactive mask were, when exposed to gas when I donned on the mask, it was impossible to breath because the high humidity clogged the filters. So here we are with non working equipment in the middle of a battle. What an awakening.

The company stopped using the mask and when exposed to gas, a handkerchief dosed with water was placed around the face and we continued on with our mission, which was to find and eliminate the enemy. The gas mask carrying was now being used to carry other essentials needed to survive in an infantrymanís war.

There were other items just as useless to the infantryman, have you ever heard of a rain suit? A rubber and canvas get up in the tropics. Thatís another story.

The experiments with equipment continued and so does this infantrymanís tale. W Roland Hayes