MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The words “EVEN THE BRAVE CRY HERE” are painted in a bold stencil format and displayed on a sign that hangs over the Camp Lejeune gas chamber.
Beyond the sign, a trail with obstacles waits for Marines to traverse its path and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialists lay in wait with canisters of 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, also known as CS gas.
Marines are required to annually qualify with their CBRN defense equipment. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted their annual CBRN training March 11, 2014.
Marines assigned to the MEU received a series of classes and conducted a practical application exercise that involved an obstacle course. Far from a typical gas chamber, the course fulfilled annual training requirements and tested the combat readiness of the Marines in a CBRN environment.
“We want to provide a realistic environment to better prepare Marines in the case an actual CBRN emergency happens,” said Cpl. Jacob Hansen, a CBRN specialist assigned to the MEU and one of the primary instructors during the training evolution.
“On the trail, they act as if they’re on a patrol ... we throw some CS canisters out and they have to react and adjust, quickly donning their masks,” said Hansen.
CS gas is a riot control agent used by the Marine Corps. In training, it is used to familiarize Marines with CBRN defense equipment such as mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear and an M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask; as well as procedures to utilize the equipment.
Marines are taught they have nine seconds to don their masks in the event a CBRN attack occurs.
“We try to keep the training as realistic as possible,” said Hansen. “On the trail we give them a taste of a spontaneous attack, so they may not have a whole nine seconds to put on their masks before they feel the effects of CS.”
Hansen said this kind of training is important and helps remind Marines of the danger involved in a CBRN attack and enhances their situational awareness.
“Being alert is important,” said Hansen. “If you’re out on a mission and your team experiences a CBRN attack, your mission priorities change from the current objective to ensuring your team dons their masks and protective gear and survive to complete the objective.”
The trail the MEU Marines participated in involved a number of obstacles they had to maneuver while staying aware that at any moment they could be exposed to CS gas and needed to quickly react, donning their masks, overcoming the obstacles and continuing on with the mission.
Capt. Saba Safiari, the 26th MEU assistant logistics officer, said the trail provided a refreshing challenge and a much greater degree of realism than the gas chamber.
“It was another step in gear confidence,” said Safiari. “The obstacle course is anaerobic, so it raises your heart rate and puts you in a higher state of alert along with fact you could be exposed to CS at any moment.”
Although this was not Safiari’s first CBRN training in the Marine Corps, he said it was his first time conducting CBRN training on a trail.
“The obstacles made it more realistic,” said Safiari. “It demonstrated that you can still be effective in a mission if you are involved in a CBRN attack.”
The training was conducted using the obstacle course to meet the training requirements of the MEU, and provided a different kind of experience for its Marines.
“We are familiar with the needs of the MEU. We take into account what the commanding officer wants, and we provide the most realistic training we can to keep the MEU ready for CBRN events,” said Hansen. “We want the Marines we train to be prepared for these kinds of situations, and providing realistic training is the best way to do that.”