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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.- Sgts. Juan A. Gavilanes and William C. Dove and Pfcs. Jermaine L. Francis and Maurice J. Oden, all artillerymen from Battery K, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment side-straddle hop as part of their gas mask re-certification here, June 20. ?These exercises give Marines the confidence to know that they can work with the mask on,? said Cpl. Michael Cronkhite, the nuclear, biological and chemical chief for the battalion.

Photo by Pfc. David A. Weikle

Gas chamber gives Marines confidence in the gear they use

20 Jun 2006 | Pfc. David A. Weikle

A group of 40 Marines from Battery K, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, stand ready in two columns preparing to enter the gas chamber here, June 20.

These Marines are getting ready for their next deployment by re-certifying in the gas chamber to prepare them for any possible attacks involving biological or chemical warfare.

“The M-40A1 field protective mask is designed to protect a Marine from biological and chemical attacks,” said Cpl. Michael Cronkhite, the nuclear, biological and chemical chief for the battalion.

The Marines received a series of briefs before they entered the gas chamber. The briefs helped to make certain the training was conducted safely.

“Our goal is to ensure Marines are only exposed to the gas when we need them to be,” Cronkhite said. “We brief them before they go in of the potential hazards, so no one gets hurt.”

After the briefs, the Marines and instructors entered the gas chamber. The first part of the re-certification process checked the seal of the mask.

“They vigorously shake their heads left, right, up and down,” Cronkhite said. “The first exercises ensure they already have a proper seal on the mask.”

The Marines would bend over at the waist, ensuring the mask stayed sealed in different positions. Cronkhite then called the room to the position of attention and told the Marines what exercise they would execute. They performed 10 side-straddle hops and then returned to the position of attention.

“These exercises give them the confidence to know that they can work with the mask on,” he said. “It helps them to realize they’ll be able to perform in combat.”

Pfc. Maurice J. Oden, an artilleryman with the battery found the exercises to be useful. He said each exercise not only proved its value, but was interesting as well.

“It showed what we can do with these masks on,” he said.

One of the last exercises before leaving the gas chamber is to drink water from a canteen through a drinking tube apparatus. The Marines then broke the seal on the mask to indicate that they know how to properly clear the mask of contaminated air. Each exercise demonstrated they know how to use the mask to survive.

“It was easy to use the drinking tube,” Oden said. “Clearing the mask after breaking the seal only took a few seconds.”

Re-certification with a gas mask is another part of getting ready for deployment. Marines need to know they can rely on their equipment to keep them alive.

“It gives them the confidence to know they can rely on their gear when it counts,” said Cronkhite. “It gives the Marines the confidence that they will be able to use the mask in combat.”