The Gas Chamber in Army Basic Training

I was surfing on YouTube tonight and I stumbled across the video below (watch and check it out).

The video shows some recruits going through the Gas Chamber during Basic Training. Watching the video sure did bring back a bunch of memories.  I’d like to take a few minutes and share those memories with you.

I went through Basic Training in the winter of 1996 (Jan – Mar) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  From my first day of Basic Training I was dreading the Gas Chamber. For most people it’s not that big of a deal, but boy was I concerned. I’d heard some rumors that some recruits had died in the Gas Chamber several years before (not true, just a rumor) and I didn’t want to be one of them!  This was a rumor spreading through my platoon and I fell for it.

We went to the Gas Chamber Training Area in the late morning. For lunch they served us good ol’ chili mac! I didn’t eat much because of my nerves.  After lunch, our platoon divided into two groups.  We lined up outside the Gas Chamber and put on our protective masks.  I was part of the second group to go in so I got to watch the other group come out. That was disheartening. Some folks had tears in their eyes, others puked, and some laid down on the ground as if they were dying.

When I got in the Gas Chamber I didn’t really see the big deal. I felt fine! I quickly realized I felt fine because I still had my gas mask on. When the instructor told us to take our masks off, I thought he was crazy. Reluctantly, I did what he told me and I can swear I felt my heart stop!

Within less than a second my lungs were on fire! I puked (didn’t look pretty with the chili mac). I felt like I was in the Gas Chamber for a few hours, but we made our way to the exit doors and cleared the building. When I got outside, I felt like the happiest person in America. I was happy to be alive.

Looking back (and watching this video) I can only laugh. I’d love to hear what your experience was like in the Gas chamber during Basic Training. Please leave a comment to share your story.

We can laugh now, but it was scary then.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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9 thoughts on “The Gas Chamber in Army Basic Training”

  1. I mentioned this post to my husband and he started laughing. He says he was close to puking but he described himself as a snot filled drooling puss bucket. Judging from everyone’s reaction who have been through this – it\’s an experience they love to hate, glad they survived, never want to do it again, but laugh at the memory. In a way, my husband wears that experience with a certain sense of pride.

  2. Wow, this article brought back some memories. The year was 1982, and the place was Ft Benning, Georgia. My Drill Sergeant had a liking to me and just gave me the suggestion that I just skip lunch that day. I listened and was I happy I did. What ticked me off is my last name and having to repeat it to the Corporal 3 times before they allowed me to put my mask back on. I was crying like a baby. If you have to ever face this, do not rub your eyes. Thanks for the memories Chuck.

  3. Crazy video, Chuck. I remember going to the gas chamber when I went to basic training back in 1998. I puked when I came out. It wasn’t all that bad. My eyes burned for a while and I had more snot come out of my nose than I can remember. But, I’m glad to say that I made it through and i will never forget the experience.

  4. Amy Skalicky

    Wow! Haviing never experienced the gas chamber, I was struck by how immediate the body’s response is. I have to laugh, Chuck, because they fed you a heavy lunch (you know it was on purpose) when it is recommended to eat lightly beforehand. I have also read that as soon as the gas masks are removed, troops proceed in single-file out of the chamber, but in the video, they were static for a while. Is this routine? One last friendly observation–did the females handle this exercise better, or was that just my (biased?) imagination?

    1. Our drill sergeants kept up is the gas chamber for what felt like days, after we removed our masks. In reality it was probably only 20 to 40 seconds. They just wanted to give us the opportunity to learn what the CS gas can do to you. It was a great experience I never want to relive.


  5. Candace Ginestar

    This literally made me laugh out loud! I remember my time in the gas chamber too! I went through BCT at Fort Leonard Wood, MO in summer of 04. I remember barely eating all day cause I didn't want to risk puking everything back up. Well, my time in that room was fine for me personally, but absolutely horrible in general! One private decided 'no way' and tried to run out the entrance! I thought they were the biggest do do for doing that because they would have to redo the entire thing! We all tackled them since we were already working on teamwork and tried to get them to stay in the room. Apparently they were terrified and were able to break away from 6 of us on top of them, and continued to run out! When we left the chamber, they had us flap our arms up and down like a bird, which I am sure served no purpose other than to get us to focus on something else and to give the DS something to laugh at. I remember having a lot of snot running down my face, but otherwise I was fine.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        oh…the cattle trucks! Yes, all the time, and the best times were when we had to carry our gear overhead!

        1. I was at Fort Leonardwood for a brief stint after boot camp and I watched them ride around in cattle trucks. It always made me laugh. And while at Fort Lewis for my Advanced Camp in ROTC we got to ride on cattle trucks. It was always a tight fit.

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