September 5, 2012
By Melissa K Buckley
Basic Combat Training week two:
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — – New skills and new challenges awaited Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment during their second week of Basic Combat Training.
Chemical defense, first aid and physical fitness training were all part of the week, but it was the CS gas (tear gas) Confidence Chamber on Aug. 21 that challenged their courage.
Prior to entering the chamber, Pvt. Tayler Douglas was nervous.
“I am scared to death right now. I heard it’s like suffocating,” Douglas said before entering.
The CS gas Confidence Chamber is considered an important step of training because it’s needed to build Soldiers’ confidence in the protective gear.
“It’s to teach them that the mask works, and they know the difference between wearing it and not wearing it in a chemically contaminated environment,” said Staff Sgt. Xavier Wyatt, Co. C, 1-48th Inf. Bn. drill sergeant. “It’s critical for them to have these skills in case of a chemical attack.”
The Soldiers entered the chamber with their masks sealed, then they moved around, jumped and did exercises to prove to themselves that their masks will work during strenuous activities.
“The drill sergeants then had them clear and seal their masks to show them that the gas can be cleared out if it enters their masks,” Wyatt said. “Finally, they completely take off their masks in order to feel the full effects of the CS gas.”
Pvt. Andrew Jobes said the only reason he didn’t quit was because he did not want to have to do it again in order to pass.
“It was way worse than I expected. It burned,” Jobes said. “I’m glad I did it now. That mask really works. If there is ever a chemical attack, I’m ready.”
Pvt. Darwin Rivera left the chamber with an adrenaline rush.
“Awesome. I really liked it,” Rivera said. “I just couldn’t wait for them to open the door.”
Pvt. Jessica Vanheel said the experience was not as bad as people made it sound.
“We had to say the Soldier’s Creed with our masks off. I was able to say more than the other people in my group,” Vanheel said. “I was so nervous, but I’m glad I did it, but I did barf a little bit.”
Douglas, one of the last groups in the chamber said she worked herself up for nothing and was glad she had the training.
“Wow. It wasn’t that bad. I had to open my eyes because I dropped my hat, that was kind of horrible,” Douglas said. “I’m excited about how well my mask works.”
Wednesday through Friday, the Soldiers completed their First Aid training and tested for their Combat Lifesaver Certification.
“Combat lifesavers are critical care providers on today’s battlefield and have done amazing things to help save Soldiers’ lives, regardless of their Military Occupational Specialty,” said Lt. Col. Erik Anderson, 1-48th Inf. Bn. commander. “I’ve personally seen (combat lifesavers) perform amazing acts of courage and immediate life saving first aid to wounded Soldiers.”
On Saturday, they had their first Army Physical Fitness Test.
The APFT is a three-event test that each Soldier must pass by scoring 50 points or better in each event in order to graduate. The test consists of two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two-mile run.
“Soldiers earn points based on the number of correctly performed push-ups and sit-ups they perform and how fast they run the two miles,” Anderson said.
Points are also age and gender specific meaning a 17-year-old male requires a different number of repetitions and a different run time than a 22-year-old female.
Soldiers who achieve above 90 points or better in each event (270 or better) earn the Army Physical Fitness Badge that can be worn on their Physical Fitness Uniform.
“While the standard maximum score is 300 points, we do also have an extended scale that goes out to 375,” Anderson said. “Soldiers will take at least three APFTs while in Basic Combat Training, generally one each phase.”
The first two are diagnostic in nature to assess progress. The final End of Cycle APFT is the one for record and the one that all Soldiers must pass if they intend to graduate BCT — regardless if they passed a previous APFT.
“Each morning Soldiers will start his or her day with Physical Readiness Training. We execute PRT six days a week — Monday thru Saturday,” Anderson said. “This program, designed by sports physiologists, athletes, physical trainers and Army Leaders is designed to physically and mentally challenge your Soldiers while at the same time strengthen the major muscle groups most needed in a combat environment and improve their cardiovascular endurance.”
As a general rule, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are dedicated to improving cardiovascular endurance using either an Ability Group Run (AGR) or a series of interval sprints.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to improving muscular strength, mobility, and endurance through a series of conditioning drills, push-up and sit-up improvement drills, climbing drills, and a strength training circuit.
Most units use Saturdays for administering the Army Physical Fitness Test and Modern Army Combatives.
As the Soldiers enter week three, they are entering their final week of Red Phase.
Here is what the Soldiers had to saw about week two:
Pvt. Tayler Douglas, 18, Los Angeles, Calif.
MOS: 68P Radiology Specialist
Favorite training: “The first aid training. I like taking notes and learning. I just know I passed the test. I was in health academy, so it was a lot of review.”
Most challenging: “The ruck marching back and forth between training. The sacks are heavy and with the weapons, it’s hard.”
First Aid training: “I learned that you can get rashes from sweating. I didn’t know that.”
One thing from home: “My brother. I miss him. He’s the main reason why I am here. He’s 13. I want him to have a good life. My mom is a single mother, and I want to get him into a good private school.”
Pvt. Andrew Jobes, 18, Eminence, Ind.
MOS: 13D Field Artillery Automated Tactical Data Systems Specialist
Favorite training: “I like the first aid. It was fun and I learned a lot.”
Most challenging: “The gas chamber was hard.”
First Aid training: “I learned how to do CPR. I didn’t know any of the stuff we learned. I have a good grip on first aid training now. I feel confident to use it.”
One thing from home: ” My bed. It’s just comfortable, and I’m use to it.”
Pvt. Darwin Rivera, 21, Puerto Rico
MOS: 91B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic
Favorite training: “I liked firing the weapons. I really like it.”
Most challenging: “The physical test. It’s really hard. I like to do it, but it’s not easy.”
First Aid training: “It’s cool. I learned a lot of things. You can save a life with just a needle.”
One thing from home: “My Dad. All of the other things I don’t really care about. I just want to see and talk to my Dad.”
Pvt. Jessica Vanheel, 22, Waite Park, Minn.
MOS: 36B Financial Management Technician
Favorite training: “I liked shooting the machine guns.”
Most challenging: “The gas chamber.”
First Aid training: “It was exciting. I like learning stuff, it makes the day fly by.”
One thing from home: “My dog Kane. He’s a Blue Heeler.”
(Editor’s note: Melissa Buckley is a photojournalist assigned to the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., newspaper, the Guidon.)