Last Updated: July 10th, 2024By

The gas mask dug into her skin. Giving the straps one last pull to ensure it was properly sealed, Cadet Izzy Seidman, University of Pittsburg, took a deep breath and followed her battle buddies into the gas.

Cadets of 6th Regiment, Advanced Camp faced their fears on July 10, 2024 as they entered the confidence chamber as part of Fort Knox’s Cadet Summer Training. Filled with CS gas, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) chamber is designed to challenge Cadets to face their fears and put their faith in their equipment and ability to overcome.

“I think it’s a mental toughness thing,” Seidman said. “The Army’s a tough place and the world’s a tough place to be in, so doing stuff like this strengthens you as a person.”

Cadets must learn to properly put on their safety equipment before entering the chamber, removing their masks, and enduring exposure to the CS gas. Many Cadets admitted to high nerves.

“I’m really nervous. I’m definitely not excited, but I’m excited to bond with my platoon,” said Cadet Reagan Skaggs, Virginia Tech. “I think it’s going to be a great experience for all of us to come together.”

Cadet Frances Sehneah, University of Minnesota, who has previous experience going through a gas-filled chamber, was focused on offering her platoon encouragement and support. She calmed other Cadets with the promise that it wouldn’t be as difficult as they feared; ultimately, they would get through it.

“It feels like your mom’s cooking a little, but she’s using too much pepper and you’re stuck in the room,” Sehneah said. “It helps us trust our equipment more because when you get into CBRN, you’re terrified. But as you put on your equipment, you feel more safe and secure.”

Training exercises like this aim to cultivate future Army leaders, teaching Cadets how to stay calm under pressure and face their fears.

“When we get into a real situation, we need to know how to do it because there’s going to be even more adrenaline and more of a time crunch,” Seidman said. “So it’s good to get the reps in here. Because when we’re out there and it’s really happening, then all the nerves kick in and you want to make sure you already have that muscle memory.”

After emerging from the gas, masks in hand and lungs aching, these Cadets have proven themselves to be undeniably Army tough.

About the Author: Ania Delaney Boutin