Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This means war

Just prior to deploying to Saudi Arabia, for the whole Desert Storm thing, we were issued new gas masks. The masks we had were the bug eye style that made you feel claustrophobic and required you to cant your head sideways in order to shoot a rifle. I didn't really like it until they put us through the training, which included standing in a room full of CS gas with your mask on, then removing it and gagging, burning and drooling until they let you out into the fresh air.

The new masks were positively luxurious, with a full face shield that made you feel almost as if you had no mask on at all. At least compared to the other style.

The gas mask was stored in the bag ready to wear. The head strap contraption had six small adjustable straps that helped the mask to sit properly on your head. Four of the straps were kept pre-adjusted so when you put your mask on, all you had to do was pull the straps over your head and tighten the lower two straps for a proper fit.

The first time the alarms sounded, warning of a SCUD attack, we all tossed on our masks and the rest of our protective gear. The pop of the patriot missiles being fired to engage the incoming rockets added to the sense of urgency.

When I tightened the lower two straps on the mask, I pulled a bit harder than I needed to. We had pulled the thing on dozens of times before, but never when we thought we might actually be getting poison-gassed.

Tightening the bottom straps pulled the chin piece back for a snug fit. Tightening the bottom straps more, made your chin feel like it was being shoved into your spine. But, I really didn't feel like loosening the thing up when we were being poison-gassed. Especially when Chris Linko started nervously wondering aloud what it was that he was smelling. If Chris Linko was being gassed to death because he didn't pull his chin strap tight enough, I wasn't about to loosen mine up.

Finally, one of the other guys yanks off his mask and asked us all if the things made our chins hurt too. I guess we all pulled them a little too tight.

When first facing difficult, challenging or frightening times, it seems that it is easy to overreact.

No comments: