Friday, March 22, 2013
By Alyssa Ramirez
My brother, Nicholas Ramirez, is an airman in the United States Air Force. In the U.S. military world, no one knows him as simply Nicholas; he is recognized as Airman First Class Ramirez. Ramirez is stationed in Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, which is quite a long way from home. I had the opportunity to interview Ramirez on his most memorable moment while in the Air Force—his experience in the gas chamber during basic training. What follows is a detailed interview I had with Ramirez on this experience.
When was the first time you heard you would be stepping into a gas chamber during training and how did you feel then?
I first heard about it months before I went to basic. I would see videos online about this part of the training experience and it made me nervous. I was afraid of actually doing it.
So how did you feel about it by the time you got to basic?
By the time I got to basic training I was more excited about it. I was actually looking forward to the thrill.
What happened on the morning of that day?
Buses drove us to the compound. That day of training was called CBRNE (Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Explosives). We walked through a number of buildings, grabbing different pieces of equipment that we would need to go into the gas chamber.
Did you already know how to use the equipment?
No we didn’t. They taught us how to put our equipment on and take it off which they made us do over and over again until we got it right. That was the most annoying part.
Why was it so annoying?
Well, after they made us take our suits, which is called MOPP Gear, on and off we actually had to sit in the suits for hours. Since the equipment was so heavy, it made me sweat and by the time I was able to take it off, I was drenched in sweat.
So what happened next?
After we learned how to put our MOPP Gear on and take it off, they made us put it back on again and go outside to wait in line in order to go in. There were two chambers and our instructors were at the door of each chamber making us wait which built the anticipation evermore. At this point I was so scared.
What did the chamber look like once you got inside?
The chamber was dark and empty; there was nothing in there but a pit in the middle where the tear gas fumes came from. As soon as I walked in I was able to feel the gas on me. It was a different type of feeling and you could just about taste the gas.
Here is the big moment. How was it?
Well they lined us up along the walls of the chamber so we ended up standing in a big square. Our instructors made us do twenty jumping jacks before we took our masks off. Then that moment came. They made us take off our masks and clutch it to our chest. We were supposed to yell out loud our reporting statement as well as our social security number all while we were inhaling the gas.
How did it feel to inhale the tear gas?
The gas was all in my face and the first gasp of breath I took stung my throat; it hurt to breathe. Once we were done reciting our information, we were allowed to leave but the problem was that only two people were allowed out at a time. I was in the middle of the line so you could only imagine how I felt.
What were you thinking when you finally got out?
It was the best feeling in the world to be able to breathe fresh air. My face started to tingle badly from the tear gas and we weren’t allowed to touch our face in order to prevent from spreading the chemicals over our body. We had to hold our arms in a “T” position and walk around. My sinuses were out of control so I was tearing and a lot of snot was coming out of my nose and mouth. Everyone looked horrible and we were all coughing a lot. Some people were crying a lot.
So now that you’ve experienced the gas chamber, how do you feel about your experience?
I thought it was AWESOME!
In the end, Airman First Class Ramirez enjoyed his experience in the gas chamber; an event that many new recruits dread to go through. Ramirez confessed that he would definitely do it again just for the excitement and the adrenaline rush that it gave him. It’s no wonder why he decided to go into the military.