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Around The Fleet

These Tears Build Confidence

Recruit Training Command's confidence chamber

The fear was real. Recruits have been going through the process since the early 1900s. Yet, that did not ease their anxiety.

sailors in gas masks graphic

sailors in gas masks graphic

As the recruits filed into the dark, foggy room their facial expressions said it all. The tension was evident in their eyes. The room began to fill with tear gas and each recruit awaited the order to remove their gas mask.

Prior to entering the chamber the Fire Fighting Training Team instructed the recruits on how to use their gas masks. The chamber became the vessel the recruits used to test the equipment in a real-life training environment.

The instructors led recruits into the tear gas-filled chamber with their masks on. The gas was visible and it filled the air, fogging the masks. No effects were felt, initially. With each passing moment, the recruits knew the time was coming for them to remove their masks.
Sailor picking out a gas mask, donning the mask with instructor, and Sailors lined up with mask on.

Three photos of recruits going through the confidence chamber at RTC Great Lakes taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jessica Bidwell. On the left, a Sailor grabs a gas mask. In the center, an instructor tests a recruits gas mask and on the right are Sailors lined up with their gas masks on.

"Generally, the recruits get anxious when they have to take their masks off, at which point they may experience a range of symptoms such as eye irritation and coughing," said Damage Controlman 1st Class Brandon Gregrow, an instructor at the confidence chamber at Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes.

Confidence gained in their equipment is unparalleled; and the reason of having recruits experience the confidence chamber is just that, confidence.
-DC1 Brandon Gregrow

The confidence chamber allows Sailors to gain trust in their equipment so if they encounter a similar situation in the future, like a chemical attack, they will know exactly how to respond.

Recruits experience the chamber as part of their firefighting training, which lasts five days and occurs on week six of basic training.
Photos of an instructor setting off tear gas Sailors catching the snot coming out their noses.

Three photos of recruits going through the confidence chamber at RTC Great Lakes taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jessica Bidwell. On the left, an Recruit Training Command instructor sets off the tear gas. In the center, a Sailor is catching the snot that is coming out of his nose. On the right, Sailors are catching the snot that is coming out of their noses.

"My favorite part of being on the Firefighting Training Team, Recruit Training Team, is seeing recruits progress from day one of training through day five of firefighting training," said Gregrow. "The ability to teach and introduce mostly foreign concepts and watch the recruits break through barriers to grasp the whole curriculum is amazing."

RTC Great Lakes graduates approximately 39,000 recruits annually, all of whom navigate through the confidence chamber.

"My job is to help ensure they know and comprehend all of the information given so they can be successful during their remaining time in boot camp," said Gregrow. "More importantly, [my job is] to send the best possible, basically trained Sailor to the fleet."
Sailor Holds M9 with an attached laser at RTC's gun range.

All Hands Magazine graphic for Recruit Training Command's Gun Simulator story. The graphic shows a Sailor holding a M9 firearm with an attached laser to the barrel inside RTC's gun simulator facility.