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In Gas Mask Training, Soldiers Happy To Shed Tears Now To Prevent Tragedy Later

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When the sirens go off, the gas masks go on.

You've no doubt seen reporters, including WRAL's Ken Smith and photographer Ken Corn, scramble to suit up while covering the war in the Middle East. The gas masks are a must for covering and fighting this war.

Fort Bragg Soldiers are checking to make sure their masks will protect them. What they are testing out in a chamber on the post could save their lives on the battlefield.

Members of the 65th Military Police Company want to make sure their gas masks have a good seal with no leaks. In training, they use a gas called C-S. It's similar to tear gas.

C-S is not harmful, but it can make a soldier very uncomfortable. And the gas mask check at Fort Bragg is the closest many soldiers will get to the real thing without putting their lives in danger.

The exercise is called nuclear, biological and chemical training, or NBC. Soldiers are required to go through the NBC training every year, but as the military fights Saddam Hussein and Iraq, today's training seems timely.

Soldiers say that knowing they are comfortable with their equipment and that the equipment works well makes them more confident.

The masks are tested for leaks by computer before the soldier enters the gas chamber. A leak would be known -- the soldiers' eyes would burn. Their skin would burn, and they'd have a hard time breathing.

With warning sirens blasting daily overseas, soldiers know the exercise is a reality of war with Iraq.

They know that a few tears now could prevent tragedy later.

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