Chemical Suits, 24-7

Early Show, The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, who has been traveling with American troops in Kuwait, gas masks and chemical suits
CBS/The Early Show
The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, who has been traveling with American troops in Kuwait, discovered Thursday just how serious war can be for soldiers and civilians.

Throughout the day Friday, she said, she heard a wave alarm which is the signal to don a gas mask. The more you hear it, she said, the less frightening it becomes.

"We've been trained to always have our chemical suit. I have the chemical suit pants on right now. And on my chair is the jacket that goes with it. We've been given a bulletproof vest and also a duffel bag that is filled with things to protect us, now that hostilities are under way. I've got a helmet in here," she said.

It takes about five minutes to put on the full gear, she says. On Thursday, she said, she had to do it after running about a quarter mile to a bunker for cover.

"Once we got into the bunker, watching the Marines get dressed, it is probably about a five- to ten-minute process," she said. "Keep in mind these Marines have to put their bulletproof vests on first and then their chemical suit on top of it. They have to stay calm the entire time."

The full suit includes boots and gloves, she said, but the gas mask always goes on first.

Chen did not wear a bulletproof vest since the bunker served as her protection from any artillery or bombs. But she said wearing the suits made her and everybody else extremely warm.

After being in the suit for 45 minutes, the all-clear sounded.

"I heard a voice, it was a commander in the bunker, saying, you know, we got the all-clear but you are going to be dehydrated. He wanted everyone to finish four large 1.5-liter bottles of water. He said while we have the mask off, drink four of these. So it got very hot," she says.

But while she was disconcerted, Chen noted, the Marines were completely calm.

"They are prepared for war. And that was more apparent to me than ever when I was in that bunker with them yesterday," she said.