Training For Chemical Warfare

The Early Show, National Correspondent Thalia Assuras, preparing for possible chemical attacks
CBS/The Early Show
To rid the world of weapons of mass destructions is among the primary reasons the United States plans to attack Iraq.

But the threat of war increases the risk that some of those weapons - chemical or nerve agents and biological materials - may be used against U.S. forces. So, soldiers and journalists will more than likely be wearing protective suits as they head onto the battlefield.

CBS News National Correspondent Thalia Assuras who trained with the 4th infantry division in Fort Hood, Texas, reports troops will get a nine-second warning against airborne weapons.

That's the time they will have to get their gas masks on and sealed tight and still have a chance of making it out alive, if Saddam Hussein launches a chemical attack.

"Nine seconds is realistic," says Sergeant First Class Bob Wolz. "That's based on wind speeds and the way agent vapors travel."

So soldiers and journalists wear their gas masks gunslinger style and stay alert for the warnings that will have them scrambling.

Wolz instructed trainees that if they see soldiers who seem to be affected by gases or they hear horn blasts, they should stop breathing, close their eyes and put on their masks.

The mask is just one piece of protection. Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division's Chemical Unit expect troops to be in "Mission Oriented Protective Posture 2 (MOPP2) for the initial stage of the war, which means boots and special suits.

The suit is a Gortex shell with a charcoal lining to absorb chemicals or other vapors. And it is not easy to put on in the eight minutes allotted.

Movement is restricted and the heat from the desert could be life threatening with the suit on.

"It'll raise your body temperature about 10, 15 degrees F inside the suit," says Staff Sergeant Juan Francis. "You never get used to the heat. It's always hot, but you have to prepare yourself mentally for it as well."

Keeping hydrated is essential.