Back in early ’91, we were sitting in the desert of Saudi Arabia, waiting for the order to attack north into Iraq to force their departure from Kuwait. One of the greatest fears was that the Iraqis would use their chemical weapons to “slime” us.¬† Nerve agent is colorless and odorless, so we used a special detector kit called the M43A1 to “sniff” for chemical agents. If it detected them, it emitted a loud alarm. We kept the detector running 24 hours a day.

At night, most of us were sleeping in our tents, with just a few guards up and about to keep an eye on things. One night, Sgt. H. had the guard. He took a few minutes to relieve himself in the latrine. While he was in there attending to his functions, the chemical alarm started to sound its blood-curling “Whoop!Whoop!Whoop!”

Sgt. H., being a good soldier,  immediately donned his gas mask, pulled up his trousers, and sprinted  to our tent to spread the alarm.

As he dashed inside the tent, yelling “GAS!GAS!GAS!”, he forgot the tent pole holding the whole thing up. He ran into it so hard he knocked himself out cold, and knocked his mask clean off.

I’m afraid our reaction wasn’t all that charitable to his welfare. Each of us reached up, grabbed our masks, donned them, and cocooned ourselves in our sleeping bags, watching in horror as Sgt. H. twitched and spasmed from the nerve gas. But miracle of miracles, Sgt. H. soon stood up.

The nerve gas attack? When the batteries on the detector started to die, the alarm sounded to let you know to change the batteries. Who knew?

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