Around 8,000 soldiers of Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Division (ID) were tear-gassed by mistake during a physical morale event Nov. 23, according to a spokesperson for the military base.
U.S. Army recruits are routinely exposed to gas during basic training in order to experience the painful effects of the gas on their skin and eyes, Insider reported in 2020. Exposure for 4th ID troops deviated from standard training, however, when division leadership apparently did not inform soldiers of the use of tear gas prior to the event, Military.com reported.
The division devised the large-scale event to simulate the Battle of Dak To, a Vietnam War engagement that involved 4th ID units and resulted in the death of 361 U.S. soldiers, according to the outlet.
The event included boundaries marked by tear gas, but the wind that day caused the gas to move onto the course and settle onto soldiers who were unprepared for its effects, Military.com reported. The soldiers were also allegedly lacking standard protective equipment at the time. Standard Army guidance advises soldiers to remove contact lenses before being hit with tear gas, since exposure can cause a painful reaction when gas is trapped between the lens and the eyes, the outlet continued. (RELATED: I Was Tear-Gassed, Along With 60 Of My Closest Friends, In An Enclosed Space)
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“The purpose of this event was to build unit cohesion. Leaders at echelon participated in this event with Soldiers,” Fort Carson spokesperson Dee McNutt told Military.com. “The limited use of CS [gas] was not intended to interfere with the formations but to deter participants from leaving the course.”
The 1967 Battle of Dak To lasted 20 days, during which time 4th ID soldiers endured 110 hours of fighting, according to Task and Purpose.
“These events are meant to have aspects of the unknown, replicating historical combat events in previous battles,” McNutt said of Wednesday’s simulation, according to Military.com.