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DEFENSE/Taiwan's military revives NBC gas chamber training for new conscripts

02/18/2024 04:17 PM
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Photo: Military News Agency
Photo: Military News Agency

Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) A group of military conscripts were given nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) training in a gas chamber Saturday for the first time in more than a decade, a consequence of Taiwan's compulsory military service being restored to a full year.

During the training session on Cheng Kung Lin Base in Taichung, held to familiarize soldiers with gas masks, the new conscripts were first taught how to properly wear their masks, the Military News Agency said in an article published Sunday.

After military instructors checked each conscript to make sure their masks were on properly, the conscripts were asked to enter the chamber -- about the size of classroom -- one after another in their protective gear and gather around a burner emitting tear gas.

The goal was for the conscripts to gain confidence in their NBC protective equipment and also experience how the tear gas would affect their exposed skin before exiting the space, the report said.

Military instructors then invited a group of conscripts to go back into the chamber without their masks to understand what dealing with tear gas without protection would be like, it said.

These volunteers left the chamber with their eyes filled with tears and coughing sounds, and were instructed to use cool water to avoid further irritation.

According to the Ministry of National Defense (MND), the gas chamber training was standard practice for all conscripts during boot camp until compulsory military service was shortened to four months in 2013.

With the reimposition of the one-year military service program that began on Jan. 1, 2024, the MND reintroduced the gas chamber drill, and the conscripts in Taichung were the first doing a year of military service to face this type of training in Taiwan in 11 years.

The extension of military service to a full year applies to conscripts who were born on or after Jan. 1, 2005. Those born before that date still only need to perform four months of military service.

The decision to lengthen the period of compulsory military service for Taiwanese men was aimed at strengthening Taiwan's combat readiness in the face of threats from China, according to Taiwan's government.

Other steps have taken on that front, including updating training regimens, providing conscripts with new helmets and bulletproof vests, and purchasing new mortars, cannons and machine guns.

The one-year of compulsory service will consist of eight weeks of boot camp and then an assignment with a designated unit in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Information, Communications and Electronic Force, Military Police, Political Warfare Bureau, or Medical Affairs Bureau, based on each individual's skills, according to the MND.

Currently, Taiwan's military is mainly a volunteer force of around 215,000 people, with conscripts serving in a supporting role.

As of 2021, there were 160,000 voluntary military personnel in Taiwan's armed forces.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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