Story by 1st Lt. Joshua T. Fosher
Today at White Sands Missile Range a Soldier took a big step in his career in an unlikely place. Spc. Stephan Stratton completed his mid-career reenlistment in the gas chamber. “I wanted to do something unique; this is a big step for me, no one I know has ever reenlisted in the gas chamber,” he said.
The ceremony was exactly like any other reenlistment, the nation’s colors proudly displayed in the background, Stratton standing tall at the position of attention repeating the oath of enlistment as recited but 1st Lt. Joshua Menges, until the masks came off. With onlookers peering through the smoky glass, Stratton and Menges tried their best to remain composed as they ripped off their masks along with the rest of the Soldiers in the chamber, but quickly were overcome by the gas. “It was awesome; I was very amped for the experience and was excited to see everyone else in there with their mask’s off.”
Completing the ceremony with their faces burning and their lungs on fire, the chemical NCOIC for the event Sgt. Sherwin Roberts flung the door open to let the occupants escape into the fresh air. The cooling air brought only temporary relief as the desert wind blew the residue from the gas across any uncovered bits of the Soldier’s skin. For Stratton the day will always be memorable. “For me the highlight of the day was watching Lt. Menges try and go out of the locked door as everyone else ran out of the open one. He was struggling with it and the gas looked like it was really getting to him.” After everyone had cleared out of the chamber, amongst echoes of horse coughing, the Soldiers thanked Stratton for a memorable day for a