Business Lessons Learned from Marine Corps Gas Chamber Training

MV - New Pic #2.jpg

During Marine Corps basic training, every recruit has to go through gas chamber training.  When I went through bootcamp, this is how it happened:  40 recruits lined up wearing gas masks and shuffled into a big bland building filled with thick yellow CS gas.  Once inside, we did a series of calisthenics to show that, thank goodness, the gas mask worked!  Then the Drill Instructors commanded us to remove our gas masks.  While still inside the gas chamber.  What happened next, is seared in my mind forever….

As a business leadership keynote speaker, I often share with my audiences the correlation between successfully completing USMC gas chamber training and successfully navigating the business world.  It boils down to trust:  Trust yourself.  Trust your training.  And trust your equipment.



When I put on my gas mask, called “donning and clearing”, and marched into the gas chamber my heart was POUNDING.  I had to trust myself to stay calm.  And once inside, I had to trust myself to remain calm — especially when we were commanded to remove the gas mask, hold it down by our sides, then put them back on.  All while standing in thick yellow tear gas.  

And whether you are walking into your first job interview after college full of motivation, meeting with your CEO to discuss the EVP promotion he wants you to take, or having to fire that employee that is just not working out, you have to trust yourself.  You have to stay calm, and more importantly, remain calm.  


With my eyes squeezed shut and my mouth tightly closed, I removed my gas mask inside the chamber and held it down by my side.  After what seemed like an eternity, we were commanded to put the gas mask back on.  I quickly “donned and cleared” the mask, blowing out the CS gas that had crept inside and then inhaling to make a tight seal around my face.  Trusting my training, I opened my eyes and started to breathe.

And if you have trained extensively for that first job interview out of college, prepared substantially so your CEO knows you are the best candidate for the Executive Vice President position, and/or trained for every contingency that may occur when having to fire that employee, then your success in the business world will increase ten-fold.


Once I had my gas mask back on inside the chamber, I started to breathe — and it worked!  Though my face stung a little from the CS gas, I was breathing fresh, clean air.  I trusted my equipment to work.  And because I trusted my equipment, I was able to focus on, and trust, my training.  Thus, staying calm and trusting myself.  My transformation from gas chamber “new-be” to successful veteran was complete!

In the business world, your “equipment” might be your marketing material or CRM software or project management plan.  Do you trust these to help you close the next big sales deal, or manage that longtime cash-cow client, or to ensure you are on time and under budget for the big project?

By trusting yourself, your training, and your equipment you are creating a foundation to make better decisions in business and life.  Better decisions that lead to an unprecedented level of balanced peak performance.  If not, you may end up like some of my fellow Marine recruits who failed the gas chamber — hacking and spitting up tear gas wondering what went wrong.

Questions?  Leave a comment below, hit me up on Twitter @mpveltri, or learn more at  I’ll be sure to get back to you right away!