Squadron leader Roy Roberts of the Royal Air Force was giving a crash course to reporters on how to survive a nerve gas attack.

Slam the tube of atropine sulfate against the back of your thigh and push the button hard until the injector functions, he explained. This is to be repeated twice at 15-minute intervals if symptoms of nerve agent poisoning persist.

Roberts then provided a reporter with three tubes along with an important piece of advice: never to throw away the empties.

"You're only supposed to have three," he said. "If you throw them away, and somebody comes along and finds you twitching on the ground, he won't know how much you've had."

Lawsuit Threatened

The French news agency Agence France-Presse said yesterday that it was taking legal action in the United States against the Pentagon for excluding it from Defense Department press pools.

An AFP statement quoted the agency's lawyer, Joshua Kaufman, as saying, "We intend to seek temporary and permanent injunction against the DOD {Department of Defense}, enjoining them from continuing to illegally bar AFP from its pools and denying them access to pool materials."

AFP said it was currently being denied access to news pictures of the Persian Gulf War from news pools in Saudi Arabia.

"AFP has sought access to these pools for several years and has been denied. No reason has ever been provided. There are no standards or criteria for pool participation. The decisions are arbitrarily made without any avenue for appeal or recourse," the statement said.

Combat Briefs

Medical Sgt. Sal Garcia Jr. doffed his helmet, glanced about furtively and revealed a perfume-scented pair of women's underwear inside that he plans to carry into battle.

No, Garcia and other troops in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division will not wear them under their trousers.

Rather, the undergarments that their wives and girlfriends have sent them provide a degree of motivation to score a quick victory against Iraq and go home after six months in the desert.

"When I put my helmet on, I think of her because of the perfume," Garcia, 24, of Norwalk, Calif., said of a woman whom he began dating a month before he left for Saudi Arabia in early August. "It motivates me to get through another day because I know someone is there waiting for me.

"It's also a good luck charm."

Soldiers tuck sentimental or important belongings beneath the netting of their Kevlar, the synthetic helmet that can stop bullets. It is perhaps the only place these articles can remain relatively clean and dry.

While most soldiers carry photographs of loved ones, some prefer to line their helmets with more personal reminders of relationships they left behind.

While the garments are not one of the traditions of the 82nd Airborne, it is something of a status symbol, and soldiers ask their wives or girlfriends to send them a special delivery.

"She was too embarrassed for two months, but she finally did," said medic Michael Luoma, 21, from Calumet, Mich. "I bugged her so much about it."

Luoma pulled a pair of pink undergarments, trimmed with white lace, that were full of dust. "It's pretty embarrassing to wash them," he said. "Definitely, they make you think about home."

After keeping them in his helmet for five months, Sgt. Christopher Solner, an M-60 gunner, sent back home to his girlfriend black underwear not available in just any department store.

"I had to send them back," said Solner, of Lexington, Ken., shaking his head. "I was going nuts."