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Tent Life

These are not your grandfather's tents

By Shelby G. Spires

AT AN AIRBASE IN THE ARABIAN GULF As technology advances and American fighting forces improve the one inescapable fact of military life is the general purpose tent.
From Honduras to Kuwait there are military tents erected around the globe.All with military members equally cursing and thankful for their existence. To many in the general public, the concept of military tent life is the one popularized by M*A*S*H where Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John kept their underwear strung up between beds and tinkered with their Pyrex still. They may sometimes be uncomfortable, like when it rains, the temporary shelters of today are not your grandfather's tents of World War II and Korea fame. Quite the contrary, heat pumps keep the shelters warm and cool while plastic matting keeps soldiers from walking around on dirt floors. Tents are the home of American soldiers in Kuwait.
Easy to construct, a temper-tent, as they are called because the temperature is regulated through a heat pump which sits outside, is bassically two ends joined at the middle. "They are designed with the simplest construction process in mind," one Air Force engineer said. "It's really made so anybody, regardless of their
mental aptitude, can through one up in a hurry."
The tents are made of a special insulating material which helps keep in the air. Through the middle of the tent's ceiling a plastic vent runs with holes which blow air into the tent. For thousands around the world every day the tents are home. For some.though, maybe not a home away from home.
"Any time we spend in the air is less time we have to spend in a tent back at camp, and that's a good thing," said Maj. Jeff Braley, who was commander of the 71st's detachment in Kuwait in March 1999.
Some who have made prolonged stays in the tents like them better than dorm life in American military camps. "I was in a tent for seven weeks before I got into the dorms, but once I was there I missed the tent," one airman said. "The first night there was a group of guys who were leaving to go home the next day, and they ran around all night long 'mooning' each other and generally having a good time. I don't have anything against that, but I still had three months left, and all I could think about was going to sleep ... It wasn't a fun time for me."
Whether liked or loathed, the tents of today are a step beyond the military tents of the past.