Soldiers in the desert find creature comforts any way they can. A water bag is turned into a shower. A 55-gallon drum and a block of ice converts into a cooler. An overturned stretcher is a card table.
They may have no choice about being in a scorching desert, but the troops try small touches to make their hardscrabble home as comfortable as possible."This is either the world's biggest beach or the world's biggest ash tray," said Pvt. Scott Tenhagen, 19, of the 92nd Field Artillery.
"We're waiting for our grass to grow, but since we don't have a lawn mower, we hope it doesn't," Tenhagen, of Burlington, Ky., said from his tent.
The division, normally based in the arid lands of central Texas at Fort Hood, has been encamped in Saudi Arabia's fierce desert for 10 days. The 2nd Platoon calls its area "Six Flags Over Saudi Arabia," although it hardly looks like an amusement park.
Their olive-colored military tents are one of the few green things sprouting from a tortured landscape that supports only the hardiest camels, goats and sheep.
"These guys really know how to adapt. They'll do anything they can to make life a little easier," said Lt. William Moore, 23, of Orange County, Calif.
The platoon has erected wooden mail boxes outside their tent flaps. Inside, a section of canvas serves as wall-to-wall carpet to cover the sand. Gear is stored in cardboard boxes that once contained food rations.
Nearby, the group has created a shower with a water bag hung from a tent pole and protected by two ponchos. A couple of planks serves as a floor.
For recreation, the soldiers have a football, a volleyball court and playing cards.
Soldiers are getting two hot meals a day and eat field rations for lunch. They say they're getting plenty of water and the mail is getting through.
There's also training to keep them occupied.
One morning, the battery practiced setting up two multiple launch rocket systems. The system uses radar to track incoming shells, then plots the trajectory back to its source so a rocket will hit it.
The system is touted as faster, deadlier and more accurate than conventional artillery. Each system can fire 12 rockets in 36 seconds.
"If you have a rocket land within 24 meters (yards), commit your soul to God," said Warrant Officer Francisco Merced, 36, a Dary, Ind., native who operates the system.