Units training to run new 'tent cities'

by Gary Sheftick and Trish Warrick

FORT POLK, La. (Army News Service, Feb. 2, 1999) -- An improved version of the Army's containerized tent city known as the "Force Provider" has been erected at Fort Polk to train units that will run it in future theaters of operation.

In Bosnia, three "Force Provider" base camps were run by contractors from the firm Brown and Root, until the tent cities were replaced last year by more-permanent structures.

Now the Army has designated five quartermaster companies as special "Force Provider" units, soon to be capable of erecting and operating the pre-positioned tent cities.

The first unit to be temporarily housed in Polk's Force Provider began moving in last week as quartermaster soldiers fired up the kitchen, began operating the laundry room and turned lights on in the 64 climate-controlled tents.

"We have everything it takes to run this site in our company," said 1st Lt. Michael McBride, executive officer of the 488th Quartermaster Company (Force Provider).

His newly-activated company at Polk is the only unit in the active force designated to run the modular tent cities. The other four quartermaster units are in the Army Reserve and they are scheduled to train at Polk later this year, officials said.

Meanwhile, the 488th will be running the tent city for units attending two-week rotations of the Joint Readiness Training Center at Polk.

The 812th Transportation Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Charlotte, N.C., is the first unit to use the Polk Force Provider. Soldiers from the 812th are using the tent city this week along with fellow troops from transportation companies in St. Louis, Charlotte and Beaumont, Texas. The transporters are using Force Provider as a base of operations as they move 101st Airborne Division equipment from the port of Beaumont, Texas, to Fort Polk. A brigade of the 101st is undergoing a JRTC rotation this month.

Plans also call for JRTC rotational units to use the Force Provider as a place to rest and refit between opposing forces attacks, officials said. One said that when JRTC soldiers hit the amenities of the Force Provider, some "may think they've died and gone to the Air Force."

The Force Provider has tents which are air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. The tent city offers laundry services, chapel and recreation tents, gleaming modern kitchens, showers and latrines. The recreation tent sports a 52-inch television screen, VCR, and satellite dish, table tennis and a weight room.

In addition to giving units a brief respite from the rigors of training at JRTC, the Force Provider at Polk will serve as a test bed for the system, said Capt. Mark Evans, 488th commander.

"The idea is for the 488th to become the experts and train other units when they come here," Evans said.

Until then, DynCorp contractors are helping the 488th train. DynCorp was hired for 22 months to provide site management for the Polk Force Provider. One DynCorp employee there, Dennis Bartlett, worked almost four years with the Force Provider modules in Bosnia.

"There's been a lot of difference between now and when I first started working Force Provider," Bartlett said.

The Fort Polk tent city has several upgrades over the other 22 Force Provider packages pre-positioned afloat and in warehouses, according to DynCorp site manager Jack Hardwick.

The Polk compound has a new laundry facility with two 50-pound washers and 75-pound commercial dryers, Hardwick explained. It has upgraded showers, shaving stations with mirrors, and an improved kitchen with four electric convection ovens.

"The kitchen is a big step," Bartlett said. "They were not using an electric kitchen in Bosnia. They were using M-2 burners over there." He added that one soldier was killed and another wounded in the Balkans from an accident with M-2 burners.

The electric ovens, lights and other appliances for the Force Provider can operate using either host-nation power or 27 tactical 60k generators which Hardwick said run amazingly quiet.

The Force Provider concept was born during Desert Storm, when then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan reportedly saw how much better the Air Force field facilities were than the Army's and decided it was time the soldiers got a break.

Using the newest extendible, climate-controlled tents and tactical quiet generators, the Army assembled Force Provider, a containerized modular system that could be shipped by air, land or sea and combined in various ways to meet different needs.

Many of the Army's Force Provider modules are stored at Sierra Army Depot in California until pieces are deployed or drawn for annual training. Three of the packages are in Luxembourg and six are pre-positioned afloat on ships, Hardwick said. He said plans call for all modules to eventually be updated like the one at Polk, and for 13 more modules to come online by 2005.

The Force Provider tents and equipment are stored in 108 containers per module. The containerized tent cities can be erected and operational in two to three weeks, Hardwick said, depending upon whether wooden floors are installed and depending on the number of troops working on the project.

At full strength, a Force Provider quartermaster company can organize into up to six platoons, each of which can operate one Force Provider module, officials said. Each module can provide 550 soldiers with air-conditioned sleeping tents, hot showers, flush toilets, hot meals, laundry service and recreational activities.

In the past, Force Provider modules have been used to house troops in Haiti, Macedonia, Bosnia, Hungary and the Grand Turks Islands. They were also used at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for refugee operations.

The Fort Polk module is number 00, meaning it will be the last to deploy should modules be needed; but it is deployable, Evans said. The 488th is deployable, too:

"We can leave this equipment here, deploy and meet a 'set' (another Force Provider modular system) anywhere in the world," Evans said.

(Editor's note: Trish Warrick is editor of the Fort Polk Guardian and her original article was updated by the Army News Service.)

Photos by Staff Sgt. Neely Snyder

photo of soldiers in a Force Provider billeting tent photo of soldiers in the chapel tent
Staff Sgt. Liduvino Cintron of the 488th Quartermaster Company talks with 1st Lt. Michael McBride as they relax for a moment in one of the Force Provider billeting tents. Soldiers take a moment for prayers at the Force Provider chapel tent.

 

photo of The Force Provider tent city
The Force Provider tent city.