Logistics: Tents Evolve Into Steel Boxes


September 7, 2007: Based on experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense is moving away from pitching tents for many support facilities in combat zones, and instead using shipping containers. These are being used for living and work space, and are popular because the containers are sturdy, and easily transportable. Thus these containers, which only came into general use about fifty years ago, are changing the face of warfare.

The big advantage of a shipping container (especially the standard 20x8x8 foot one) is that you can equip it, for whatever has to be done, before you send it overseas. Thus computer facilities, laboratories, kitchens, laundries, repair shops and specialized storage (for some types of weapons) can be built into containers, and sent over. Once these arrive, you simply plug in electricity, water or whatever, and get to work. Very efficient, and much appreciated amidst the chaos of a combat zone.

For the last decade or so, troops in combat zones have been holding on to these containers (which also come in 40x8x8 size) for use as work or living space. This has caused some tense moments with the logistics bureaucrats back home. Sensing a market, however, for the last six years some firms have provided a growing number of customized containers. This includes armor kits for the containers, and all manner of accessories to make the steel boxes more, well, livable.


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