The Pleasures of Military Air

*Passenger terminal, an air base in Kuwait* - I wrote earlier about how all big military bases [resemble each other](http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/graeme_wood/2009/06/into_the_sandbox.html) somewhat. What makes Kuwait distinctive is its volume of traffic. At any given time it hosts an enormous transient population of contractors and servicemen. Outside its passenger terminal, blue signs indicate where to line up for destinations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those destinations -- a couple dozen in all -- are the sites of this war and the temporary homes of tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel.

Not long ago I was in a Dulles airport [Potbelly](http://www.potbelly.com), waiting in a long line of contractors for my chance at a sandwich. I ate the sandwich in a chair that was a distant cousin of the [iron maiden](http://www.thedollworks.net/drilldown.asp?ig=%7B7E42B5BC-C869-47AD-BF40-000809B163AE%7D), designed not for comfort but to keep its unwilling occupant cramped enough to prevent sleep. Inside the Kuwait terminal, in an area the size of a small gymnasium, are rows and rows of black leather easy-chairs where soldiers can nap or watch DVDs while waiting to be called to fly. I'm sitting in one of those easy-chairs now, surrounded by half a dozen jetlagged young soldiers who have leaned back and begun snoring in tune with the air-conditioning. When they get hungry or thirsty, they can go to a counter and get a packed Jimmy Dean snack lunch, or just a bottle of water and packet of potato chips. If I could travel mil-air everywhere, I would.

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Graeme Wood is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. His personal site is gcaw.net.

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