CAMP PENNSYLVANIA, Kuwait: The helicopters that will ferry them into battle have not arrived, but they have shoe polish.
While the 5,000 residents of Camp Pennsylvania wait for the arrival of some of the necessities of combat, such as helicopters, it's almost like life at home here, with comforts including hot meals, haircuts and shopping trips to the post exchange, or ''PX.''
''They're good compared to some other places,'' said Maj. Blain Reeves, operations officer for the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry Regiment from Fort Campbell. ''The Army has learned over the past 12 years how to sustain itself, and it's benefiting the soldiers.''
Camp Pennsylvania, not far from the Iraqi border, is one of several camps in the area preparing U.S. forces for war. Most troops find the amenities here better than expected for the middle of the desert and seem to make the most of it. The camp houses a small gymnasium, a phone center and laundry service.
Demand for services often exceeds supply at the camp, accounting for the long lines just about everywhere. Spc. Nathan Crosby with the 2nd Battalion of the 320th Field Artillery discovered that after he stood in line at the PX trailer for two hours.
''I was looking for some kind of food I could eat, like granola bars, but all they have is candy,'' said Crosby, who bought baby wipes and other items he didn't need. ''They've got PlayStation2 and CDs and starch and Kiwi (shoe polish). You can't put Kiwi on these boots. They have stuff that you don't need, like coffee but no coffee pot.''
Lt. Col. Neil Determan, an Army Reserve logistics officer with the 19th Corps Material Management Center out of Minnesota, is Camp Pennsylvania's ''mayor.'' Keeping tabs on what goes in and out of the camp, and making sure basic needs, such as the 50,000 gallons of water that arrive daily to keep troops well-hydrated, are his top priorities. Determan said expansions are being made to the camp PX, and an Internet café soon will be set up that will offer laptop and desktop computers for e-mail and Internet access for the soldiers.
Marvin Hill, a command sergeant major, is the top enlisted man for Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne Division. He knows some soldiers will gripe about everything, but for the most part, he said, the units are motivated.
''We told them to expect nothing,'' Hill said, as he and Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus made a stop at Camp Pennsylvania yesterday and observed the new helicopter pad being built for 101st's aircraft, scheduled to arrive soon by ship.
''The biggest thing I've seen in the last 24 hours is attitude,'' Hill said. ''They're very eager to take ownership of a piece of terrain and make it their own. Now soldiers are making improvements.''
Petraeus, commander of the 101st and Fort Campbell, agreed. ''The soldiers we told them that life might be tough over here,'' he said, adding that he is impressed with his troops and the camp setup. ''There is a degree of focus and seriousness of purpose.''