CAMP SPEARHEAD, Kuwait — Living in a tent in the middle of the desert with up to 60 other people can be tough. The smallest conveniences can make a big difference when it comes to quality of life.

Losing those conveniences can make people mighty unhappy. And that is what some troops at Camp Spearhead claim is happening as a result of inspections aimed at regulating use of electricity.

Army Staff Sgts. Tracy Bower and Robert Roman, both Army divers, say that contracted inspectors responsible for enforcing rules have gone too far. They say the inspectors look for items like power strips, converters and extension cords with more than one outlet plug in addition to banned appliances. They say that in the month they’ve been on the camp, they’ve been inspected at least six times and as a result some power to the tent has been shut off.

“Not only does this policy hurt unit morale and lower the quality of life, it lowers the ability to accomplish missions,” Bower said.

“Any electronic equipment can’t be charged or used when the power is off, and some of it can’t be used at all with 220 volts of power. I have never been in a place where they routinely try to lower soldier’s quality of life.”

Roman said he was happier in Iraq.

“Kuwait is supposed to be our break,” Roman said. “But I like it better in Iraq ... we don’t get harassed there.”

KBR spokeswoman Stephanie Price said company employees coordinate with the mayor’s office to conduct the inspections.

“The Army safety officer is responsible for identifying non-allowable electrical devices,” Price said. “We have been asked by the fire department to look out for these non-allowable devices as they present a potential fire safety issue.

“To enter a tent for inspection, an escort from the camp mayor is provided if the space is unoccupied. If someone is home, KBR personnel ask to enter to conduct the walk through.”

When unauthorized equipment is found, there are punishments. The first offense results in the tent’s outlet power being shut off for 24 hours, according to Army Capt. Jan Schramm, Camp Spearhead mayor. Second and third offenses means power will be shut down for one week, then one month. A fourth offense will get power to the tent shut down until the occupants leave the camp.

In the Force Provider tents, the lights and outlets are wired to the same circuit, so if power gets turned off in those tents, the lights will be gone also. But one of the most critical elements of all tents will never be cut off.

“At no time do the sanctions include a loss of power to the tent’s air conditioning unit,” Schramm said.

The guidelines for electrical equipment in tents have been handed down through the units, Schramm said, and the prohibited items are displayed all over the camp.

“We have been careful to place our emphasis on education rather than punishment,” Schramm said.

Bower and Roman said that currently, their tent is in the third punishment phase — a month without power. They said the first offense for their unit actually occurred when they were moving into their tent. A unit they were replacing had a violation, but it still counted toward them because they were in the tent.

“The second time it was our fault ... we were breaking the rules,” Bower said. “We can’t deny that.”

But the latest violation, the soldiers said, was actually the same equipment that got them in trouble the second time, and this time it wasn’t even plugged in. Roman said the equipment belonged to a soldier who is currently in Iraq, so after the second violation, they put the items under his bed.

“We told them [he was in Iraq] but they said ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re using it or not, son, you can’t have it in the tent,’ ” Bower said.

Prohibited items

The following items are expressly prohibited in the life support area tents:

1. Coffee/tea pots

2. Hot plates

3. Microwave ovens

4. Refrigerators

5. Electrical appliances or devices

6. Clothes irons

7. Hair dryers

8. Curling irons/curling wands

9. Transformers/converters

10. Multi-strips

11. Multi-plug extension cords

12. Multi-plug surge suppressors

13. Multi-plug receptacle adaptors, with frayed or damaged wiring except as provided above

14. Candles, incense, or any other items that burn with an open flame or smolder

15. Christmas/holiday lights

— Source: U.S. Army

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