Troops deployed around the world aren't always saddled with the modern conveniences of a private room. Instead, they get to experience communal living in an open bay that houses anywhere from five or six service members to hundreds of them, each with an entire cot's worth of space to call their own.
For those unfortunate people who have never lived within spitting distance of nearly everyone they work with, here are six major perks to living in a military bay:
1. Everyone knows your business, and you know theirs.
Bay living starts in basic training but will pop its head up again on depoyments and exercises. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Angelica Annastas)
When everyone is sleeping practically on top of each other, it's sort of hard to keep anything private. Reading choices, hygiene habits, frequency of urination, everyone knows everything about you. And, this flows both ways. Whether you like it or not, you will know how long and how often your friends poop.
2. You always know which of your buddies are sick
Every cough, sneeze, and snore cuts through the air of the bay like a serrated knife through your dreams, ensuring that you always know who is congested and who has undiagnosed sleep apnea. This allows buddies to update each other on general health matters.
3. You learn all sorts of medical tips, like "Sleep head-to-toe to avoid respiratory infections."
You'll learn a lot about human anatomy in a large bay. For instance, humans breathing only a few feet from each other all night will often exchange respiratory diseases. To avoid this, all troops should sleep with their heads and feet on alternating ends of the cots. That way, you get to smell your buddy's sweaty feet all night instead of picking up his horrendous cough.
4. You have the entire underside of your cot to store stuff.
When you're living in areas with bunk beds instead of cots, you get to practice teamwork by splitting the area under the bed with someone else. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Bailey)
One of the best things about living in a bay is that you have tons of storage space. Almost the entire underside of your cot can be used for holding duffel bags, rucks, and — for the truly elite — even footlockers. Some units fill the bay with beds and lockable storage, but then you need a key to get into your stuff. Best to just rock the duffel bag with flimsy lock for quick access.
5. Other military specialties divulge their secrets while holding meetings 3 feet from you.
A Navy Midshipman candidate practices waking up his buddies with bad light discipline during a fire guard shift in 2016. This will come in handy if he's ever deployed into another open-bay environment. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Brian Tuthill)
Sleepers will learn a lot more about the Army when they're frequently awakened by NCOs and junior officers discussing operations near their bunks. Want to learn more about electromagnetic warfare? Be sure to grab a bunk near the EWO. Want to never sleep again? The operations cell usually has bunks at the back.
6. The long treks to the latrines really wake you up in the morning (and at 0-dark-30).
Have trouble waking up without coffee? Many bays don't have plumbing and the 300-yard walk to the latrines and sinks every morning just to brush your teeth can really get the blood pumping. In the bays with water, you're sure to get frequent reminders to get out of bed as literally dozens of people start shuffling past your bed on their way to and from the urinal.