Interactive military museum exhibit invites patrons to poop like the troops
Lessons in tactical crapping
By W. E. Linde
DAYTON, Ohio — A new traveling interactive exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force gives patrons and military history lovers a chance to experience an aspect of military operations rarely mentioned in history books: defecation in austere locations.
“When people normally visit a museum, they usually come to see cool weapons and aircraft and to learn about significant events in American military history,” said Leona Billings, a senior exhibit project manager who, as a retired chief master sergeant, has plenty of first-hand combat deployment experience. “But there’s more to war than fighting. You gotta poop. And most people don’t realize the logistics involved in tactical crapping.”
The exhibit recreates a crude latrine, with no walls or privacy of any kind. Visitors are allowed, even encouraged, to relieve themselves right there in the middle of the museum as they imagine themselves practically sitting in the lap of a comrade-in-arms.
“A number of folks are embarrassed at first because you can’t help but lock eyes with strangers as you do your business,” said Ted Beagle, a museum docent who retired from the U.S. Army in 2009. “But war is hell, and privacy is among the first casualties.
“You want to know what it’s like being one of the first to deploy into a combat zone?” he asked. “Well, here it is, my friend.”
Patrons are encouraged to not just “take a dump,” but to also set fire to a metal barrel full of waste and stir it to recreate the hell of being the lowest-ranking member of a squadron or platoon.
“A lot of people have this romanticized idea of war as though it’s some kind of movie or adventure,” said Donald Pleasance, a former combat engineer who not only helped design Crappers through Time but who also “christened” the exhibit before a crowd of dignitaries and special guests on opening day. “Well, this might take a little of the glamor off, because war is a dirty business.”
The reaction has been, in many cases, emotional. A number of veterans were seen choking back tears as soon as they realized what they were looking at.
“Oh lord…the smells,” said one visibly distraught gentleman wearing a Desert Storm baseball cap before screaming, “GET ME OUT OF HERE.”
The exhibit has drawn some protests, particularly from military recruiters.
“You can’t show this stuff, man,” said Marine recruiter Sgt. Mike Turing. “That will do nothing to get kids excited about joining the service. Just talk about planes and bombs or something, damn.”