TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan - The Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan has many tents constructed, but only one represents the “spirit of Kyrgyzstan” in look and atmosphere. The unique structure known as “The Yurt,” received a facelift Sept. 7, 2013 with the installation of its new skin covering.
Found in Central Asia for 3,000 years, Yurts are tent-like dwellings traditionally made with a wooden circular frame covered with sheep skins a nd embellished with decorative bright felt designs on its inside. The structure was used by horse-riding nomadic tribes for its ease in set-up and tear down. Today these dwellings continue to dot the Kyrgyzstan countryside and are used as roadside stores, homes and banquet halls as well as area attractions.
The Transit Center Yurt is the place where distinguished visitors are hosted, squadron socials are held and small official ceremonies are performed. This traditional nomadic-style structure was built to symbolize the friendship between the Transit Center the local community said Col. Blaine Holt, then 376th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, during the Yurt’s grand opening in 2010.
Harsh Kyrgyz winters followed by hot summers accelerated the breakdown of the animal skin and contributed to the need for the replacement. To keep the structure true to its heritage, the upgrade required skilled workers, knowledgeable in how Yurts are constructed. Transit Center contractors hired professional Yurt builders from the Issyk-Kul Lake region to replace the old weather-worn skin with a better grade cover.
The new sheep wool cover means there will be no more animal smells when it rains and the cover has a polyester liner which is designed to help extend its life, said 1st Lt. Austin Fritzke, construction project manager, 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron.
While the skilled workers are adept at building and repairing Yurts without the aid of modern machinery, a member from the 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron was on hand to help.
Senior Airman Chris Francis, 376 ECES structural engineer, operated the Aerial Man Lift, taking the workers up 19-feet high in order for them to perform the majority of the work. He also helped hold the cover in place while the Kyrgyz workers secured it using both wire and rope ties.
Francis said he enjoyed learning something new.
“I didn’t learn how to build Yurts in tech school,” said the Greenville, Ohio native. “It was interesting to see some of the cultural differences in basic construction between Kyrgyzstan and America.”
The airman learned carpentry, welding, masonry and some tent construction while attending the naval construction training center in Gulfport, Miss.
He describes the main difference he sees is that most structures Americans build are made of wood and nails and screws instead of rope, wire and sheep wool.
Some features the Transit Center Yurt has that traditional Yurts do not are two exits, two air conditioning/heating units and a flat screen television.
With the upgrade finished and the renovation debris cleared away, Transit Center members can continue to enjoy the look and feel of an authentic Kyrgyz dwelling as they take part in their unit functions.