Call of Duty

The crew at North Carolina’s Affordable Portables provides aid and comfort to U.S. Army Special Forces trainees at Camp Mackall.
Call  of Duty


Tommy Saylor oversees the operations of Affordable Portables LLC of Cumberland County for owner Joe Gillis. They're located in Fayetteville, N.C., with a supplemental holding yard in Rock Fish, N.C. His team consists of eight vacuum truck drivers, two delivery drivers, a mechanic and three office personnel, although everyone is cross-trained to step in wherever needed. Technicians Kris Kader and Michael Lancaster Jr. are assigned full time to Camp Mackall.


Eight years ago, when a friend of Gillis put his portable sanitation business up for sale, Gillis hooked up with a partner and bought it, as well as three other restroom companies. Saylor stepped in as operations manager in 2009 when the partner left the business.

Today they've got about 3,500 portable restrooms in their inventory, and 12 service vehicles ranging in size from 500 gallons to 1,700 gallons. Their territory covers eight counties within a 50-mile radius. About 50 percent of their work is for the military, especially nearby Fort Bragg. The rest of their work is construction and special events – including a charity event for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, for which the company donated units as well as their time.


The contract with Camp Mackall was held by one of the original companies Gillis bought and was transferred to him. The company has kept up with the growth at the camp and those contracts have been renewed. "They're very happy with us," Saylor says. "We respond to all their needs. They've got my number to call 24 hours a day."


Camp Mackall, on the outskirts of Fort Bragg, is a former military base named for Pvt. John Thomas Mackall, who was killed in the Allied Invasion of North Africa during World War II. It is now set up as a training camp to prepare Special Forces for combat duty. Up to 500 trainees come in at a time for a two-week stay. They participate in training activities that include classroom instruction, running obstacle courses, role-playing and camping in the woods. Cadets also are exposed to the living conditions, music and even animals of the Middle East to become familiar with the sights, sounds and smells they will encounter when deployed.


Conditions at the camp are deliberately rugged for the trainees to cull unsuitable candidates. They live in tents, and although they have showers, the only sanitary facilities are portable restrooms. Hand-wash stations are where they brush their teeth, shave and clean up between showers.

Affordable Portables also provides units for construction activity, as the camp is expanding its facilities.


There are currently 200 units at Camp Mackall, 160 of which are Global models from Satellite Industries. Per Fort Bragg requirements, units in training areas must be tan. There are no color requirements for the backwoods or construction sites, so the 40 Satellite Industries Tufways in those areas are the company's standard dark green. The company also supplied 32 PolyPortables Inc. Super Twin hand-wash stations.

When officers are in attendance for award ceremonies or other special events, the company brings in handicap-accessible units as well as flushable Global 1.5 models with sinks. Deliveries are made with a Chevrolet 2500 and trailers built by Gillis or Master Tow Inc.

Units are set up in 20 locations around the camp, including three tent cities, three security gates, training and backwoods areas and construction zones. The company also has an on-site holding yard where they store about 25 units that might be needed. Units are sited by a grid number to pinpoint them on a military map.


Camp Mackall has several vendor requirements. Saylor and his technicians had to go through background checks to gain security clearance. Drivers are required to wear company uniforms with shirts tucked in. And all vehicles must be four-wheel drive.

The company also has requirements. Drivers must wear steel-toed boots, safety glasses and rubber latex gloves, and go through regular drug testing.


During training sessions, Kader and Lancaster make the 100-mile round trip to Camp Mackall to clean all the units five days a week – sometimes seven, Saylor says. Each drives a 2003 Ford F-550 with 750-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tank built out by Abernethy Welding and a Masport pump. There are three points at the camp where they can replenish their water supply. Waste is taken to the county wastewater treatment plant.

Between training sessions, units remain in place and one of the drivers checks on them three times a week. This break provides an opportunity to do a more thorough cleaning, readying the units for the next session. The company uses Satellite Industries deodorizer and cabana spray.


The company and the military have enjoyed a mutually beneficial working relationship for many years. But the drivers enjoy a few perks as well. "They're letting my guys eat out at the chow hall with the students, the instructors, the top-ranking people," Saylor says. "And they let them shop at the PX store if they need drinks
or anything.''

The cadets benefit, as well. They're very respectful because they know the drivers are there to provide clean restrooms for them, Saylor says. "They're very patient. They'll wait for the cleaning to be done, then ask if they're allowed to use them."

The company expects to continue this longstanding contract, and has begun discussions regarding future requirements.


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