CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Federal workers beyond the Capital Beltway sometimes refer to Washington as Disneyland East.

But nothing in this paper-generating headquarters town is as weird as what's happening at many military bases.

Thousands of civilians -- many of whom know they will be fired next month -- are voluntarily working seven-day-a-week double shifts to support the military buildup in the Persian Gulf. More than 5,000 of the Army Materiel Command's 100,000 civilians have received layoff notices. Another 15,000 will be demoted or transferred because of budget problems.

Meanwhile, at command facilities such as the Letterkenny Army Depot, the "clients" (Army support and combat units) are putting mobile missile-launchers and self-propelled big guns through what a Ford or Chevrolet salesman would call "dealer preparation."

After checking oil, tires and batteries, the civilians do custom work: Forest green M-109 howitzers are being repainted tan (as in sand, as in Saudi Arabia and Iraq) with a protective coating. It makes it possible to decontaminate vehicles hit with nerve gas, mustard gas or other chemical agents. Computer vans are being air-conditioned for 120-degree desert warfare.

So many vehicles have been overhauled at this 19,000-acre depot and ammunition storage facility that it has run out of the hottest new paint, desert tan. Workers are using regular tan temporarily.

Civilians, with layoff notices in their pockets, are doing lots of unloading from the 900 earth-covered igloos they tend. Unlike Washington government offices, the igloos hold explosives, small arms, bullets and rockets. Nobody here sneaks outside for a quick cigarette.

Facilities such as this one and the nearby New Cumberland Depot are working around-the-clock. Many about-to-be fired workers are doing double shifts, helping run the massive receiving, packaging and shipping plants. They handle 300,000 items -- from machine screws to complex electronic components -- badly needed by Army units that, in some cases, arrived ahead of their equipment.

Many workers came out of their layoff-shock on Aug. 7, the start of Operation Desert Shield. Nobody feels any better about the pending layoffs, but many employees say they feel good being able to support the troops who may soon be in a shooting war.

"Our people have been so damn beautiful it makes me want to cry," said a supervisor at New Cumberland. The ones being fired are upset, "but they've been focusing their anger on him," he said, pointing to a wall poster. It shows a man -- who looks a lot like Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- astride a camel. He is bracketed in the cross hairs of a rifle telescope sight. The poster says: "I'd Fly 10,000 Miles to Smoke A Camel."

A forklift operator, who got "passed over this time," says several men in his crew have been notified that they will be fired next month. "It's hard. Hard for us and harder for them. But these are patriotic people here and that guy {in the poster} is the best morale-builder we could have."

Work them overtime and fire them later! Congress, are you out there?