WITH U.S. FORCES, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- As far as the outside world is concerned, the American military men and women stationed at the remote, single-runway air base here don't exist.

Neither, for that matter, does this place.

Among all the military posts occupied or created by U.S. troops during Operation Desert Shield in the past seven weeks are a number of secret installations. For the men and women who toil there under the desert sun, including some from the Washington area, it makes the separation from home just one notch more difficult.

"We're not allowed to say where we're at," said one ground crew member. Cargo plane crews that fly here find the base officially is not on the maps.

"How do you put in a voucher for a place that doesn't exist?" asked Lt. Kirk E. Chestnut, of Fredericksburg, Va., a pilot aboard the C-141B Starlifter cargo plane that dropped off 50,000 pounds of missiles at the base recently. another pilot, recalled that a friend "always said I'm just {messing} around going nowhere. I see what he means."END NOTES

At this isolated, lonely outpost near the Persian Gulf, there are few permanent structures and even fewer luxuries enjoyed at established bases.

The tents aren't air conditioned and there is no television to watch except for a few videotaped movies. The military men and women stationed here aren't allowed to visit the nearby town. Mail arrives sporadically. Shelves at the base exchange are chronically understocked, cigarettes are extremely difficult to find and the ground crew eagerly devours any newspapers, books or magazines from visiting airplane crews.

The base has grown busier recently. Where flights averaged about five a day at first, one ground crew member said they lately have increased to a dozen or so daily.

A squadron of U.S. F-16 fighter jets was visible, as were several Arab planes, and during a recent two-hour period, the base received four cargo planes, at least one of which was British.

The base commander and his subordinates appear to take the secrecy seriously. When a reporter accompanying a cargo flight arrived, accidentally stumbling upon the secret base, he immediately was told by a sergeant that taking pictures could get him shot and an armed security detachment showed up within minutes to reinforce the message.

No pictures, they ordered. No interviews. No notes.

And just to be sure, they assigned a fellow with an M-16 to shadow every footstep.

Two hours later, as the cargo plane was preparing to leave, with reporter on board, the base commander himself showed up. He extended his hand. "Thanks for visiting," he said.