Cox said the prisoners' goggles were blacked out for security reasons. Had they not been led blind from the airplane, they would have seen a cactus-studded landscape of heavy brush with vultures soaring overhead - far different from that in Afghanistan.
Their face masks, he said, were to protect the U.S. troops escorting them, because some prisoners had previously tested positive for tuberculosis.
But the biggest impression was that of force. In addition to an ambulance, three fire trucks and some sort of command post, the military rolled out a heavy presence of Marines in Kevlar vests, helmets and face shields - plus heavily armed Humvees.
Mindful of earlier Taliban rebellions, in Northern Alliance-run prisons, the Army MPs and Marines worked deliberately throughout the evening to process the prisoners into their cells.
By 9 p.m., Cox said, only 13 had received physicals, showers, fresh jumpsuits and were already in their cells.
The last seven were expected to be incarcerated by 11 p.m.
"It was calm, " he reported. "There was no particular resistance put up. There was not struggling. There was not wrestling. There was none of that type of thing taking place." Lehnert, who arrived to run the operation that will eventually move the prisoners to permanent cells, said that "their existence will be humane but not comfortable. They will be practicing the free expression of their religion."
To that end, the officer said, they will be provided with "Halal" diets, a reference to the Muslim proscription against eating pork. Cox displayed an example: A vacuum-packed vegetable-and-pasta dish, plus an accessory pack that included peanuts, a granola bar and a box of Fruit Loops.
To drink, they will be given water, Cox said.
It was 88 degrees at noon Friday, and soggy, something likely unfamiliar to fighters from Afghanistan. By night, mosquitoes swarm and bite.
Each man is confined to one cell, a mat on a concrete block floor, and gets a bucket in which to relieve himself. The camp warden said MPs would lead them, one by one, to latrines as need be, and conceded that when it rains, some will get wet.
Other supplies they will receive, described by Cox as "comfort items, " include two bath towels, one to use for bathing, the other to serve as a prayer mat; toothpaste and brush; soap and shampoo, plus flip-flops for footwear.
"They get the two towels but no blanket, " the major said.
The captives' status and their future are unclear. Military spokesmen went out of their way this week to describe them as "detainees, " not prisoners of war, although Lehnert described them at a news conference as "EPWs" - enemy prisoners of war.
There are no provisions here for lawyers, arraignments or tribunals, although the Defense Department has said the prisoners' detention will be consistent with the Geneva Conventions.
Meantime, President Bush is deciding whether the prisoners will be brought before military tribunals, and U.S. government lawyers are writing proposals for how such trials might take place.
So the prisoners' fate is uncertain, and so is how long they will stay.
Officials repeatedly declined to say whether representatives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent were on the base. Nor would they say how many interpreters they had managed to fly in.
Military spokesman did, however, confirm that military investigators, both of the Navy and a joint command, were on hand eventually to interrogate the prisoners. Lehnert said Friday's was just the first of what was expected to be periodic prisoner shipments. He would not provide a timetable.