Fort Bliss, built before the days of Pancho Villa as a cavalry outpost to protect the border, became the US Army's air defence centre during World War II. With increased attention focused on the Middle East, its desert conditions and surrounding military bases have increased the post's importance to both the US military and its allies. Thirty-one allied nations train here, said Fort Bliss spokeswoman Jean Offutt. Only Germany, however, has used US facilities to house permanent military installations. German officials say they reap a number of benefits from being in Texas, from the ease of purchasing US weapons systems to the arid weather. German troops have their own school, church and social club, and have long forged close friendships with US residents and military officials. Postings to Fort Bliss, which often last three years, are seen as plum assignments, leading some Germans to break their ties with the military and move to El Paso permanently.