19 July 2011

Space A, Schmace A.

It was May 26, and we drove down to Jackson, Mississippi (yes I was singing the song in my head as I typed that) to begin our European Extravaganza. The plan was to fly Space A from the Jackson Air Guard Station  in the morning to McGuire AFB in New Jersey, then continue on to Ramstein AFB in Germany.

For those of you who don't know, Uniformed Services Space-A Travel or Department of Defense Military Space-Available Travel is a means by which uniformed members of United States services, reservists and retirees, United States Department of Defense civilian personnel (under certain circumstances), and each of these groups' dependents are permitted to travel on aircraft under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Defense when excess capability allows. [FOR FREE] 

We got to the hotel late and crashed. The 5 hour drive wasn't terrible, but driving it all at night was tiring. We woke in the morning to grab breakfast and head over to the base to get our names on the manifest list for the flight. We were the first ones signed up and very confident we'd make the flight. We did know at some point during this Space A, free travel, no frills journey that we may be delayed or set off course, seeing as how extra passengers are not the military's priority. Duh. After signing up we set out for Barnes and Noble and Target to waste a few hours before returning to base for the flight's show time. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1330, but changed courses and was now taking off at 1530. Good news for  us, it was a direct flight to McGuire. We checked our luggage, went through "security" and waited to board the plane. We sat in jump seats lining the inside of the cargo area of the plane. Super comfy- NOT. Chris however, got to sit in the extremely quiet C17 cockpit for the entire flight. He does his best to BS with the best of them, and he thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I, on the other hand, was hoping and praying that my pregnancy would not provoke motion sickness. I was lucky, and to be honest, it was better than riding in the back of a car.

Upon arriving at McGuire, I stayed to grab our bags and Chris ran to the counter to check in for the flight to Ramstein. Unfortunately, this is where we learned that a previous C5 flight to Ramstein had been cancelled. This means that anyone ahead of us in priority or check in time for that flight could bump us off. We were so close- just 2 seats away from making that flight. We knew there would be more flights to Ramstein, just not the same day. In the mean time, we met up with a great friend, Angela, whom we knew from pilot training days in Del Rio. She was so kind to welcome us back into her home and lend us her guest bedroom for as long as we needed. I'm pretty sure Koa and Zoe, her Labs, were even more ecstatic to see us unexpectedly.

We tried for a flight that next evening- it was cancelled for passengers, due to a full load of cargo. We discovered that Dover AFB had a flight to Ramstein in a few hours, so we hightailed it down the interstate at 10pm. We got checked in and found out it was a C5 flight. This meant two things: 1. Good news because a C5 will hold up to 70 passengers. 2. Bad news because C5s are notorious for breaking down and not flying when scheduled. Unfortunately after waiting 2 hours, we learned that this flight was also entirely filled with cargo, sparing no room for passengers. Crapola. Now we'd have to sit in the terminal until the morning and find our way back to McGuire for the next flight out to Ramstein. Luckily Chris had a good friend from ROTC stationed at Dover. We called Troy and Natalie and got to crash at their place for a few hours and actually get some sleep. (Trying to sleep sitting up in a military airport terminal is not exactly easy or successful.) We also got to meet his brand new daughter, Avery, just 3 weeks old. Such a sweet pea! Angela -thank goodness for Angela- drove back to Dover to pick us up and take us back home. I'm not sure what we would've down without her chauffeuring abilities. 

We finally made it out of McGuire on a C17 to Ramstein late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning. This flight was great. Being able to stretch out and sleep on the floor is amazing for a 9 hour flight, even if it is freezing cold. Alas, we ultimately arrived at Ramstein around 4 pm. Woo hoo!!! Not exactly how we planned to get from the US to Europe, but it was free. We'll take it, not to mention all of the wonderful people we got to reunite with and meet for the first time during our long layover on the east coast. Thanks everyone! We will definitely try to make another Space A trip again, except this next time will all be stateside. Maybe we'll take the chance to go and visit some of our many friends stationed across the country at various bases!?

Coming up : more on the big vacation overseas...

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