After spending nearly a month with dad traveling all over the world to try various cases, Aubrey and I decided it was time to take advantage of the Space A program and make a trip back to the states.
Coincidentally, the week we decided to go was the week Will got home, and would actually be home for a while. But our bags were semi-packed and our family was anxiously awaiting our visit.
It was tough leaving dad though, especially since it had been so long since we had seen him.
Space A, which stands for Space Available is a military travel program that allows active duty, dependents, and retirees to take advantage of the extra space on planes to travel around the world.
As long as you can be flexible, you can “hop” almost anywhere you want to go – or at least to a location near where you want to go.
The planes vary from a regular commercial airline setup, to various cargo planes such as a C-17, which is what Aubrey and I ended up on.
Each Space A base has a mission, which means they have certain routes they fly somewhat regularly. Additionally, there is a rotator flight that stops at Incirlik, Aviano, Ramstein, and BWI on a weekly basis. Flights are posted 72 hours in advance, although many times the final number of seats available aren’t known until just before the flight leaves.
Aubrey and I barely made it on the flight home as they had only planned 6 seats, and we made 7 people total. Thankfully they were able to rework the cargo to make room for us.
I had our things laid out to go, and planned to start looking for flights a few days after Will got home. There had been plenty of flights back to Charleston in previous weeks, but of course the one week we needed one, none had been posted. As luck would have it, Aubrey woke up in the middle of the night one night (she normally sleeps through) and wouldn’t go back to sleep. So while nursing her I happened to check the terminal website and saw a flight going out the next morning with a 09:45 roll call. So, at 2 am I took a shower, did a load of laundry, got all of our things into suitcases, and told a sleepy Will that we needed to be at the terminal at 9:30 the next morning.
It was a bit hectic, but once we were on things were pretty smooth. We were supposed to overnight in Rota, Spain, but after getting settled on the plane, the crew informed us they had decided to just do a short refueling stop. These are the kinds of things you have to be prepared for. Almost nothing is set in stone with these flights. So when we arrived in Spain I frantically tried to cancel the room I had booked at lodging that night.
The great thing about flying in cargo planes is that in general things are very laid back, and you are free to spread out and make yourself comfortable. I had been told it would be cold so I packed plenty of blankets for Aubrey, and layers for myself. I also packed my camp pad to inflate for us to sleep on. In reality, it was MUCH colder than I had anticipated. Even with pants, shoes, and two of the fleece blankets the crew handed out, I still thought my feet were going to freeze off. I also only got Aubrey to sleep for any length of time once, and there was no room for mom on the pad.
Other awesome advantages is getting to avoid the normal chaos of security and boarding procedures as with commercial airlines, and the fact that the crew is more than willing to help you tote your stroller, or bags or whatever. It was seriously one of the most easy and stress free (once we finally had seats secured I mean) experiences I’ve ever had.
After about 24 hours of flying and a couple of 1.5 hour layovers, we finally landed in Charleston where my Dad picked us up and drove us the final 4ish hours home.
For the trip back I started watching the flights a week ahead of time, deciding that if nothing went to Germany out of Charleston, that we would fly to BWI and catch the rotator. Normally it has well over a 100 seats available each week, and is pretty dependable for a standard flight schedule. It just so happened that there was a flight leaving for Ramstein that weekend. So my parents drove us back down to the base, and waited with us till it was time to board.
Another factor to consider with Space A, is that it does require quite a bit of time. you must sign in as present for roll call BEFORE the actual role call. Then you have to wait through roll call to see if your name is selected for one of the available seats. Then, it is normally around 3 hours after the roll call that the plane actually departs. For this flight we used that time to run to the BX and acquire a cheap sleeping bag and pillow so we could combat the cold on the plane.
This flight has a lot more passengers, and everyone laid out once we were in the air.
We also managed to catch a few winks thankfully.
We made to it Ramstein with the plan to catch a flight going to Incirlik the next morning. But in true Space A fashion, that flight never made it out of it’s origin due to maintenance issues. Then every flight to Turkey, including the rotator, was cancelled. So I finally made the decision to just buy a commercial ticket and get home. Luckily having at least gotten overseas, the tickets weren’t too expensive to get from Germany to Turkey, and that night we were back with Will finally sleeping in our own beds again.
It was an experience. And I’m beyond grateful that we were able to go home without it costing us a fortune. I think we will need some time to recover before we could do it again, but we would highly recommend it to anyone with a few days to spare and places to go!