Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Space -A Travel - An Adventure!

by Fred Wagner

As cadets, we were transported around in an organized manner, and occasionally managed a bit of Space-A travel on leave. After graduation, with a war on, things could get more interesting.

June 1968 - Arc-Light R&R - during our first Arc Light tour, we were authorized a week's leave. Most of us decided to meet our spouses in Hawaii. Our unit required us to buy Pan Am tickets both ways in advance, but could take a military hop if we could find one. Outbound, we landed from a mission, checked Anderson terminal, and we could make the weekly 'round the world C-141 out of Charleston if we hustled. We (CP, RN, NAV and EW) did, and it was my first experience on a C-141 - very civilized. R&R was memorable. The week was up, we checked the Hickam passenger counter, and there was another C-141 westbound, but it was leaving 30 minute AFTER our scheduled Pan Am flight. We called our outfit on Guam, and were OK'd to come via the C-141. We took off, and air aborted for a hydraulic problem. Nothing else westbound from the Passenger Terminal. We checked with SAC Operations (we knew where they were, we'd typhoon evac'd to Hickam with B-52's a few weeks before), and there was a KC-135 fighter-drag about to leave for Guam, with four F-4's. Normally no pax on a refueling mission, but we're crew members, so it's OK. ,If there are headwinds, we might have to stop at Wake for gas. There were, and we did. There isn't much at Wake, but Crew Scheduling knew we'd be late, so it worked out OK.

Summer 1972 - I'm working Bomber Ops at U-Tapao, we launch 13 cells between 1700L and midnight, 7 days a week. Lots of Briefings going on. We have a visiting Flight Surgeon who's scheduled to return to Guam with a redeploying Bomber sortie, but there's been a target change, and it's going on a 'threat' mission in NVN before heading for Guam - no non-crew on a threat mission! It's 2135L, and the FLS (Forward Logistics Support - daily KC-135 round robin - U-Tapao, Anderson, Kadena, U-Tapao, with parts, duty PAX, and Space-A) takes off at 2200L. I called the passenger terminal - the FLS has already taxied - but as the clerk says - it's your airplane!) I called the command post, have the FLS crew hold position and open their crew entry hatch, and the night DCO takes the Flight Surgeon out to catch the plane. He's got patients to see in the morning, and the medics take care of us, so we take care of them!

February 1973 - I'm back at Robins, on duty in the Command Post, there's no alert force, but we're supporting tanker deployments - and we have a KC-135 going to Spain with a stop at Westover. A phone call from a female Major at Tinker AFB - making sure that the KC for Spain can take passengers - yes, there's room. She's flying commercial from Oklahoma City to Macon to catch our tanker to Spain. An hour or two later, logistics takes priority. Something happened in Spain, but our KC-135 needs to go to Tinker AFB to pick up a Flap to take to Spain. That will put the crew duty day over 16 hours, and now they're not allowed to take passengers. A few hours later, the Major from Tinker calls, and I give her the news. Suggest she come to the command post. She walks in, wearing class-A's. With WINGS! She's a flight nurse - problem solved. We tell the crew to pencil her in on the flight orders, the Supervisor of Flying comes by to take her out to the KC for her ride to Spain - Via Tinker, where she just came from!

April 1973 - I'm headed back to U-Tapao on PCS, and I've arranged to PCS my family to Guam, where I'll be able to visit them on my shift breaks using the FLS (the SAC WestPac shuttle). We ship a car and 3000 lbs of household goods, and are command-authorized on Guam, just no government housing. We get to Guam, rent a car, rent an apartment, and I'm ready to head to U-Tapao, but my travel orders have me scheduled for a 4-day layover at Clark AB, Phillipines. I hadn't been to Clark before, didn't need anything there, had a better idea. Show up at Guam tanker ops, sign on as additional pilot on the FLS, get to U-Tapao directly - no need for a sponsor, I'm going to the same Bomber Ops job was TDY to in 1972.

Bomber Ops teams worked 12 hour shifts - four 12 hour night shifts, a 48 hour break, then four 12 hour day shifts, and a 96 hour break. With family on Guam, I'd have an overnight bag packed, get off duty at 1900 or so, and be on the 2200L FLS to Guam, arrive rested at 8AM, spend three days with the family, and on the 4th day catch the FLS back to U-T, sometimes direct, sometimes via Kadena. One morning when I got to Anderson OPS, they'd just bumped 20 PAX because they had to ship an engine to Kadena. I talked to the Tanker Ops folks, got written onto the flight orders, and my seat for takeoff was in the rest room. There's always a way

October 1973. Congress directed a bombing halt - I briefed the last mission on August 15th, and jumped on with the crew of number 3 airplane, and was on the last B-52 to drop bombs in the Vietnam War. An Andersen crew got the publicity - they dropped earlier in the evening, but it took them 5+ hours to get back to Anderson, so they landed later. We dropped about 2350L,and were on the ground by 1AM. Bomber Ops wasn't nearly as fast moving an operation without Bombing to do, and I had a couple of choices, took Command Post duty. 8 hour schedules - really civilized. Family in Guam.

U-Tapao Command post is a joint SAC-PACAF operation, with an Airlift Control Element. I watched the airlift schedules, and could see lots of traffic Yokota to U-Tapao. Space A! cool! Anderson had a weekly 'morale' flight - C-118 from Anderson to Yokota - my family was authorized to take it. We booked seats, arranged a week's leave, had my wife sell the household goods and the car (car and piano were snapped up quickly - very few people have pianos to sell on Guam!, and a wonderfully patient Air Force NCO neighbor in our apartments mailed what we didn't have time to, and we were at the Anderson OPS waiting for the C-118. The space-A people tell me there's a C-5A inbound from Hawaii, and normally it would go to Clark and couldn't take Space-A there, but there's a typhoon over the Phillipines, and it'll be going direct U-Tapao - IF it doesn't break and require maintenance (and a wait for parts!) at Anderson.

We decide to stick with the 'bird in the hand' - the C-118 to Yokota. We head out on the C-118. About an hour after takeoff, the loadmaster comes back to talk to us passengers - one of the engines is looking 'spooky' and they really hate to have to land at Iwo Jima to fix it, so we're going back to Guam. Check with the counter - the C-5! is STILL inbound, and it is still Code 1!

Stick with the 'bird in the hand'! The C-118 gets new spark plugs or something, and we're off to Yokota. Remember, this is October 1973. We get to Yokota, and check in for Space-A to U-Tapao. There is NONE. ZERO. While we were enroute from Guam, the Arabs and Israelis went to war (again), and all airlift has been diverted to the middle East! Now for Plan B.

We do have several books of travelers checks from selling the 1972 Torino (and a piano) on Guam, and there is commercial service from Tokyo to Bangkok. We check with SATO (Scheduled Airline Travel Office) in the Yokota terminal, and we can buy 5 tickets to Bangkok, leaving 3 days hence (only allowed 3 days in Japan without a Visa!) The tickets were about $250 per person - no military discount buying tickets outside of US Territory - but Pan Am recovered from the Guam-Hickam tickets I cashed in back in 1968!

Tokyo was neat, the Sanno Hotel had rooms AND child-care facilities, we were able to visit the Thai embassy and get a full 30-day renewable visa, and the 747-ride to Don Muang was very classy. We spent the night in a hotel in Bangkok (across from the Chao Phya) and took a taxi to Pattaya the next day, where I'd rented a 2-bedroom bungalow in a nice resort complex about 200 yards from the beach, and a 30-minute bus ride to U-Tapao. That's a another story - but this one isn't quite over.

The 'conventional wisdom' for non-command-sponsored dependents in Thailand was to give your passports to a travel agent, and let them 'handle' things, and get your passports back when it was time to leave the country. The day after we got to Pattaya, there was a revolution in Bangkok. We decided to keep the family passports, and had further adventures, renewing visas, re-entering Thailand, etc

Baggage forwarding - this isn't a Space-A Passenger topic, but it relates. While I was on duty in the Command Post at Fairchild, one of our returning Young Tiger crews discovered that they had a cold-weather flight bag from someone not on their crew, and the person who owned the bag was on his way West on YT. The crews had crossed at Hickam, and the bag got picked up by the homebound crew. Air Force folks are good at following directions. I made a couple of phone calls, and typed out a set of instructions, and put them in a plastic document protector on the bag. It went from Fairchild to Mather by the contract turboprop freighter (I forget what it was called, but they didn't take Space-A PAX, but they did haul cargo between bases). At Mather, they had a truck that made a run down to Castle - the bag went to Castle, to be put on the next Young Tiger deployer, to take to Hickam and on to Anderson and points west to catch up with the crew. A day a or two later we got confirmation that it had arrived.

Travel is, and always was, always an adventure!
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