Memorandum Ensures Redeploying Troops Get Access to Airports

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2008 - The Defense Department, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration have signed a memorandum of understanding that will give servicemembers access to commercial airports as they are transiting to and from combat zones.

The memo covers all members of the armed forces, DoD civilians and contractor personnel.

The memorandum is a response to an October incident at Oakland International Airport. A chartered aircraft carrying about 200 Marines from Iraq back to their home station in Hawaii landed for fuel and food. Citing security concerns, airport officials shunted the plane to a remote location at the airport. The Marines were allowed to deplane and stretch their legs, but were not allowed to enter terminal areas, where some had arranged to meet with family members.

"The MOU is an agreement that standardizes policies [and] improves communication, and it standardizes procedures so that security requirements are met at airports," Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Holmes, assistant for transportation policy at the Pentagon, said.

The memo ensures that all parties understand their requirements as servicemembers redeploy from combat zones and that weapons are not introduced into commercial terminals.

"This makes sure the weapons on board the aircraft are secure while they are parked at a commercial gate," Holmes said. "The MOU allows the troops to get off the airplane and use the facilities in the airport, if the stop is going to be for more than one hour. It's so they can be treated with respect."

The memo lists what troop commanders must do to ensure security needs are met. Included is posting weapons monitors at all aircraft exits at commercial gates. It also includes monitoring all ground support personnel performing catering, cleaning and maintenance services during the stops.

Transportation Security Administration officials will work with DoD personnel in training armed forces personnel to ensure they understand the security needs of various airports. The Federal Aviation Administration will inform all appropriate personnel in the air traffic and airport communities of the procedures.

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