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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Space A Magic

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Space A Magic

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I know for many of us, flying Space A is a big unknown.  I've only flown twice myself, as a military dependent many years ago.  We waited many days in Dover, Delaware trying to catch that perfect flight to Germany to visit my grandparents.  It's clear in my mind that we went to the terminal every day, only to be told there was no flight that day or that a previously scheduled flight was cancelled.  We made the best of it, enjoying the shore and some beach time and luckily, my parents had budgeted to stay in a hotel off post nearby.  We waited just about a week.  The flight we ended up taking was a military craft with the seats suspended inside.  So this is what the guts of a plane looks like I remember thinking.  But what sticks out the most in my mind was a mid-air refueling training mission (yes, they did warn us), and WOW, it was enough to make you think you were riding a roller coaster...up and down...up and down...enough to make you blow your lunch which the air crew handed out in little boxes a few hours before.  One of our readers, Jo recently flew Space A and offers these tips for us below.

  • The first and most important thing to remember is that Space-A is a privilege, not a right. If you aren't on an open schedule (meaning, come and go as you please) then it's VERY important to have a back-up plan).

  • Where are you trying to go? What is your closest AF Base that can get you there or somewhere you can transfer from? Some bases have regularly scheduled flights (ex: On Monday, Wednesday and Saturday there is a flight departing XX base, and it stops at YY and ZZ).

  • Visit this link to get an idea of where some of the bases' frequent stops are located.

  • Have all your valid and required paperwork to travel. Are you flying with or as a servicemember? They/You will need to be on leave before they can even 'register' for Space A. If you're flying and your spouse is currently deployed, you will need a letter from his CoC stating you are allowed to fly Space A while the servicemember is out in theater. This letter needs to include your information, along with any traveling dependents and your spouse's information as well.  You will also need to bring proof that you are command sponsored, meaning that you were included on his orders to his current duty station.  The S-1 or admin folks of your husband's unit can type that up for you.

  • REGISTER - Once you have an idea of where you would like to go, register with the bases that you may be flying out of. You can register in person, by fax or via email. Sign-Up email addresses can be found here.

  • If a servicemember is traveling, they CANNOT register until they are ON leave. The email you send needs to include leave start and end date. If you are traveling sans SM, scan and email a copy of your CoC issued travel letter. Email any and every base you may be using. Better to be safe than sorry. Registering early is important because if there are three Active Duty (AD) Category 3 personnel on leave trying to fly, the person who registered FIRST gets priority. Once you register, it is active for 90 days (or 60 days, so double check) so you won't need to register every single time you fly so long as it's within that timeframe.

  • You should receive a confirmation letting you know that you are registered. If you don't receive it in 24 hours, call the base. It's possible that they may have an incorrect email listed. Be proactive and don't make assumptions. Again, it's better to be safe than sorry.

  • All that squared away? Great! Now you're probably wondering "well, how do I know when the flight is?". Most bases do not provide a flight schedule earlier than 72 hours out. Some have automated answering services that give you a destination and how many tentative seats there are and a "showtime". Showtime is when you need to be checked in by. Continue to call everyday within that 72 hour gap to make sure the flight info is accurate. They are subject to change (this happened to us) and you could get stranded somewhere you didn't intend on staying.

  • Please pack a sweater or blanket in your carryon, especially if you are flying overnight. You won't know what type of aircraft you'll be on and a C-17 can get very cold. We shivered our entire trip to the east coast. Lesson learned for us.

  • Show up! Make sure you have your proper IDs, Passport (if going overseas), and bring your CoC issued letter or Leave form. Although you may have submitted it, keep it on you. I'd also print out a copy of any confirmation messages or emails you may have received showing your 'registration' date. Once you arrive at the AMC Terminal you will mark yourself' present' so they know you would like to take a flight out. Afterward, you'll wait until they call your name. This is done by category. If you are flying with an Active Duty (AD) servicemember, then you'll be category 3 and for the most part, you're at the head of the line. The only categories flying ahead of you are Emergency Leave or those on PCS orders.

  • Have a safe flight! flying Space-A may not be the most convenient in terms of time, secured seats or comfort but it's free! I'll deal with all of that vs paying an outwards of 1000K for a flight overseas.

  • Thanks so much Jo for your input.  Stay tuned where Jo will talk about her family's personal experience in an upcoming blogpost.  The only think I would add...and try to pound in your head, you absolutely have to be flexible and need to have the time to do this.  If you want to try to use it during the summer, I would definitely re-think that.  It is the heaviest PCS travel season, and you could be trying to get on a flight for days.  If you have the time and patience, go for it....if not, find an alternate means of travel.  I believe MAC flights also only take you to the first point of entry in the US.  You need to keep that in mind when planning the rest of your transportation to your final destination.  Will you grab a commercial flight the rest of the way?  Rent a car?  Have family come get you?  Have it all planned out including alternate ideas.  MAC flights may only get you so close, and the rest of the plan is yours to figure out.

    Something interesting I have found when friends have traveled from Germany, is that every plane can be different.  Do you know the G5s have space sometimes?  Yes, I know it's a $50 million aircraft!  Yes, I recently read about a military wife who rode a G5 plane from Korea to the US....plush leather seats and personal service usually reserved for generals. How she snagged that, I don't know.  I owuld post the link with her happy smiling child...but I can't find it, sorry!  Coming out of Ramstein, be prepared for flights loaded with wounded going back stateside...some in fairly grave condition.  I had a friend who passed on one of those flights, because she was afraid to expose her children to so many injured soldiers.  I am not saying that was right or wrong, just something to think about when accepting a flight or not.  You may even have a flight with NO SEATS.  Yes, I had a friend fly on a military craft that didn't have any, and there must have been many veteran Space Aers on the flight, as they rolled out their sleeping bags and hung out using their pillows as luggage!

    One more resource to throw your way, be sure to check out the AMC's Space A Facebook page.  It's a great resource and what a great way to get your questions answered should you have any.  If anyone has any other sites or stories to share, please do so below.  I would love to hear them!

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    Blogger edith said...

    Really really great post! Super helpful. It's so difficult to figure out the procedure for Space A and this spells it out pretty succintly!

    August 4, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
    Anonymous Sam said...

    I've only done Space-A once and it was years ago. The main thing I remember (and have heard through the years) was plan on several days of waiting and, as your post says, have a back-up plan.
    Thanks for all the good tips!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:54 PM  
    Blogger RetroRocketGal said...

    We've flown Space-A a few times, both as active duty and retired. Lots of fun! Not always easy to get a flight back, though. Yes, you must have a back-up plan.

    August 4, 2011 at 5:54 PM  
    Blogger Crikey mUm said...

    Just found your blog and LOVE it. I'm stationed (spouse) in Rota, just down the road from you. My blog:

    I'm an Aussie married to a yankee stationed in Spain...that's a mouthful. I love your honesty and no bullshit posts...thank you.

    August 4, 2011 at 10:21 PM  
    Blogger rscuderi said...

    Just found your blog. It's fabulous! I have posted about your blog on my blog and added you to my Fav Blogs list.
    Thanks for being out there.

    August 8, 2011 at 5:26 PM  
    Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

    Thanks ladies! I will certainly have to check out your blogs!

    August 9, 2011 at 4:54 AM  
    Anonymous Teresa said...

    I am currently doing this...and documenting it as I go. We have been stuck for a week in Dover. Yes, being stuck all week encouraged me to blog about it. :)

    August 19, 2011 at 4:26 AM  

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