CORPS CONNECTIONS, FEATURES
By Kristine Schellhaas
Editor’s Note: Kristine Schellhaas is a Marine wife and writer for her blog “USMC Life”, an opinion based website which provides an overview of every major Marine Corps base focusing on providing specific base information, military housing and photos, schools, youth programs and sports, getting to and from each installation and popular links helpful to Marines and their families. The site also provides resources for fiancés and new military spouses, Tricare, military discounts, free money for education, moving and PCS tips, separating from the Corps and more.
I handed my Marine a cold beer, believing it’s a good way to start a difficult conversation. I knew I needed every advantage to propose this scheme to my husband: I wanted to take our family on vacation using the Space-A program. I had recently discovered that two of my friends navigated and successfully used Space A several times, so I made it my mission to take the family to Hawaii for spring break.
Of course, my husband was going to need convincing and deep down I knew he was not going to be comfortable gambling his leave with so many unknown variables involved (here is where the beer came in). After several discussions he hesitantly agreed. I had the green light and set out to research anything and everything to get us to Hawaii and back successfully.
Here is what I learned:
- Packing is crucial in Space A; a lot of planes have weight restrictions
- Don’t pack a bag more than 40 pounds to check (some flights have a 30-pound limit per person, per checked bag)
- Families traveling together may pool their baggage, but make sure you don’t exceed the 40 pounds limit per bag. We took one bag for the kids at 40 pounds, so we could have a bit more weight for the 10-pound carry on weight
- You can check pocket knives, large bottles of shampoo or other liquids if you like
- Car seats and strollers don’t count as weight or checked bags. FInd out what kind of airplane you will be on; you may decide to keep your small child in it (we did in the C-17)
- Everyone must wear closed-toe shoes
- List of prohibited items.
What to bring on a Space A Flight:
- Ear Plugs. If you have small kids, buy the earphones that block out noise. They are cheap and totally worth it. We didn’t need it for the flight down, but did on the way back.
- Snacks and water. You never know if they are going to offer snacks for sale or in-flight meals.
- Small sleeping bag. Most Marines have small sleeping bags that fold up really small which would be easy to check in case you don’t need it. Small blankets and the U-shaped pillows that wrap around your neck are always nice. We did see a guy with a cushy yoga mat — very smart if you don’t want to bring a blanket.
- Knit hat. You may want to bring one on the flight, I’ve been told that KC-135s are really cold.
- Register 45 days in advance for any airbase you think you might need to fly out of for your vacation. That includes airports in which you might take a transfer flight.
- You will need to register for each person flying with you. One e-mail is fine, but you will need to note the names and ages of any children with you, as well as the spouse name. Some airbases require social security numbers in advance.
- Some bases tell you what kind of plane each flight is, it may make a difference in whether or not you want to be on that plane. Some planes are really slow, such as the KC-135 planes and others.
- If you have passports for your children, bring them. If not, I highly encourage that you purchase them. You never know when you may need to travel internationally and passports are a much easier item to carry around than Birth Certificates.
- Hickam was asking for children’s social security numbers along with their Birth Certificates, but because we had passports for the kids, they didn’t bug us.
- Always bring a copy of your approved leave papers. They will ask for it at check-in.
- Travel Eligibility: We flew Category 3 for regular vacation leave. There are very few Category 1 and 2 people flying on the plane, which is why we ended up getting first priority. All of the retirees who were trying to get on the plane (Category 6, the lowest category) were able to fly successfully, although they do get bumped quite often.
- You must travel with your active-duty sponsor if you live in the Continental United States (CONUS) to use Space A
- If you are stationed overseas, in Alaska or Hawaii, then you are restricted to travel within your assigned theater and to/from CONUS , so long as you have a letter from his/her command.
- If your spouse is deployed, you may fly to and from your spouse’s location, but you need to have a letter from his/her command. No, you may not fly into a combat zone or dangerous area. There is no limit to how many times you can go back and forth, except to Korea, you may only go once for up to 30 days.
- Any of your dependents can fly with you as long as you have an ID card (if they’re older), or if they are young children, they need to be older than 6 weeks.
- If you are pregnant more than 34 weeks, you are not eligible to fly.
- Air Mobility Command
- John D’s Military Space A Travel Index
- Military Hops
- Dick Pepperd’s Message Board
- Military Travel