Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Redeployed OIF, OEF Veterans being Mistreated?

There are still people that claim no one was spit on or discriminated against when they returned from Vietnam. I think we all know that isn't true. More surprising to me are all the emails I've received describing similar Vietnam era spitting and screaming incidents at airports, but these from Gulf War 1 veterans. Now the stories about mistreatment are starting to trickle in from OEF and OIF veterans...

Email from a Marine: "On September 27th 204 Marines and soldiers who were returning from Iraq were not allowed into the passenger terminal at Oakland International Airport. Instead they had to deplane about 400 yards away from the terminal where the extra baggage trailers were located.

This was the last scheduled stop for fuel and food prior to flying to Hawaii where both were based. The trip started in Kuwait on September 26th with a rigorous search of checked and carry on baggage by US Customs. All baggage was x-rayed with a "backscatter" machine AND each bag was completely emptied and hand searched. After being searched, checked bags were marked and immediately placed in a secure container.

Carry on bags were then x rayed again to ensure no contraband items were taken on the plane. While waiting for the bus to the airport, all personnel were in quarantined in a fenced area and were not allowed to leave.

The first stop for fuel/food and crew change was in Leipzig Germany. Troops exited the aircraft and took a bus to a reception area in the terminal, where there was a convenience store, phones, Internet and restrooms. As we excited the bus we were given a re-boarding pass. Three troops remained on the plane with the rifles and pistols. There was no ammunition on the plane and the bolts of the rifles had been
removed. After about 2 hours troops re-boarded the plane and flew to JFK in NY.

At JFK the procedure was similar to Germany, 3 troops stayed on the plane to guard weapons while the rest deplaned. At the gate we were each given a re-boarding pass and spent about 1.5 hours in the terminal, at which time we re-boarded and flew to
Oakland.

As we came in for the final approach to Oakland a Lieutenant who served in Afghanistan with the same unit in 2006 mentioned how when they landed in Oakland they were not allowed in the terminal. He said, "they made us get out by the FED EX building and we had to sit out there for 3 hours". He also indicated he was almost arrested by the TSA for getting belligerent about them not letting the Marines into the terminal.

Well the same thing happened again. This time we did not park by the FED EX building, instead we were offloaded near the grass that separates the active runway from the taxi ramp, about 400 yards from the terminal. When we inquired why they wouldn't allow us in the airport they gave us some lame excuse that we hadn't been screened by TSA. While true, the screening which we did have was much more thorough than any TSA search and was done by US Customs.

Additionally, JFK didn't seem to have a problem with our entering their terminal, nor did security in Germany.

It felt like being spit on. Every Marine and soldier felt the message loud and clear, "YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN OAKLAND!" (source)

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