By Alan Fleck
The logistics of transporting thousands of service members from training at military bases throughout the United States to their holiday leave locations and back is called ‘the EXODUS.’ In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, DFW airport serves as the hub for transferring troops from buses to airplanes and vice-versa along their journeys. The troops in our general geographic area usually train in Fort Sill, OK or Fort Hood, TX.
Rather than leaving transferring troops to fend for themselves during the holiday leave, the EXODUS creates a pleasant transfer process, beginning with special amenities. At DFW, this includes DFW Airport partnering with the airlines, concessions, and airport police to make the transfer as easy and enjoyable as possible. USO personnel provide greetings and refreshments, as well as assistance with obtaining the correct size of plastic bags to use to carry personal hygiene items in backpacks through security.
Kelsey Young, DFW Airport Business Communications Specialist, outlined the path of arriving troops on buses, who were then ‘politely’ directed by drill sergeants to form tight lines and formations while waiting for their next instructions. Next, the troops clear security and go to the secure side of the airport. It should be noted the drill sergeants take holiday leave as well, so they are concerned about the EXODUS proceeding smoothly.
“I am hoping it’s a positive experience,” said Captain David Johnson, Battery Commander, referring to getting the trainees to their correct flights. Johnson was traveling to his hometown of Memphis, Tenn.
The entire EXODUS takes place in reverse when the troops after the holiday.
Once through Security, troops are able to interact with a therapy dog, and buy discounted concessions. The EXODUS occurs during a less busy time at the airport so as to impact the rest of the flying public as little as possible. Because the troops moved through the airport around midnight, most of them had 4 to 6 hours of quiet time before their flights.
All of the troops were polite and seemed appreciative of the services provided by the EXODUS organizers.
Private Charles Dickey of the National Guard started his current round of basic training for artillery in September.
“This is the most excited I have been since I was five years old,” Dickey said of returning home to Minnesota.
Private Kyler Nishioka Lani, travelling from Fort Sill to Maui, is from the Hawaiian island of Molokai, which is much less touristy than the rest of Hawaii. Lani has not told anyone he is coming home.
“My family always goes to a specific beach on Molokai, and I am just going to show up and surprise everyone,” Lani said.