ARCHIVE

House Bill Lets Soldiers Keep Their Combat Boots On at Airports


Battle-weary members of the military who have completed tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan would face one less hassle on the trip home if legislation passes the House today rewriting the rules for airport security screening of the armed forces.
 
“Our soldiers who are putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere should be afforded extra respect when returning home to their loved ones and shouldn’t be viewed as potential terrorists in our airports,” said Rep. Chip Cravaack (R.-Minn.), the bill’s sponsor.
 
“This legislation would require TSA [the Transportation Security Administration] to develop a separate screening process for military personnel flying on civilian aircraft—it is past due for so many of our nation’s heroes serving our great country,” Cravaack said.
 
The legislation requires the TSA to create an expedited new system within six months for all members of the U.S. armed forces as well as their families traveling on official orders.
 
The new protocols include screening guidelines for military uniforms and combat boots, with the goal to reduce wait times and other inconveniences.
 
The need for new procedures first came to light several years ago when 200 Marines and soldiers were detained at the Oakland International Airport and denied access to the passenger terminal during a layover from Iraq to the troops’ home base in Hawaii.
 
Although that layover on Sept. 27, 2007, was intended as the final stop for fuel and food, the troops were actually denied access to the airport for food and the indoor bathroom facilities.
 
It “felt like being spit on,” one Marine later reported to Rep. John Mica (R.-Fla.), who now chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
 
An Inspectors General’s investigation of the incident later revealed there was no policy between the Pentagon and TSA to screen members of the military to allow them into the airport.
 
But Cravaack said he wrote the legislation after watching a soldier in uniform undergo the laborious and sometimes humiliating TSA screening process.
 
“I said, this is just wrong,” Cravaack told the editorial board of the Duluth News Tribune last week.
 
“Here’s this guy who literally could have been in a firefight [a few hours earlier], and now he has to go through an extensive search—when he should be a trusted agent,” Cravaack told the board.  “These guys just want to go home.”
 
The new screening process would use resources the TSA already has at its disposal to vet military men and women.
 
Members of the United States Armed Forces and their families comprise a low-risk population that is ideally suited for an expedited security screening process, Cravaack said.