Take me away Space-A

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Hong
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Attention Traditional Reservists! We are eligible for CONUS Space-A travel. We have been eligible to utilize this benefit for a long time now. Yet, I was the only Category VI Traditional Reservist on a recent round trip flight to Kalaeloa, Hawaii.

Category VI is the lowest category of Space-A travel available for eligible individuals. This category includes retired veterans, dependents, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets, Nuclear Propulsion Officer candidates and Civil Engineer Corps members. In my case, all I needed was my CAC card and a completed DD Form 1853, Verification of Reserve Status for Travel Eligibility.

The Kalaeloa trip was broadcasted through the passenger terminal 72 hours prior to take-off but, given the short notice, it is difficult for most people to hop onto a last minute trip across the Pacific Ocean.

According to the Air Mobility Command’s website, “Space-A seats are normally identified as early as three-four hours and as late as 30 minutes prior to departure.”

According to Master Sgt. Michael Thalman, 514th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, “They don’t spread the word.”

Unfortunately, operational security and mission requirements mandate that opportunities like this won’t be known to the general public. What needs to be understood is that, despite the good wishes of the hard working aerial port and flight crew members, Space-A is a privilege, not a right.

Second Lt. Ronniese Hamilton of the 305th Aerial Port Squadron advises that you check your travel eligibility often and be aware of the different holidays that may impact fluctuations in the number of passengers traveling. According to Hamilton, Space-A is a luxury. It’s their job to get as many people on the plane, however, it is solely based on available seats.

This particular trip was unique in that it was a roundtrip flight returning to JB-MDL. The plane, a C-17 Globemaster III, would land at Barber’s Point, Hawaii, where there was no passenger terminal where new passengers could be manifested on the return trip.

Normally, if passengers wish to return to their point of origin, they could not start the sign-up process for their trip until they landed.

That being said, there are very few Traditional Reservists who utilize Space-A to travel within the continental United States. This is especially true at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

According to Staff Sgt. Jessica Colak, 305th Aerial Port Squadron, very few reservists actually end up flying Space-A.

“There’s a lot of times we have the seats but it’s a waste because no one signs up for it,” she says. Flying Category VI as a traditional reservist can be a gamble. Tammy Martin of the 514 Air Mobility Wing, command support staff, says, “If you can’t afford the return ticket, don’t bother.”

This article is not meant to discourage you from attempting to fly Space-A. Instead, you need to get squared away on the nuts and bolts of the process. This means checking your eligibility on the DoD Instruction 4515.13, Air Transportation Eligibility, before asking a passenger terminal employee. Remember that seat availability is subject to change up to the moment that the plane takes off.

Once you are comfortable with the process, understand that both the passenger terminal employees and the flight crew members do everything within their reasonable power to open up seats for Space-A travelers. According to Lt. Col. Irvin, 732nd Airlift Squadron commander, “We will often call the PAX terminal and ask ‘how many people have you got over there?’ and we will try to get as many people on the flight as we can.”

In the past, flights have left McGuire for: Hawaii; Key West, Fla.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Charleston, S.C.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Tinker AFB, Okla.; Louisville, Ky.; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Royal Air Force Mildenhall , Great Britain; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Please keep in mind that Category VI reservists cannot fly outside of the United States. If you are a reservist placed on active duty for more than 30 days and you take ordinary leave, overseas locations for you and your dependents are available to you as Category III traveler.
Remember, always check your eligibility on the most recent DOD Instruction 4515.13.

Flexibility is the key to airpower!

So, are you ready to take that hop on Space-A?

* See DODI 4515.13 for a complete listing.

Category I - Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel. Transportation by the most expeditious routing only for bona fide immediate family emergencies, as determined by DoD Instruction 1327.06 and Military Service regulations.*
Category II – Accompanied environmental and morale leave (EML). *
Category III - Ordinary leave, relatives, house hunting permissive TDY, Medal of Honor holders, and foreign military.*
Category IV - Unaccompanied EML.*
Category V - Permissive TDY (Non-House Hunting), students, dependents, post deployment/mobilization respite absence, and others.*
Category VI – Retired, dependents, reserve, Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidates and Civil Engineer Corps members.*