Supporting the Troops, Oakland Style

Full disclosure: I have not independently researched the validity of this email yet. Like Scott Thomas Beauchamp, this could turn out to be a lot of nothing.

However, with that said, it certainly seems par for the course for Oakland, which is right across the bay from ultra-left San Francisco, and if it's less well-known, it's certainly not that much less left-leaning.

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!"

(Name and unit removed - see update below.)
Given that this purports to be written by a chaplain, and both a full name and unit are given, I am inclined to trust its veracity until and unless credible evidence to the contrary is uncovered.

So, this is how they support the troops in Oakland.

UPDATE: A person claiming to be the brother of the chaplain who wrote the above email has written me, asking that I remove the author's name and unit. My initial reaction was to leave it in pending confirmation, which I left to National Review, where I originally found the email, citing their vastly superior ability to verify the person's identity. However, upon reconsideration, I am removing them at this time.

UPDATE II: Upon emailing with Michael Ledeen, who posted the original story, I have received confirmation--to my personal satisfaction, at least--of the brother's identity.

Also, in speaking to friends who are from the San Francisco area, I've not found any who found the idea of Oakland not permitting soldiers in the airport terminal outlandish. Of course, most of my friends are conservative, like me, so that may not be worth much, but I offer it for what it's worth. As one friend pointed out, Oakland is not that far from Berkley, and most people know how far left Berkley is.

UPDATE III (and bump): I have decided I owe Michael Ledeen a steak. He just pointed me to Michelle Malkin, who has completely confirmed the above story, even to receiving a response from the Port of Oakland, which runs the airport. Of course, as could be expected, they are trying to blame the charter airline and the Armed Forces, but it was still their final decision on how to treat our troops, and that speaks volumes.

Also worth noting is that while Oakland blames the Armed Forces for not receiving "clear communication" from the airline, there was apparently no such problem at JFK in New York. There are three possible explanations that I can see:
  1. The airline did communicate clearly with all airports along the planned route of the flight. This would be the most logical, as it can be assumed that the people doing the communicating are experienced at this sort of thing and know what is necessary.
  2. The airline did not communicate clearly with all airports along the flight route. As noted above, this is not very likely, as it can probably be safely assumed that the airline knows what it is doing.
  3. The airline communicated clearly with JFK but not Oakland. This is even less likely than #2 above. If they communicate clearly with one airport, why not all of them?
Of the three, I am sure that the Oakland people prefer #2 or #3. However, the most likely is still #1, which points to a problem at Oakland... either the Oakland airport staff did not properly handle the information from the airline--which I deem as unlikely as the airline not properly communicating; these are all professionals, after all--or they're desperately trying to cover their posteriors.

My money is on the latter, personally.