Edmonds Military Wire: the TSA vs. 233 Soldiers, a true story

By Michael Schindler

One of the benefits of my profession is being able to hear from service members and their families all across the country, if not across the world at times. This next story is a personal recount of events, brought to my attention by Sgt. Tracy. It is so ridiculous (which explains the expletives that we’ve cleaned up) that the event seems unreal. That being said, if you’ve flown in the past few months, you likely have your own stories to pass along — but this one will be hard to top. My question to you: What is the answer to something like this?

December 6, 2010
As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards. Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That’s where the stupid started.

First, everyone was forced to get off the plane — even though the plane wasn’t refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.

It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it reinspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to reinspect our Cargo-just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, reinspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You’re not supposed to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f*** out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

To top it off, the TSA demanded we all be swabbed for “explosive residue” detection. Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for “Gun Powder Residue”. Who the f*** is hiring these people?

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns — but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Can someone please tell me What the f*** happened to OUR country while we were gone?

Sgt. Mad Dog Tracy

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

  1. The TSA has been around for almost 10 years and is now spending over 8 billion dollars per year. Do you know how many terrorists they’ve caught? Zero!

    The TSA demands that you show a valid ID to enter the airport. All of the 9/11 terrorists had valid IDs and purchased tickets with their real names. So why do we have to show ID? Follow the money. The airlines support this policy because it means you can no longer sell your unused airline tickets like you once could.

    The TSA does not allow a pilot to carry a bottle of shampoo on board. That’s right. One of the only two people who could fly that plane into a building goes through an inspection to make sure he doesn’t have any bombs or weapons. Smart.

    Investigations have repeatedly found that weapons in carry-on luggage can be easily smuggled past TSA agents.

    Confiscating nail clippers is stupid enough. By why even prohibit knives? How is a terrorist going to highjack an airplane with a knife? Sure it was possible before they installed bulletproof armored doors in the cockpit, but no longer. If you brandished a knife today, half the passengers on the plane would fight to be the first person to tackle and disarm you.

    The TSA has just spent between $100,000 and $200,000 for the backscatter x-ray machines. It has been demonstrated that these machines cannot stop a terrorist from smuggling a bomb onto an aircraft. So why are they buying these machines? Follow the money. The companies that make them paid Michael Chertoff, former head of homeland security, to lobby for them. It worked.

    There is one genuinely dangerous organization in this county that fears the TSA. They are a well-funded organization that is present in all 50 states. The TSA is able to get whatever it wants from this organization. They call themselves the U.S. Congress.

    I used to fly several times a year, but no longer. It has become so time-consuming and degrading that all of the pleasure of flying is gone for me. (You can usually drive to Portland faster than you can fly there.) It was a hard decision for me because I love airplanes and know quite a few people who work at Boeing. So for the rest of you who don’t mind choosing between X-Rays and a little foreplay with a TSA agent, please keep flying. Boeing and the travel industry need people like you.

  2. Joe – the “luxury” of flying has been compromised, no question. And I do find it entertaining that they have fines in place for not complying with their demands. When was the last time a terrorist paid a fine?

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