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Gateway To Afghanistan

Dispatches from Manas

Kyrgyzstan bound

This is a different way of flying.

Cargo is tied to the sides of the interior fuselage. Pallets are strapped to the floor. You carry your own food. There’s just two window seats, and those are actually benches. There’s just one bathroom.

Even with the removable airline-style seats added to the cargo area to help accommodate the additional passengers on this particular flight, the KC-135R is uncomfortable, cold and noisy.

Of course, the jet wasn’t designed for passenger comfort.

It’s the picture of functional utility – the backbone of the U.S. Military’s global reach. The aerial refueling tanker excels at keeping thirsty combat jets in the air, extending the length of time they’re available and ready to pounce when NATO ground troops need support. And it extends the range of military cargo jets carrying troops, supplies and humanitarian aid to where ever it’s needed.

Fairchild airmen who’ve made the two-day trip to Manas Transit Center have developed a time-tested way of coping with the long, cold, noisy flight: sleep.

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About this blog

Fairchild Air Force Base supplies 80 percent of the military aircraft and flight crews operating out of Manas Transit Center, a key hub along one of the primary NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. The small base, located outside the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, is barely 400 miles from the Afghan border.


Colin Mulvany is a staff photographer for The Spokesman-Review.

David Wasson is a deputy city editor for The Spokesman-Review.

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