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Gateway To Afghanistan David Wasson

THURSDAY, DEC. 9, 2010

Nominee predicts continued U.S. presence at Manas

The woman nominated by the White House to serve as the next ambassador to Kyrgyzstan predicts Manas Transit Center will be available to the U.S. military for as long as it's needed. In comments before the U.S. Senate panel considering her confirmation, nominee Pamela Spratlen...

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MONDAY, DEC. 6, 2010

TUESDAY, NOV. 30, 2010

Wiki Leaks: Manas, China, Russia -- and Prince Andrew

The U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, is in the international spotlight for her detailed description of a 2008 meeting in Bishkek with a surprisingly candid Prince Andrew and British business representatives in a communique that's among the thousands of secret diplomatic cables disclosed online...

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SATURDAY, OCT. 23, 2010

Experts warn against continued tanker delays

Two defense experts stepped up the pressure this week to end the political debate over the next generation aerial refueling tanker, and move forward -- even while acknowleding that another round of delays is possible, at least in the short term.Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS...

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FRIDAY, OCT. 22, 2010

Compare and contrast

Airman 1st Class Travis Carter had been in Baghdad when combat operations dwindled and he found out he'd be redeployed to Kyrgyzstan.Initially worried about what it would be like, he's now glad to be at Manas, assigned to the logistics and readiness squadron. He helps...

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WEDNESDAY, OCT. 20, 2010

Col Dwight Sones, commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing in Kyrgyzstan, has made community outreach a key focus of the U.S. air base. The base hosted an estimated 2,000 Kyrgyz visitors Oct. 18, 2010 for tours and demonstrations celebrating the more than 600 civilians from the Bishkek area who work at the Manas Transit Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

From 'need to know' to 'need to share'

Manas commanders regularly struggle with what they consider flawed perceptions of the U.S. air base's military role showing up in Russian, Kyrgyz and other predominantly foreign media. So, Manas is turning inside out the military's precautionary mindset that all information be guarded on a “need...

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TUESDAY, OCT. 19, 2010

Hungry Caterpillar reaches Kyrgyzstan

Some things are universal.And now it would seem safe to add “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to that list.The 1969 children's classic by Eric Carle became an instant hit with a roomful of Kyrgyz preschoolers this week, read to them by Tech Sgt. Trish Newton and...

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Spotlight on aging tanker fleet

Stars and Stripes today rolled out a Page One examination of America's aging KC-135 fleet, questioning whether two wars have put too much strain on aircraft designed in the 1950s and facing replacement delays because of mishaps, scandal and politics.It's a good overall read, and...

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SUNDAY, OCT. 17, 2010

Manas Transit Center���s bladder farm can hold nearly 4 million gallons of fuel, most of it aviation grade. Deliveries arrive from Bishkek around the clock, keeping the 20 bladders filled, each of which can hold 200,000 gallons. It takes four to five tarmac fuel trucks to prepare a KC-135R Stratotanker for each refueling mission. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

When a full bladder is a good thing 

There's a saying among KC-135 crews that goes something like, "You can't kick ass without tanker gas." It's a not-so-subtle way of reminding hotshot fighter jocks that the range and versatility of their sleek, high-powered strike jets -- particularly when fully armed -- would be...

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An F/A-18E Super Hornets from the decorated U.S. Navy attack squadron VFA 105, commonly known as the "Gunslingers," were among the half dozen fighter jets refueled Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 above Afghanistan by a Fairchild-based KC-135R Stratotanker and crew on deployment in Kyrgyzstan. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

`Gunslingers' on patrol over Afghanistan

Two F/A-18E Super Hornets from the decorated U.S. Navy attack squadron VFA 105, commonly known as the "Gunslingers," were among the half dozen fighter jets refueled Saturday above Afghanistan by a Fairchild-based KC-135 tanker and crew on deployment in Kyrgyzstan.The carrier-based strike fighters rely on...

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Two beer limit

One of the surprises at Manas is its selection of beer, which includes an edgy, high-octane Russian import called "9" that blends a bit of vodka with the hops. And it's just $2 a bottle.But you'd be wise to savor each sip because the base...

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A boneyard of Soviet era planes sits on the edge of the Manas International Airport. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Relics of Soviet past

The U.S. air base shares the same runway as Bishkek's commercial airport, which is littered with decaying aircraft from Kyrgyzstan's recent Soviet past. Many of the Soviet-era buildings around the airport, some still in use, show severe deterioration as well.Dozens of dilapidated aircraft -- ranging...

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A Turkish meal serve from a shipping container was a welcome change from the normal base food. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Turkish surprise

The best-kept dining secret at Manas Transit Center is a Turkish cafeteria operating in a converted cargo container.It's surprisingly clean, quaint and delicious -- the kind of place that would steal the show if the Food Network ever did a Kyrgyzstan edition of its TV...

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SATURDAY, OCT. 16, 2010

During Family and Friends Day at the Manas Transit Center Saturday, Airman 1St Class Joseph Riemer with the Explosive Ordinance Disposial, has his photo taken with Kyrgyz resident Louiza Abdullaeva. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Bonding with Americans

Bishkek lawyer Louiza Abvullaeva, decked out in leather pants, stilletto heals and a designer T-shirt, was among the estimated 2,000 Kyrgyz residents to visit Manas Transit Center during the air base's annual Friends and Family Day on Saturday.“I have a bond with American people,” Abvullaeva...

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FRIDAY, OCT. 15, 2010

On the flight line at the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, Dustin Harder, a jet engine mechanic with the 141st Washington Air National Guard Air Refueling Wing, cleans the fuel filters on a engine of a KC-135R Stratotanker. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Welcome to Manas

The Manas Transit Center's latest tanker landed Friday at the Kyrgyzstan base, unloading two pallets of coats, blankets and other humanitarian supplies collected from across the Inland Northwest.The supplies will be distributed in villages and schools within the impoverished Central Asian nation by Air Force...

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From left to right, Daniel Goodman, senior airman, and Josh Myers and Antonio Rapp, both airmen 1st class, sit aboard a KC-135R Stratotanker flight form Fairchild Air Force Base to Kyrgyzstan, where they're deploying to Manas Transit Center and will help deice aircraft this winter. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Preparing for winter

The temperature in Bishkek when the KC-135 landed at Manas was in the low 70s, a bit of an October oddity for this part of Central Asia, but five of the Fairchild-based airmen aboard are a reminder that winter is on the way.They are the...

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THURSDAY, OCT. 14, 2010

Halfway there

For all the discomfort of long-distance military flying, there is this distinct advantage: A flight crew with a keen sense for keeping a plane steady and an enviable ability to smoothly put a gigantic jet onto just about any runway.RAF Mildenhall, north of London near...

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WEDNESDAY, OCT. 13, 2010

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...

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TUESDAY, OCT. 12, 2010

Departure delayed

Mechanics plan to work through the night to figure out what's wrong with the jet's steering.Given the delay, the pilot and crew scrubbed the possibility of a Tuesday takeoff, opting instead for a Wednesday afternoon departure.

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Our KC-135R Stratotanker is prepped for takeoff from Fairchild Air Force Base Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010. We are headed to RAF Mildenhall, England, then on to Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan.

Don't forget your earplugs

The KC-135 is loaded and the deployment briefing is done. In addition to learning how to thwart potential hijackers, earplugs were passed out. Apparently, flying in a refueling tanker is quite a bit noisier than commercial jets. It's also so cold that sleeping bags are...

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MONDAY, OCT. 11, 2010

No clear mandate from Kyrgz voters

Attitudes about the U.S. supply base at Manas vary among the five political parties that apparently will have to share control of Kyrgyzstan following Sunday's historic vote. Although the Manas Transit Center was a factor in the campaigns, with some calling for its eviction but...

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THURSDAY, OCT. 7, 2010

David Wasson oversees coverage of politics and state and local government and assists with editing on the City Desk.

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