San Antonio International Airport was dotted with camouflage Wednesday as service members from the Army, Navy and Air Force checked baggage and made their way through security lines.
More than 3,000 servicemembers from local military installations arrived at San Antonio airport on their way home for the holidays.
They were a young crowd, relatively new to the military. Most were between the ages of 18 and 21, seizing their first opportunity to take leave.
“So around 3 o’clock in the morning, we started pushing soldiers out, basically, to their homes,” said Army Capt. Elisabeth Glass, who was part of the cadre guiding servicemembers through the airport. “They'll be gone for the next couple of weeks for holiday block leave. They come in waves of 300 or 400 soldiers. So it's quite a large operation each year.”
The yearly military exodus is a coordinated effort that includes the airlines and the Transportation Security Administration, as well as a number of city departments and volunteers.
Tonya Hope, public relations manager with San Antonio International Airport, said things have gone smoothly so far.
“I haven't seen any hiccups,” Hope said. “You know, we plan for everyone to start arriving at 2:30 a.m., and it's the military, so they were here at 2:30 a.m., and they were processed.”
But, Hope added, it was no coincidence. Getting ready for this volume of travelers was months in the making.
“Our team is prepared for heavy crowds, and so every year we start planning six to seven months prior to the December month for these kinds of numbers,” she said. “We want to make sure that when they arrive, they're not standing at the gate for a long period of time. So we have employees come in early just to help process them.”
Airman 1st Class Giles Kristin arrived at the airport by midmorning and was preparing to head to the gate. She said she's enjoyed her first three months in the military, but she's ready to see her loved ones again.
“I am traveling today, heading back home —South Carolina is home — for the holidays to enjoy my family and food,” she said. “My dad's very excited to come pick me up.”
The same was true for Army Private 2nd Class Adam Holt, who was starting his journey back to New York. He’s six months into advanced individual training, which follows basic training.
“I'm definitely ready, yeah. Been looking forward to it,” he said. “I just got to go through the security line, and it looks like there's nobody really there.”
San Antonio International Airport expects more military personnel to depart on Friday.
Carson Frame can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @carson_frame