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From the Eastern U.S. to the Western Pacific: Our Space-A Adventure

By Marc and Robin Stewart

My husband, LCDR Marcus “Marc” W. Stewart, Jr., USN (Ret.), and I thought about Space Available (better known as Space A) military travel but hadn’t a clue where or how to start. Military Living® proved instrumental in our self-education.

Marc is retired but I still worked full-time. It seemed our schedules would never sync enough to try for a Space A trip. That changed in November 2018 when my position was eliminated. Suddenly, time was on our side! We immediately began digging into learning as much as possible about Space A.

First, where to go? As an aviation artist, Marc is also a bit of a historian. He loves WWII, specifically the war in the Pacific theatre. Could we get to Guam? It was a Space A destination, so all we could do was try. Beyond Guam, we had aspirations to also visit Saipan and Tinian—also sites of major WWII Pacific battles. Those were not Space A options but if we made it to Guam, we could utilize commercial flights for the rest.

We knew of the destruction from Super Typhoon Yutu in October of 2018, but all indicators were that Guam was okay. Unfortunately, Saipan and Tinian were the worst hit. After checking many sources we were confident that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) was open for business and happy to have tourists.

I studied one of Military Living’s Space A guidebooks with renewed interest. I followed the “working backward” steps outlined in the text. I started following select Air Mobility Command (AMC) passenger terminals on Facebook, keeping a watchful eye on flights perhaps to the point of mild obsession! Soon it became obvious that our best route to Guam was via Travis AFB in California and then to Joint Base (JB) Hickam on Oahu, Hawaii. At the time, Hickam showed fairly regular flights to Guam. Those were the dots we hoped to connect.

As directed in the publication, via email we signed up for Space A travel at all three terminals. We watched schedules for weeks. Finally, we realized we would need to pick a day and get to Travis to get the ball rolling. Living near Atlanta made a one-way flight from Atlanta to Sacramento a breeze. We left on a Monday night, January 21, 2019, hired Aloha Airporter shuttle service (recommended by other Space A-ers) to Travis where we had reservations at the Westwind Inn on base. Duke from Aloha was great, very friendly with an encyclopedic knowledge of Space A. We enjoyed chatting with him en route to the base.

We settled into the very nice accommodations at the Westwind and began keeping an eye on the Facebook slides posted by Travis. There were no flights to Hickam on Tuesday, Jan. 22, so we explored the base and visited the aviation museum on site there, the Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center. Their tagline is, “Gateway to the Pacific, Gateway to the World!” which made us feel a little closer to our target destination. The museum is worth seeing and with free admission, easy on the pocketbook.

Exploring Travis AFB
Exploring Travis AFB

Wednesday, January 23, was our next attempt at Hickam but, again, no flights. No worries! We rented a car on base and off we went to San Francisco. The drive and scenery were wonderful. We had one goal: walk across (and back) the Golden Gate Bridge, and we did it! Though famous for fog, we were blessed with a bright, clear day. The views were outstanding and the walk in the chilly January air was invigorating!

Posing before walking 3.4 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge and back in San Francisco.
Posing before walking 3.4 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge and back in San Francisco.

Part of Space A travel is waiting on your desired flight. While you wait, don’t forget to make the most of the time you have where you are. The detour to San Francisco was enjoyable evidence of that.

The third day, Thursday, January 24, was the charm. A 0420 flight to Hickam was posted. We checked out of the Westwind Inn and visited the terminal to check in for that flight and be present for roll call. Returning the rental car was easy with the use of the key drop at the terminal.