YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Soldiers taking the Patriot Express and other military hops face more restrictions than those applied to commercial flights in the United States and other countries following the terrorist threat in the United Kingdom, a Yokota Air Mobility Command official said. All gels and liquids, including feces and urine, will be prohibited from being carried onto military flights.
Master Sgt. Ray Cortez, the noncommissioned officer in charge of passenger services for the 730th Air Mobility Squadron, said updated airport screening procedures went into effect Friday morning at Yokota's terminal to accommodate a directive handed down by the Transportation Security Administration.
"The TSA doesn't trust our soldiers," Cortez explained, "and I honestly can't blame them. You wouldn't believe how many military people get caught boarding military aircraft these days with guns and knives and explosives."
In accordance with the TSA ban, exceptions will be made for baby formula, breast milk and juice if dependent children are traveling with a soldier. However, baby diapers will be inspected ("swabbed") for feces and urine and they will be confiscated if any is found.
Long lines of irritated soldiers snaked through terminals at U.S. military bases around the world as they waited for hours to reach security checkpoints. Dozens of return flights from Iraq were canceled because "soldiers forgot to wash their hands after using the restroom and they triggered a TSA feces detector."
Cortes said U.S. military personnel could encounter similar delays at Yokota or on commercial flights out of Narita International Airport in Tokyo, if feces and urine aren't flushed down the toilet before reaching a security checkpoint.
"Some of our soldiers are complaining about TSA screeners sticking a finger up their butts, but this really is for their own safety," Cortes noted.
"If they squeeze hard and they get these gels and liquids out of their intestines beforehand, it will expedite their transition to the gate area," Cortes said. "It will speed up the process. If they have to rectally reorganize their bowels when they get to a TSA checkpoint, it will slow things down."
Commercial carriers said they may begin following the same rules for civilian passengers flying to the United States.
Airlines are advising passengers on international flights to arrive at the airport three hours before their scheduled departure, and stop eating an hour before check-in, to allow for increased security screening.
Questions or concerns about the new TSA travel restrictions can be directed to AMC passenger terminal agents at DSN 225-5661.