It’s not often that I disagree with Donald Sensing

“When I boarded the plane, I detected some scowls …”

I respect Donald Sensing as much as anyone in the blogosphere, and far more than most. But I must point out that I whole-heartedly disagree with him on this.

He relates the story of a soldier returning from Iraq via Northwest Airlines:

and every one of us had to take off our boots, our dog tags, our wallets, our belts and a few had to be individually searched with the same wand we used on suspected terrorists.

Now, it’s not totally clear from the story whether or not the searches were the same as for everyone else or not. I happen to think that the searches should be no different FOR ANYONE FOR ANY REASON when boarding commercial flights. If the soldiers were singled out, that’s a little different, but not much. And though the screener’s attitude apparently needs a little adjustment, I don’t think giving uniformed soldiers the thorough check is at all out of line.

The reason that I say I clearly disagree with Rev. Sensing is that, in the comments section, he claims that

Soldiers returning from combat in Iraq – in uniform – should have been exempted from the harassment that other passengers endure.


He’s absolutely correct that they have earned the exemption. I agree 101%. But the implementation of a such a policy would be difficult to do properly and would open up gaping holes in our security system.

(Never mind that the security system is already full of gaping holes for the moment. I’m talking about the way things should be.)

Getting uniforms and forged orders probably isn’t as difficult as it should be. And getting screeners to consistently look closely and follow up on suspicious items is probably far more difficult than it should be. Therefore, soldiers must be screened the same as everyone else despite the fact that they’ve earned an exemption.

Part of the policy should maybe include a part about screeners literally falling over backwards while apologizing for the inconvenience. But those guys need to be searched the same as everyone else. Because we won’t ever know for sure that those guys are really the guys that deserve to be exempted.

We badly need to recognize that our enemies will find a hole somewhere, and they will exploit it. I fully support draconian security measures on commercial airliners. I’m more than a little ashamed that more hasn’t been done.

Another part of the soldier’s post (also noted by Rev. Sensing–it’s what his post title actually refers to) burns me up:

We were late, but the airline was nice enough to delay the flight just for us. When I boarded the plane, I detected some scowls and nasty whispers from the First Class folks. No doubt, we were the reason they would be an hour late for their business meeting and tennis lessons. Then, like crossing into another world, my feet touched coach, where the construction workers, middle managers and school teachers sat. I didn’t pass a single person without hearing “Thank you.”

Sounds a bit stereotypical. And about right. I’d say that someday people everywhere will come to appreciate what our guys are doing, but I don’t believe it for a second.


  1. He says Northwest is the only airline that still searches military travelers with orders. That can’t really be true, since the airlines are no longer responsible for searching passengers. TSA does that. People should really take it up with them.

  2. I think you’re probably right that the same searches occur on more than just Northwest flights, Chuck. At least, I HOPE you’re right.

  3. Thank you for the link and your kind words. What is overlooked here is the fact that these soldiers were not traveling individually. This was a unit traveling under orders, under the command and control of its officers and NCOs. If you read the whole essay you know that they had their weapons with them, and had checked them as cargo-hold luggage. Such a unit move, involving dozens of soldiers, is not a thing that Islamist terrorists can fake. Military members traveling individually are rightly held to the same standards as anyone else. In fact, my Marine son has been special checked every time he’s flown in uniform, because each time was with a one-way ticket pursuant to official travel. I don’t have a problem with that. But the unit concerned was mass harrassed while returning from Iraq in uniform and clearly because they werein unform.Sorry, that’s just unacceptable.