More than one hundred employees and volunteers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport bid farewell to the final departing U.S. military charter flight on Friday, bringing an end to eight years of scheduled rest and recuperation (R&R) flights at the airport. The flight departed from DFW with a shower of affection water cannon salute from DFW Airport Department of Public Safety fire trucks. With the final flight now airborne, the U.S. Army will close its Personnel Assistance Point (PAP) at DFW Airport, which had processed soldiers and worked with airport-based volunteer groups over the past eight years.
The start of R&R charter flights at DFW for a trial run in late 2003 prompted a grass roots volunteer greeter program known as "Welcome Home A Hero" to welcome each incoming soldier at DFW. That effort helped convince the Army to move the charter flights to DFW on a semi-permanent basis in 2004.
Over the life of the program, "Welcome Home A Hero" program volunteers greeted over 460,000 inbound soldiers transiting through DFW on their way home for two weeks of rest and recuperation from active duty in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Hundreds of local organizations and more than 10,000 individual volunteers greeted soldiers from a total of 2,700 incoming flights.
In January, the U.S. Army Human Resources Command announced it would end the daily R&R charters into DFW and close its PAP at DFW airport, consolidating flights into Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson International Airport as military deployment reductions continue overseas. The final arrival into DFW took place two weeks ago on March 14.
“We know it's good news that the Army charter flights are being reduced, because it means fewer of our nation's troops are in harm's way,” said Jeff Fegan, CEO of DFW International Airport.
The USO facility at DFW airport will remain in operation serving troops. DFW expects about 100,000 individual troops annually will transit through the airport on their travels between the United States and the Middle East.
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