Thirty hours. Fourteen time zones. A whole other world.
I'm on a military-hosted media trip, flying from Fairchild Air Force Base to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The center houses KC-135 aerial refueling tankers from Fairchild and acts as a transit point for troops going in and out of Afghanistan. At least for now. Last summer, the Kyrgyz parliament voted to end the lease agreement with the U.S. government in 2014, and the fate of the tankers isn't yet clear.
My mission here is simple: Document the base, and the men and women who keep it running, far from home and their families. Over seven days in mid-December, I'll meet those who have been deployed for the first time and others who have been to Manas time and again. And after a grueling flight home, I'll see families reunited on the runway after months apart. In between, everything else: refueling missions, troops fresh from Afghanistan packing for home, long flights, sleeping on the floor of tankers, big skies, bigger mountains, hustling, waiting, security checks, a fenced-in slice of America in the middle of Central Asia. A trip there and back. ♦