Because I wound up surrounded by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines at each airport.
I have to re-post something from my old flight school/drinking buddy Moe (who is an instructor pilot now, God help us all), regarding the military people in the airports. This will totally go over the head of some people, but for many, it will hit too close to home.
Then there are the military folk. These travelers make up more than you realize. It has been a game of mine since living in Europe to try to spot these people in a crowd. In Germany on the streets it was too easy. Jeans plus t-shirt plus sneakers plus the dead giveaway of sunglasses, gives it away every time. Well in airport there are different rules. The kid with a buzz cut and a metal chain tucked just under his shirt with they're head high and shoulders squared back just came out of initial training. They are still recovering from the brain washing.
Then there are the senior NCOs; these can be a bit tricky to catch. They are probably sick of being in the military and riding out their finial years till retirement. Unfortunately being in for so long they have no clothes except a closet full of unit t-shirts and hats. Look for that, add in the sunglasses that should be on the top of their head instead carried in their left hand (leaving that right hand open at all times in case General Casey walks by)...their kids will probably be in step and have high and tights.
The junior officers are the hardest to spot, which is because they don't want to be. But there are tricks to this too. Look for the guys that are very in shape, walking with their shoulders back and looking constantly left and right in case there is an IED in the trash can. They will be dressed nice but wearing either a GPS watch or a plastic ironman one. They will always have a backpack, probably black and on both shoulders. When walking they will lean forward and step lively (unless they are Air force then the unusual weight on their back will pull them back). Unfortunately that only works with the men, young officer woman are next to impossible to spot...
...A last note, anyone traveling in uniform is trying to get a free meal. I don't care if they are on R&R from down range, if they are in uniform they are looking for a free drink. Guys this is pathetic, have some class for Pete's sake.
Some of you know exactly what Moe's talking about. I'd echo his sentiments about the backpacks, and note that many of us can spot an assault pack--either the standard-issue military ones or the commercial ones from Black Hawk--a mile away. We can even tell what branch of service you are in, based on the type of assault bag you wear. (And in the case of the one guy that wore a Multicam assault pack in the airport--173rd Airborne Brigade?)
Guys, if you ever travel abroad, shy away from these mannerisms. I went through the Dubai airport on mid-tour leave en route to Australia, and I noticed that I stuck out like a sore thumb due to my tan assault pack*.
Focus: More give-aways for "combat casual". (Besides the cheapskates who wear their tan boots with pants.)
*As a sidebar, I need to add in that the flight to Sydney was filled with Iranians as well, so that made for interesting conversation.
"What do you do and where do you live?", asked one Iranian.
"Uh, I'm a writer for a newspaper and, uh, I live in New York", I replied.
"There must be a lot of Jews where you work. Do Jews own your newspaper?", he asked.
Let's just say that an aviator's Ambien prescription isn't just for crew rest...