Flying from Joint Base Andrews to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

The sun has not risen yet as I wait at the Joint Base Andrews air terminal to board a flight to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

My mission today is to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report on U.S. military commission hearings for alleged war criminals. The hearings this week are against five Guantanamo detainees who are alleged to have masterminded the 11 September 2001 attacks on the Pentagon.

I am part of the Military Commission Observation Project of Indiana University McKinney School of Law, where I am a student.

Getting to Andrews
I arrived at Washington National Airport in Washington D.C. after midnight – around 12:30 a.m. – about 7 hours later than I was originally scheduled to arrive at Dulles Airport. I began my trip at Indianapolis airport and two of my flights were cancelled.


Arriving at the gate in Washington D.C. at 12:30am on 23 January 2017

I had planned to arrive yesterday afternoon but was forced to reschedule flights, which delayed arrival. My flight from Indianapolis to Detroit was cancelled but the folks at Delta were able to put me on another flight to Detroit later in the day. I made it to Detroit in time to catch my connecting flight to Washington D.C. but that connecting flight was also cancelled. All flights from Detroit to D.C. were overbooked so it was not possible to make it on time flying standby. I showed my invitational travel order to the folks at Delta and they put me on the next flight out. Do not book a flight to Washington that arrives the afternoon before a morning flight out of Joint Base Andrews. I barely made it and Washington National Airport is less than a thirty-minute drive from Joint Base Andrews. I went straight from the airport to Joint Base Andrews.


Floor mosaic and American flag at Washington National Airport

When I arrived at Andrews Visitor Control Center, a civilian escort picked me up and took me to Andrews air terminal, from where President Obama took his last flight on Air Force I 3 days ago — on Friday, 20 January 2017, after he left the Office of the Presidency.

At the terminal I met about a dozen other non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives who are also serving as Observers. I distributed copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manal: Excerpts, which was authored by Professor George Edwards and others at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. I have found the Excerpts to be a valuable tool to help me prepare for my mission, and I believe that other observers agree.
After distributing the manuals, the remaining manuals are left in the NGO Resource Center at GTMO.

Checking in at Andrews
Checking in at Joint Base Andrews is straight forward, similar to any commercial flights. Bags are labeled with green colored tags to identify the bags as belonging to NGO representatives. Next, I had to present my invitational travel order, APACS, and identification. Our identification functions as our boarding passes, although this is only because the printer is not working. Our military escort was kind enough to drive us all to the Starbucks on base, which opens at 5:30am.


NGO representatives enjoy Starbucks and wait to board the flight at Joint Base Andrews

Waiting to Board
Our flight to Guantanamo Bay was originally scheduled to depart at 8:00am, and we were required to be at Andrews at 4:30am for the flight

We just learned that our flight time has been delayed to 10:30am.

Now we sit and wait patiently to be allowed to board the plane and depart for Guantanamo Bay!

Written on 23 January 2017

Posted 24 January 2017

By Ben Hicks
J.D. Student
Military Commission Observation Project
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University McKinney School of Law


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