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Posted at 11:31 AM ET, 12/10/2010

Four soldiers hitch a deluxe ride home with Gates

By Craig Whitlock

Four U.S. soldiers going home on leave from Afghanistan hitched a sweet ride out of the war zone Thursday by snagging seats on a special flight: the 747 Boeing aircraft that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates uses to crisscross the globe.

Gates flies in a big white plane - with United States of America emblazoned on the sides - because he needs to maintain secure command-and-control links with military commanders around the world. Even after accounting for the Air Force crew, Gates' military and political aides, and an 18-member traveling press corps, there was space available for a few extra passengers on his trip this week to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Prior to his arrival Tuesday in Kabul, Gates sent word to the Army that he'd be happy to give a lift to any troops whose leave times coincided with his schedule. The Army rounded up four willing takers, including a married couple going home to see their three young children for Christmas.

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By Craig Whitlock  | December 10, 2010; 11:31 AM ET
Categories:  Military  
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