By Sgt. Nathan Booth, 4th PADMarch 14, 2012
DALLAS/FORT WORTH, Texas (March 14, 2012) -- The last group of service members returning home on Rest and Recuperation leave through Dallas landed at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport today, signaling the closure of the airport's personnel assistance point.
The personnel assistance point, or PAP, closes after nearly eight years of service. Future R&R flights will be rerouted to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"The overwhelming amount of support delivered to our troops at DFW over the past eight years will be forever remembered," Jeff Fegan, CEO of DFW airport, said, "and our mission to support the troops that continue to transit through DFW will continue indefinitely."
To commemorate the PAP's closure, a morning of special events was held, including a breakfast honoring outstanding volunteers, an award presentation with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III and a final "shower of appreciation" for the last arriving R&R flight.
"It was kind of eerie walking through here last night and realizing that today is the last day an inbound flight is going to be arriving in Dallas," Chandler said. "Which although it is bittersweet, it is also for all of us, something that I think we all look forward to, which is the end of combat for men and women who go in harm's way."
Since June 14, 2004, the site has seen more than 460,000 transiting troops, but with the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq, fewer service members will need the infrastructure of a dedicated PAP.
According to DFW PAP Commander Lt. Col. Trisha McAfee, the people of Dallas/Fort Worth were instrumental in the program's nearly eight years of success.
"It's very sad because you see the heart of Texas, especially this last week because people come out every day," McAfee said. "To see over 800 people a day, it makes you really appreciate this community and the fact that so many people are thankful and proud of our military."
The PAP's closure does not mean the end of USO activities or volunteerism at the DFW International Airport, however.
"The thousands of remarkable community volunteers who worked so hard on behalf of our men and women in uniform will continue to look for opportunities to serve our military heroes," Jim Crites, DFW executive vice president for operations said. "We have a tremendous outpouring of support from our neighbors, and they will continue to support the troops and the USO here."
Sara Dorsey, an ambassador for the DFW USO, says she'll always have a soft spot for the troops.
"I feel very maternal toward them," Dorsey said. "I keep saying this is the best job I've ever had. You're not paid in dollars, but there's nothing that can outdo this. I love it."
Chandler closed his remarks during the ceremony with thanks of his own.
"On behalf of the 1.1 million Soldiers who are your Army and the 900,000 family members who support our Soldiers, 'thank you,'" he said. "We are grateful for everything you've done, and I mean that sincerely."
All activities officially handled by the PAP will be moved to Atlanta by April 1, after the last R&R flight departure leaves DFW March 30.