ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT -- It's a long flight home from the battlefields of Afghanistan.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates has upgraded the flights and accommodations for four soldiers traveling to see family for the holidays.
Normally, the troops would have started their leave with a wait at the airport for the next available seat on a military plane to Kuwait, followed by a grueling commercial flight back to the U.S.
On Thursday the soldiers skipped the long lines and security pat-downs, and instead boarded Gates' expansive E-4B - a militarized version of the Boeing 747.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says Gates has long wanted to give some troops a ride home for leave or at the end of their tour.
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