An­drews air­men en­able Obama’s his­toric Cuba visit

The Enquire-Gazette - - Prince George’s County Legal Notices - By SE­NIOR MAS­TER SGT. Kevin Wal­lace 89th Air­lift Wing Pub­lic Af­fairs

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama touched down in Cuba on the iconic Air Force One on March 20, be­com­ing the first sit­ting U.S. pres­i­dent to visit the coun­try in nearly 90 years.

While world lead­ers and cit­i­zens tuned into na­tional news broad­casts of the visit, the men and women of the 89th Air­lift Wing con­tin­ued their no-fail mis­sion, ex­e­cut­ing a va­ri­ety of tasks.

Though pres­i­den­tial move­ments aboard the VC-25 air­craft are the pri­mary sem­blance of the 89th AW, the wing flies hun­dreds of spe­cial air mis­sions each year. The mis­sions en­able na­tional in­ter­ests and diplo­macy through the global trans­port of the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent, cab­i­net mem­bers, com­bat­ant com­man­ders and other se­nior mil­i­tary and elected lead­ers as tasked by the White House, Air Force chief of staff and Air Mo­bil­ity Com­mand.

Due to the high-pro­file, no-fail mis­sion of the spe­cial air mis­sion for­eign team, known as SAM Fox, mem­bers of the Pres­i­den­tial Air­lift Group, 89th Op­er­a­tions Group and 89th Main­te­nance Group are se­lec­tively hired into their po­si­tions.

SAM is a call sign given to ev­ery mis­sion the 89th AW flies. Be­ing more than just a call sign to Air­men within the 89th AW, SAM Fox is a way of life; it car­ries over into pro­fes­sional ap­pear­ance of the crew, the plane, mis­sion ex­e­cu­tion and ev­ery as­pect of op­er­a­tions, sup­port or main­te­nance in the wing.

“It takes a ded­i­cated Air­man to serve the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent and our other dis­tin­guished cus­tomers,” Col. John C. Mil­lard, the 89th AW com­man­der, said. “We flew more than 200 SAM mis­sions to 75 coun­tries in 2015 alone, and did so with zero mishaps and a 98.4 per­cent de­par­ture re­li­a­bil­ity rate.

“While fly­ing mis­sions like Pres­i­dent Obama’s trip to Cuba take cen­ter stage op­ti­cally,” he added, “there are hun­dreds of main­tain­ers, aerial porters, com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­als and other Air­men en­sur­ing the SAM Fox mis­sion is ex­e­cuted per­fectly, while still manag­ing high-pro­file events on the air­field at Joint Base An­drews and off-sta­tion.”

Some of the re­cent events in­cluded Pope Fran­cis’ first visit to the U.S., fu­neral of Saudi Ara­bia’s King Ab­dul­lah bin Ab­du­laziz al Saud, repa­tri­a­tion of Amer­i­can pris­on­ers abroad, the Arab Sum­mit, the African Lead­ers Sum­mit and the 2015 Joint Base An­drews Air­show.

Any­time a news re­port shows the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent, sec­re­tary of state, sec­re­tary of de­fense, or an­other U.S. na­tional leader meet­ing with a for­eign head of state, it’s the SAM Fox team who got them there, and kept them safe, re­li­able, com­fort­able, con­nected and pro­tected in the process.

One 89th MXG fly­ing crew chief re­flected on what be­ing a part of that hum­bling mis­sion means to him.

“Be­com­ing a fly­ing crew chief in this wing and with this unique mis­sion has been a dream come true. When­ever we’re needed and wher­ever we must go, I feel like be­ing part of this wing means be­ing part of some­thing truly great,” Tech. Sgt. Joseph Wal­lace said. “I’ve been to dozens of coun­tries and have sup­ported mis­sions that most peo­ple only see in the form of high­lights on the nightly news. With each mis­sion, I know his­tory is be­ing made and I’m right there when it hap­pens.”


Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave good­bye to a crowd of Amer­i­cans as they board Air Force One at Joint Base An­drews March 20.

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