A great sense of responsibility is always hovering over the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron: the possibility that a presidential mission will require the unit’s immediate support.
Whenever the president or vice president travels to the Midwest, and sometimes beyond, the 375th LRS is there to support Air Force One with air stairs, ground equipment or other aircraft service equipment.
Recently, the 375th LRS got a chance to execute that support during a presidential mission in Toledo, Ohio.
The taskings are received by the Installation Deployment Readiness Cell and then relayed via Unit Deployment Managers to the rest of the squadron for action. Aerial porters and vehicle operators are responsible for moving and servicing Air Force One in support of what is known as a “Special Air Mission.”
For vehicle operations, this mission required two staircase trucks and coordination between three states for oversize travel permits. This can be a daunting task, especially when the notification happens after regular duty hours.
The entire vehicle operations team came together to load the staircase trucks, a process that involves intricate techniques for securing the staircase trucks to the trailers. For this particular mission the unit leased a trailer from a commercial trailer company. The load must be measured exactly in order to obtain road permits, and once the load was secured and measured, the team departed.
While traveling and throughout the trip, the team ensured the load was tied down and safe to continue. For Airman 1st Class Jerrid Keith, this was his first chance to support this type of mission.
“Construction in Indianapolis made it very difficult for the convoy to stay together,” he said. “We always try to keep visual contact with one another, but it is very easy to lose sight when navigating lane closures in heavy metropolitan traffic. I had to keep varying pressure on the clutch, which put a lot of strain on me, but there is nothing you can do in these situations except grin and bear it.”
The drivers must maintain their composure in these highly stressful situations. Once the vehicle operators and the team get to the destination, aerial porters take over. The team goes over the game plan with the presidential event coordinator and prepares for the mission. They then function check the equipment and await further guidance.
Before the aircraft landed, they measured the height of the adjustable stairs for expeditious set up. The team masters the art of time preservation for the commander-in-chief to enter and exit safely and swiftly. Having an accident or damage to the aircraft is an immediate fail to the mission, so prior preparation allows the team to expedite operations without sacrificing safety. Timing is the key to protecting the president and being ready for the unexpected is paramount for the Air Force One officers and staff.
Everything remains in place until the president departs, and the team is released to return to Scott AFB. Once home they download the equipment and prepare for another POTUS support mission request that can happen at any time.