Utah ANG takes on POTUS visit and Army homecoming simultaneously

  • Published
  • By Maj. Krista DeAngelis
  • 151 ARW/PA
Hosting a U.S. presidential visit is always a challenge, but hosting a visit by President George W. Bush along with the redeployment of more than 200 National Guard Soldiers within hours of each other is a whole other ballgame.

But that's exactly what members of the Utah Air National Guard accomplished May 28-29.

Located in downtown Salt Lake City, the Utah ANG base was selected as the main hub for Air Force One, Marine One and the presidential motorcade for a two-day visit by the president. In the midst of hosting the visit, the base was also tagged with providing support for the arrival of more than 200 incoming Utah National Guard Soldiers redeploying from year-long deployments. Ceremonies for the troops' family and friends were held for each of the redeploying groups.

"Planning for a presidential visit takes a tremendous amount of logistics, and so does coordinating a large Army homecoming ceremony," said Lt. Col. Lisa Olsen, 151st Air Refueling Wing community manager and project officer. "I never expected we would ever do both at the same time. However, we received exceptional support from the Presidential Advance Team, as well as our own Airmen who made this all happen in a very short amount of time."

Coordination and logistics are key to any large-scale event, but when it comes to POTUS visits, working with the Presidential Advance Team is critical.

"For every presidential visit there is an advance team that hits every site either five to seven days out for a continental U.S. trip, or two weeks for an overseas visit," said Maj. Robert Giannoni, Air Force One Presidential Advance Agent. "That advance team consists of White House staff, secret service, White House Communication Agency, Marine One, Air Force One, press, etc. We come out and put our footprint down and lay the groundwork for the upcoming visit."

Part of the Air Force One Presidential Advance Team's responsibility is to provide all the necessary support to the aircrew upon arrival.

"Our role is to make everything go smoothly as it can for the aircrew," said Major Giannoni. "When the airplane comes in it will need fuel, water, lavatory service, security and air traffic control, so we will take care of all the requirements for the airplane so when the crew arrives they don't have to worry about anything."

According to Major Giannoni, the president hit six major U.S. cities in his two-day trip. From Washington D.C. to Albuquerque, Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City and Kansas and back, the POTUS had a whirlwind schedule.

Upon the president's departure, approximately 100 Utah ANG Airmen waited outside in the rain to catch a glimpse of the president's plane and to try to shake hands.

"It's always impressive when the president comes to visit," said Master Sgt. Larry Carter, 151st Communications Flight. "I've seen four presidential visits and met several of them...I've been around a while."

And once the visit was finally over, it was a good feeling to know that all the hard work and effort were not done in vain.

"This trip has been phenomenal...probably the best stop I've done yet, not to mention it was a three-day weekend so a lot of people have been away," said Major Giannoni. "For the amount of work that was done in the short amount of time, it's been exceptional."

"I'm extremely pleased that everything went so well," said Colonel Olsen. "It's a great feeling to know that the Army Guardsmen were able to see their families upon arrival and that our base was able to provide such great support for the president's visit at the same time."