Tech Sgt. Crystal Harshbarger practices giving emergency landing orders as instructor Tech Sgt. Bret Baker listens at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Feb. 2. Baker is part of a team of military flight attendants who serve top government officials, their staffs, guests and reporters aboard 19 planes flown by the 89th Airlift Wing.
Air Force preps flight attendants for VIP trips
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — Bret Baker welcomes customers aboard a Boeing 757 wearing a three-piece suit and a sparkling smile. His manner is all Friendly Skies but his pocket patch bears the seal of the Vice President of the United States, signaling that this is government business.
And though his brass name tag reads, simply, “Bret,” make no mistake: That’s Air Force Tech. Sgt. Baker ensuring that seat belts are fastened and carry-ons securely stowed. He’s also responsible for making sure meals have been prepared for dozens of passengers who really didn’t have time to pick up snacks before boarding, and whose far-flung destinations may not include safe or familiar foods.
Baker is a military flight attendant, part of a team serving America’s top government officials, their staffs, guests and reporters aboard 19 planes flown by the 89th Airlift Wing out of Joint Base Andrews near Washington. Their customers include the president, vice president, first lady, secretary of state, secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As attendants on Air Force One and other VIP planes flying as many as 1,000 missions a year, they perform all the safety and comfort functions of their commercial airline counterparts and more. Hurried departures and delays to accommodate impromptu news conferences are common. The attendants also must buy ingredients and prepare meals to their customer’s preferences — sometimes on a day’s notice……. continued