President Obama visits the 166th Airlift Wing in New Castle, Delaware

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Matwey
  • 166th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
U.S. President Barack Obama came to the home of the 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard aboard Air Force One on July 17, en route to the Port of Wilmington, Delaware to announce a new initiative to increase private sector investment in our nation's infrastructure.

Arriving with the president were U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and U.S. Rep. John C. Carney, Jr. (D-Del.).

Technical Sgt. Jim Burns, a crew chief in the 166th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron was the first Airman to approach Air Force One after landing. Burns placed chocks under the front wheel of the Boeing 757 aircraft. "As easy as it is, you do not want to make the slightest error," said Burns. "My job was to chock the aircraft to make sure it is stabilized, and then signal to the White House communications staff to give the all clear so they could connect two hard land lines to Air Force One."

President Obama was greeted by Delaware National Guard Assistant Adjutant General for Air Brig. Gen. Carol A. Timmons, 166th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Michael J. Feeley, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and his wife Hallie Biden, City of New Castle Mayor Donald A. Reese and New Castle County Executive Thomas P. Gordon.

Next, a crowd of a several dozen Airmen and Soldiers of the Delaware National Guard and additional invited civilian guests were able to meet the president up close. This was the first time that a group of unit Airmen has had the chance to meet a president at our air base in seven-and-a-half-years since President George W. Bush came here Jan. 24, 2007.

It was the first opportunity for many of the people present to meet any president, including several Airmen who shook hands with President Obama.

Technical Sgt. Joel Miller, 166th Maintenance Squadron, said, "It was definitely a big experience that you only see on T.V. He's the commander in chief, and it was definitely a monumental experience." Miller said the president told him, "Thank you for your service," and that Miller replied, "Thank you, Mr. President."

Senior Airman Tabitha Parag, 166th Maintenance Operations Flight, described her experience. She said, "It makes you feel pride and patriotism. All of that comes over you when you get to meet a president face-to-face." Parag attended the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations of President Obama in Washington, D.C. while on an inauguration duty detail with the Delaware National Guard.

Second Lt. Valerie Harwood, 166th Airlift Wing, along with a nearby Airman, plus a civilian guest and the president laughed as they talked about his flight. She thanked him for coming and taking the time to meet them.

The president had similar words with other troops, telling them, "I appreciate your service," and, "Thank you for what you do," exchanging pleasantries and smiles with people. One guest who had met the president before was Reverend Christopher Bullock, New Castle County Council President, and the two enjoyed a brief talk about their prior meeting.

After receiving official notice of the visit a week ahead of time, preparations began during the July 12-13 Unit Training Assembly, and the wing did not lose a beat as it kicked into high gear to host the president.

According to Maj. Corey Walters, wing executive officer, practically each shop was tasked for some level of support, or their Airmen were individually tasked to assist other shops. "Everybody came together," said Walters.

Senior Master Sgt. Mike Ceselsky, airfield management superintendent, 166th Operations Support Squadron, coordinated support from base units and various civilian agencies.

Ceselsky said the Wilmington Federal Aviation Administration Tower and Delaware River and Bay Authority Airport Operations were instrumental in making the presidential visit run smoothly, and that Dover Air Force Base provided the backup stair truck and two Airmen.

The 166th Communications Flight ensured communication support before and during the visit, with Master Sgt. Robert White and Staff Sgt. Husler filling that role.

Airmen from the Small Air Terminal, 166th Logistics Readiness Squadron operated stair trucks for the president, White House staff and other personnel to deplane and board. Master Sgt. Jeff Coale and Tech. Sgt. Henry Young performed this duty, with Tech. Sgt. Angela Giroud assisting. Other LRS Airmen from motor vehicle operations and maintenance assisted in various support roles, including Master Sgt. James Mailley, 166th LRS, who built stairs for the raised press box.

166th Security Forces Squadron defenders performed additional perimeter checks and other force protection duties before and during the president's visit.

Five members of the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight searched vehicles, equipment and materials on scene as a precautionary measure, and 166th CES provided grounds maintenance and base clean up.

The 166th CES base fire department was on hand to assist in any emergency, with Master Sergeants Martin Krasavage and Clifford Snyder and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Castner leading the detail. The wing received additional equipment from the 175th Wing, Maryland ANG at Martin State Airport, Md. and the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, with each unit providing a Striker P-19 fire fighting vehicle. The 436th also provided assistance from their fire chief, base civil engineer and LRS commander.

The Wilmington Manor Fire Company and New Castle County Emergency Management Services paramedics also provided people and equipment.

The 153rd Military Police Company, Delaware Army National Guard helped with force protection by providing several Soldiers and Humvees.

Civilian police agency support for the presidential mission came from DRBA Police, Delaware State Police, New Castle County Police and City of Wilmington Police.

A number of Airmen were called to assist the wing Airman and Family Readiness office by arranging holding areas for the press, escorts, visitors and distinguished visitors and by assisting personnel with their needs. A&FR Program Manager 1st Lt. Lauren Mease said, "I had a great team of supportive Airman to help execute our tasks. We put a lot of work into every detail of the process and knew what we were providing was very important because it would represent the Delaware Air National Guard to our guests."

This was President Obama's second visit to Delaware aboard Air Force One.

The president first came to the New Castle ANG Base aboard Air Force One Jan. 12, 2010 with First Lady Michelle Obama to attend the funeral of Vice President Joe Biden's mother in Wilmington.