201st AS flies first lady across U.S.

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Craig Clapper
  • 113th Wing PA
As the 2012 presidential election draws closer, President Barack Obama has been traveling around the country, speaking to the voting public as is common in an election season. While the President is traveling on the campaign trail, First Lady Michelle Obama has been traveling quite often as well. What may surprise you is the first lady's main mode of transportation has been aboard a C-40 operated by the 201st Airlift Squadron, 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard.

The 201st has been flying the First Lady for the last two years and have provided transportation for 90 percent of her travels. Pilots, flight attendants, maintenance, and security personnel fly with Mrs. Obama, providing the utmost professionalism on each and every trip.

Maj. Michael Ethridge, 201 AS pilot, enjoys being the "First Lady's airlift of choice" and understands how important the mission is to complete with 100 percent success.

"I have personally flown between eight to ten First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) missions and before every flight, we ensure the safety and security of not only the First Lady but of all the passengers on board," said Major Ethridge.

"We look over the minutest details, from proper crew rest to security precautions, so every trip is considered zero tolerance for failure."

For each mission flown, a mix of pilots and flight attendants come together between the 201 AS and the 1st Airlift Squadron, 11th Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Md. The 201 AS began sharing the FLOTUS missions from the 1 AS in 2010.

Master Sgt. Jodie Zwolinski, lead flight attendant from the 1 AS, has many years of experience on the job and believes the transition to working with the 201 AS has been very smooth.

"Everyone at the 201 AS has been very professional and I cannot recall any problems we've had on the FLOTUS missions. As long as people are consistent and know to anticipate and be ready for any issues that may arise, everything usually turns out great," said Sergeant Zwolinski.

The flight attendant position is the most visible to the first lady and only the best people are picked to be in such a position.

"Not everyone can be a flight attendant, especially for high visibility, 'no room for error' trips like these," said Tech. Sgt. Shant Paloulian, 1 AS flight attendant. "The person who interacts with the first lady has to be a model of the whole-person concept. He/she has to be a people person, a team player, and be very proficient at the job."

As expected, the FLOTUS missions can be taxing, both physically and mentally, but with proper planning, coordination, and having the Air Force core values by their side, the members of the 201 AS are ready to continue supporting the FLOTUS missions and much more in the future.

"As long as we continue to perform at the highest level, I think that WHMO will continue to request us well into the future." Said Maj. Jason O'Brien, 201 AS Assistant Director of Operations.