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Scott squadron flies important passengers around the world

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber R. Kelly-Herard
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Scott Air Force Base is home to the first Total Force Integration (TFI) Very Important Person (VIP) Special Airlift Mission squadron.

The 54th Airlift Squadron, combined with the 73rd AS, seamlessly blends active duty and Reserve members respectively to provide unrivaled VIP airlift to the nation's civilian and military leadership. Their passengers include the First Lady, Speaker of the House, Air Force Chief of Staff, Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command commanders, as well as congressional leaders and their delegations.

"As the active duty side of the house, our part of the TFI relationship is to provide mission-ready crew members when the 932nd Airlift Wing has a C-40 mission to fly. Our crewmembers support higher utilization of the C-40s with active-duty manpower," said Lt. Col. Matt Yetishefsky, 54th AS commander.

Crews normally consist of three pilots, four flight attendants and two flying crew chiefs.
"We are always combined," said Colonel Yetishefsky. "The 54th and 73rd work, train, and fly together which really enhances our TFI relationship. You really wouldn't know the difference between an active duty and a Reserve member, unless you asked. We also have great leadership support from both wings."

The two squadrons fly an average of 1,900 hours a year and have traveled to about 80 different countries.

Tech. Sgt. Jon Jackson, 54th AS flight attendant, said, "The coolest place I've been to is a Norwegian island called Spitsbergen where the world's seed population is housed."
Sergeant Jackson explained that crew members may get as little as 24-hour notice and can be gone, on average, from five to 11 days.

The crew performs all the duties a commercial airline's crew would do including safety briefs and ensuring passenger comfort. However, the training and work of their flight attendants doesn't stop at instructing passengers on how to inflate their life vests and taking drink orders.

Flight attendant duty in the Air Force is much different than what their civilian counterparts perform. They are tasked with loading and unloading all luggage and cargo; completion of customs requirements for every country they visit; planning, purchasing and preparing all meals according to passenger requests; and they must maintain proficiency on first aid, emergency procedures and equipment.

These flight attendants come from all Air Force Specialty Codes, with only 10 percent of them being prior aircrew.

Flight attendants are chosen by a highly selective board and go through the same school that all aircrew members go through including survival school and the aircrew fundamental course. Upon selection into the career field, applicants are sent to a six-week basic flight attendant course at Lackland AFB, Texas. They also go through the Culinary Institute of America since they are responsible for creating and serving five-star meals on board these flights.

The crew receives requests from each passenger and then creates a menu. From that menu, flight attendants go to the Commissary to shop for all required menu items.
"The most memorable request I've had is when we flew from Turkey to Shannon, Ireland, for two hours and our passengers wanted salmon for 45 people," said Sergeant Jackson. "It seemed impossible, but we were able to get it. It's all just part of the job; we have great passengers that we go the extra mile to support."

"Cooking on a jet is different than cooking at home, but you get pretty good at it," said Sergeant Jackson.

Colonel Yetishefsky added, "You also get resourceful on finding space and ways to refrigerate food."

An example, Sergeant Jackson said, is when he went to Africa and they had no refrigerator, so they used a lot of dry ice to keep the food fresh.

Training begins upon arrival at their duty station and it usually takes about 18 months for a flight attendant to become fully qualified. Pilots and flight attendants work closely together throughout the mission to ensure world-class service is provided to the passengers.

"Everyone has something to bring to the table and we don't let anyone fail," said Colonel Yetishefsky. "We are a team; we rely on them as they rely on us."

When the 54th AS members are not flying anywhere from Australia to Zambia, they meet with Wounded Warriors passing through the Aeromedical Staging Facility. Since the creation of the Wounded Warrior Program at Scott, the 54th has responded with 28 volunteers, over 220 hours of service and have prepared meals for 148 heroes returning home. Whenever the phone rings alerting them about Wounded Warrior's arrival, whoever is available goes to the ASF to cook five-star meals, take Wounded Warriors to the BX, give family members rides to or from the airport and just talk to them.

"It's very rewarding to welcome home heroes from overseas, give them a home-cooked meal and just spend time with them," said Colonel Yetishefsky. "We also do training there while augmenting the ASF staff, so it's a win-win situation."

To date, the 54th AS has flown more than 5,900 hours mishap free.