ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (AFPN) --
Presidents, generals and prime ministers count on the support from Airmen of the 89th Airlift Wing here who provide safe, comfortable and reliable transportation while keeping world leaders connected and protected on special air missions around the globe.
Tech. Sgt. Pete Kana of the 1st Airlift Squadron and Staff Sgt. Danyoi Brown of the 99th Airlift Squadron are two of the approximately 215 special air mission flight attendants in the Air Force who fly not only American military and government leaders, but also world leaders.
The flight attendants cater to the distinguished leaders with world-class professionalism and service. While the president is the only one flown in Air Force One, all high-level passengers receive special attention flying in C-20, C-32, C-37A and the C-40B aircraft.
Unit members are known for their unprecedented service, giving passengers that special touch and extra effort.
"Passengers have commented to me that they do not get this kind of professional service when they fly commercial," Sergeant Brown said. "It's nice to get a hot plate of food, consistent refills and the best possible service."
"But our No. 1 priority is safety for the passengers," Sergeant Brown said.
The aircraft housed on Andrews Air Force Base are manicured and loaded with the best a plane can offer. Some of the amenities offered on board the aircraft include leather seats with couches that can fold out into a bed, china, silverware, glasses, access to the latest movies and music, and the ability to communicate securely while flying at thousands of feet in the air.
"I've flown first class before and it is not even close to the level of service and comfort we provide," Sergeant Kana said. "We also hand cook everything we serve. From the world's best taco salad to salmon steaks picked up from Ireland or crab cakes, we offer the freshest meals made during the flight."
But the culinary selections are not randomly made. Before each mission, the flight attendants contact the distinguished visitor's representative to make sure meals offered are to the liking of the DV. Flight attendants then go shopping before the flight to get the items specifically for the upcoming DV flight.
"We want the passengers to be as comfortable as possible," said Sergeant Brown, a seven-year veteran and native of East St. Louis, Ill. The former services specialist said caring for the passengers and making sure they have everything they need is crucial so the dignitaries can stay focused on their mission and responsibilities.
The flight attendants are in high demand, averaging about four missions a month that can range from a one-day mission, to a mission lasting beyond a week with flights spanning the globe. Missions come down straight from the White House and from the office of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and 89th AW members are on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week operating the Executive Airlift Training Center and Government Network Operation Center.
"It all depends with what is going on in the world," said Sergeant Kana, who is a native of Pascataway, N.J. The former mission resource management NCO added it takes special Airmen to handle flight attendant duty.
Working with such high-level dignitaries, the flight attendants go through stringent scrutiny to make sure they can handle the duty and have what it takes to become fully qualified. Flight attendants represent the best of the Air Force, and both Sergeants Brown and Kana have stood out amongst their peers in their careers, as both have been awarded quarterly and yearly awards from their units.
Of the enlisted force, less than five percent fill aviation career fields, Sergeant Kana said. "I think everybody who had the aspiration to join the Air Force should take it upon themselves to have the opportunity to fly."
Officials from the 89th AW are always looking for superior Airmen interested in joining the career field. Applicants have to go through a records review, flight physical, must obtain letters of recommendation and go through a security clearance just to be eligible. Applicants are interviewed by a board of 89th AW members to determine if they have what it takes. After being selected, Airmen must go through the Enlisted Aviator Undergraduate Course, combat survival school, water survival school, and then complete the Flight Attendant Culinary and Egress Training school.
"We deal directly with distinguished visitors and world leaders," Sergeant Kana said. "It takes a certain person to present himself, to articulate clearly, to give service not only for the party, but one must have it within himself to want to do this job. We represent not only the Air Force, but also the United States."
Being a flight attendant is "the best kept secret in the Air Force," Sergeant Brown said. "We get to meet our nation's leaders, and we get to visit countries all over the world. I love flying. When we get up to cruising altitude, it is so peaceful up there. It's my home up there."
Senior airmen at least 21 years of age can apply to apple to become a special air mission flight attendant by contacting Maj. Kurt Kremser at DSN 858-3844, or commercial 301-981-3844.
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