JB Charleston Airmen support presidential mission to Cuba

  • Published
  • By Maj. Wayne Capps
  • 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As President Barack Obama landed in Havana, Cuba, it marked the first time a sitting U.S. president visited the communist nation in over 88 years, and Airmen from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, played a pivotal role in the historic mission.

Airmen from the 628th Air Base Wing, and 437th and 315th Airlift Wings provided everything from aircrew members, fuels, security and maintenance personnel, as well as financial and logistical support for the diplomatic endeavor.

“This was a very big undertaking with a lot of people involved,” said Senior Airman Michael Eckert, a loadmaster with the 16th Airlift Squadron. “It is a lot to wrap your head around."

One of the critical missions performed by JB Charleston Airmen was to support the medical teams who remained on standby while the president was on the island nation.

“This is where your training kicks in,” said 1st Lt. Chelsea Lesniewski, a pilot from the 701st Airlift Squadron. “We are all excited about being in Havana, but we are here to get the president where he needs to go, and to be trusted with that responsibility is a pretty big deal."

Many of the Airmen were excited to be there supporting the historic restoration of ties with Cuba.

“I think we will be looking back years from now saying, I was a part of that,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Barkdoll, a flying crew chief with the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “I am really glad to be one of the first military representatives from the U.S. to be here. I think being on this mission is pretty special."