Wisconsin Air Guard's 115th Fighter Wing supports presidential visit

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Vaughn R. Larson
  • Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs

The first visit by a sitting president to Madison in 59 years began at the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing, based at Truax Field in Madison. 

President Barack Obama's time at the base was brief -- he exited Air Force One, smiled and saluted Col. Joe Brandemuehl, 115th Fighter Wing commander, before greeting Gov. Jim Doyle and Jessica Doyle, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The president then entered his limousine and the motorcade departed for Wright Middle School, the destination of his visit. 

But preparing for a presidential visit, even a brief one, takes time and considerable coordination between agencies. Brandemuehl was impressed with how compartmentalized the planning process is. 

"The Secret Service, Marine One, Air Force One, the White House staff -- everybody has their expertise and they don't go outside their lane," he explained. The day began early, and even the local civilian media arrived hours before Air Force One touched down. Local law enforcement provided additional security at the fighter wing. The joke on base was that security was so tight that not even a mouse could move. 

Brandemuehl said that there wasn't an area on base that wasn't involved with President Obama's visit. The base security force worked closely with the Secret Service, the unit fuel truck refueled Air Force One, F-16 fighter jets were moved to make room for Air Force One. "That's just what you saw today," he said. Two F-16s which began a training mission Wednesday morning could not return to Truax while Air Force One was there, and landed at Volk Field. They were expected to return to base Thursday.
Brandemuehl said he was humbled to greet the president when he arrived. 

"I was representing not only the Wing, but the National Guard and the state," he said. "I was the face of everyone in the base and the state that supported bringing his aircraft here." 

Prior to the president's arrival, military personnel on base were able to get a close look at one of the VH-60N presidential helicopters, better known as Marine One when the president is on board.  According to Marine Maj. Brian Gahagan, pilot, the helicopter --part of a fleet of 28 -- was at the base to support the president's visit. 

"This is the best part of the job," Gahagan said as he explained the presidential aircraft to Airmen, Soldiers and civilians. 

According to Brandemuehl, feedback about the visit was positive. 

"We provided exceptional support," he said. "[The White House staff] said this is one of the best locations, in terms of support, they've come to in the past several years. 

"There's a lot that goes into it, but our people are doing what they were trained to do," he
continued. "People knew what they needed to do and they did it. That's why we excelled at orchestrating this."

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