Air Force-One, Air Force Cops – History And Perhaps The Future

By Major Van Harl

Original Air Force One
Original Air Force One
Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Wisconsin -( I received an e-mail with a video in it (video below) about the first US Air Force aircraft that was used as a designated airplane specifically to fly the President of the United States.

It was a Lockheed C-121 Constellation, and President Eisenhower was the first President to use the call sign Air Force-One. In the beginning, Air Force-One was one of the designated C-121 Constellations on which the President was flying.

Nowadays any fixed-wing aircraft that the President is riding in uses the call sign Air Force-One.

When he is in his designated helicopter, they are piloted by Marines and use the call sign Marine-One.

As I watched the video, I saw the pictures of Air Force, Air Police standing in front of Air Force-One. First, they were Air Police, then Security Police and now Security Forces, but whatever they were then, or are now called, they are Air Force (AF)“cops.”

“Cops” whose mission it is to guard the President and his aircraft wherever he and Air Force-One are in the world of Presidential travel.

I have worked with fellow AF “cops” who had had an assignment protecting Air Force-One. Lots of great international travel, with nothing but the best of accommodations while on the “road.” These “cops” got to see many of the major leaders of the world up close and personal.

One Master Sergeant I knew flew with President Nixon on that first history making diplomatic mission to Communist China. He actually got to go to the Great Wall of China well in advance of the millions of western tourists who in later years ascended on China with cameras and dollars.

You have to understand that guarding the President of the United States’ airplane is a 24-7 job that never goes away, even if the President is not flying. If Air Force-One is back on home soil at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside of Washington D.C, it has to be protected at all times from everyone, good or bad.

There are always going to be the “bad guys” who want to do harm to the aircraft and its passengers, and there are the “lookie-loos” including senior civilians and military officers who “just” want a little peek inside of Air Force-One. The Air Force “cops” must be ever professional to the public and the military, but they must and will say no to anyone requesting unauthorized entry.

This reminds me of the story of an old Air Force “cop” returning to Andrews AFB after many years of service to the President and Air Force-One.

A frail, retired Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant, Security Forces (SF) “cop” with cane in hand, walked out onto the flight line of Andrews Air Force Base. He stopped at the entry control of the hanger where Air Force One was parked. He advised the young SF Staff Sergeant on duty that, back in the day, he had flown with three different Presidents, providing security for Air Force One and the men who flew on that plane. He wanted to know if President Obama was going to be flying today and could he please speak with the President. The Staff Sergeant told the old Chief that it was 2017 and Obama was no longer the President. The Chief then asked if Speaker Nancy Pelosi was flying on her 200 passenger Air Force plane today, and could he speak with her. The SF Staff Sergeant told him Speaker Polosi was also no longer in office and did not fly out of Andrews AFB anymore.

The old Chief left, but returned the next day and asked the same question of the same young SF Staff Sergeant. Receiving the same answer he turned and left again.

On the third day, as the old Chief approached, the SF Staff Sergeant got on the radio and requested his Flight Chief supervisor to be present. This time the old Chief asked the same question to both men. The Flight Chief, a little annoyed, advised the old Chief that neither President Obama nor Speaker Pelosi were in office and that neither person was authorized to fly on an aircraft out of Andrews AFB anymore.

He added, “Chief this has now been explained to you three times.” The old Chief, with a smile on his face, replied that yes he knew both people were no longer in office, and yes he was a little annoying to the young Staff Sergeant, but he just loved to hear the same reply each time to his question. With that, both the Staff Sergeant and the Flight Chief came to attention and rendered a crisp salute to the old Chief Master Sergeant “cop”. “See you tomorrow, Chief,” stated the Staff Sergeant “cop.”

The future–it can only get better. Let us hope.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret. Nov 2015 / [email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

  • 6 thoughts on “Air Force-One, Air Force Cops – History And Perhaps The Future

    1. Really Mitch? I’m not a fan of Clinton, but I worked alongside these guys for years. Exactly what job did you have where you were close enough to hear what Mrs. Clinton said and what the SF replied? Betting you’re full of it.

    2. In the early ’60s, we were, “Combat Defense Sq, (CDS), (CDF), or Force. I pulled sentry duty on 26000, (Tail number of a, 707-720B), during a stop at Homestead AFB, Fl. (Memory don’t fail me). If the fixed wing is USAF, it’s Air Force One. If it’s another service then obviously it wouldn’t be referred to as Air Force One. If it’s civilian, it’s Executive One.

    3. Reminds me of the time when I was in the Air Force and Pres. Clinton’s wife came home. When she got off the plane, went to the first person she saw on the ground and said, “Hey, you. Get my bags and follow me.” The security person replied, “I am sorry ma’am, I cannot carry your luggage. I am on full-alert security and must remain vigilant and cannot be distracted.” She replied, “Listen M.F.’er, I told you to get my bags. If you don’t, you’ll be looking for another job tomorrow!” It wasn’t me, but it sure shows what kind of person she is and what she thinks of the military!

    4. WHAT A GREAT STORY! I look so forward to your articles, they are all so good! Thanks for sharing and please keep them coming!

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