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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Nov. 1, 2006

Lieutenant experiences 89 AW heritage

By Capt. Herb McConnell 89th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Being a lieutenant awaiting pilot training can be rough. 

APT lieutenants are expected to prove themselves through multiple tasks, which are often varied in nature and skill level, all while learning the ropes of how to be an Air Force Officer. 

Still, many APT lieutenants smile easily. Probably out of the excitement that comes from a new adventure and the promise of a bright future, but APT 2nd Lt. Daniel J. Haley who is attached to the 89th Operations Support Squadron has another reason to be happy. 

He was part of the planning and action team that put together this year's SAM FOX Association reunion and in doing so was able to meet and talk to people who made presidential air transportation history. 

Some of the Airmen Lieutenant Haley met were responsible for piloting the president and the nation's leaders from as far back as the 1940s and '50s. They flew before the planes were adorned with the iconic blue and white paint scheme now a symbol of the 89th Airlift Wing and before the President's plane got its famous call sign. 

"I met one guy who was in a plane that was shot down in World War II and was a prisoner of war in Germany for about a year," Lieutenant Haley said. "He ended up retiring as a chief master sergeant and when he was stationed at Andrews, he was a flight attendant." 

Lt. Col. Joel C. Carlson, SAM FOX Association president and 89 OSS mission operations chief said, "I think the younger [Airmen] were amazed at the stories from the older folks who were flying around [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower on the Columbine, an old prop driven plane, and now Air Force One is a 747, so it was a lot different back then." 

The Boeing 707 brought presidential air travel from propeller driven aircraft into the jet age, and the era of Airmen who served from the 1960s through the '80s and early '90s, when Air Force One was one of two 707s, made up the bulk of those who attended the reunion. 

"I talked to some of the guys who flew President Lyndon B. Johnson," said Lieutenant Haley. 

The veteran crew members told the young lieutenant stories about the first jet known as Air Force One named during President John F. Kennedy's administration with the fabled tail number 26000, he said. 

Tail number 26000 was replaced as the primary Air Force One in 1973, by another modified Boeing 707 with the tail number 27000. 

Although the plane came into service during the Nixon administration, history remembers it as President Reagan's airplane because he logged the most hours of travel aboard and it's now housed appropriately at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. 

At one point during an open house portion of the reunion, Lieutenant Haley was lucky enough to run into President Reagan's pilot, Col. (ret.) Robert Ruddick. 

"It was awesome, said Lieutenant Haley. "I talked with him briefly and heard stories about him from some of the other SAM FOX Association members. I heard that every landing he ever made on Air Force One was absolutely perfect." 

This notion has been reinforced over the years and similar accounts of Colonel Ruddick's performance can be found in popular literature and books as an excerpt from Kenneth T. Walsh's Air Force One, A History of President's and Their Planes shows:  "As the plane pulled to a stop precisely on time, as it almost always did, Reagan would theatrically check his watch and congratulate whichever crew member was nearby. 'You did it again,' he would say with a grin." 

What impressed Lieutenant Haley the most about the reunion was the camaraderie that was so evident while observing the generations of SAM FOX Association members before him. 

"These guys were here for so long. It amazes me that some of them were here for 20 years," he said. "That's unheard of in today's Air Force," he said. 

The SAM FOX Association hopes to continue to bridge the gap between past and future generations. 

"I hope we find a way to keep the interest level high, and I think that more Active Duty folks should try and get involved as much as possible because you really get to connect with your heritage," he said. 

Col. James Vechery, 89 AW vice commander, hopes to see the association "continue to grow by increasing membership of current Active Duty SAM FOX professionals." 

"The SAM FOX reunion provided an opportunity for all those professionals who built the SAM FOX tradition of excellence to come together, reminisce about the past, interact with those currently serving and look forward to the future," Colonel Vechery said. 

It takes a team of professionals to keep 89 AW aircraft doing the work of transporting the nation's leaders and foreign dignitaries around the world, and anyone who has ever been assigned to the 89 AW is invited to join the SAM FOX Association.