(KNOB NOSTER, Mo., digitalBURG) – Though Whiteman Air Force Base officials are used to a variety of aircraft flying in and out, Air Force One was a rare sight Wednesday.
A large crowd awaited President Barack Obama as the plane approached its landing time.
Master Sgt. Allan Sell and his family were part of the greeting party. His wife, Kristen, and their sons, Matthew, 9, and Zachary, 7, shook hands and high-fived the president. Matthew was excited about the president’s visit.
“It was really cool to high-five Barack Obama,” Matthew said.
“No matter what your political views, the president is the president,” Kristen said. “I mean that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I got to shake his hand. The little kids got to high-five him. And how awesome is that? We had a great time and it was well worth the long wait.”
When Air Force One landed, Obama descended the steps with Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was celebrating her birthday, and was greeted by Vice Commander Col. Kristin Goodwin and other Air Force officials and their families.
Civilian Jennifer Greene, public relations director at Whiteman, worked with the Air Force, city of Warrensburg and Mayor Charlie Rutt to prepare for the president’s visit.
“We hit the ground running when we found out for sure,” Greene said. “As I handled the outreach, we’ve been coordinating to make sure that everyone is on the same page and everything runs smoothly.”
Johnson County Sheriff Chuck Heiss led a large procession of cars and motorcycles to the university. Heiss escorted the president in the pilot car along with the Kansas City Police Department, Independence Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The Warrensburg Police Department, the military and the Secret Service also helped provide security.
“A lot of work goes into it,” Heiss said. “A lot of preparation, a lot of planning, a lot of detail. It’s an exciting time. Anytime you have a sitting president visit your community it takes a lot of work. It’s a boost for the community. It spotlights our community and some of the programs at the university that he’s going to talk about.”
Capt. John Severns, chief of public affairs at Whiteman, said Air Force personnel ensured the base was in good condition for the president’s visit.
“All of us here at Whiteman Air Force Base were of course very thrilled and honored to be playing host to President Obama,” Severns said. “It’s one of the greatest honors that we can have here as an Air Force base. In terms of what we did to actually prepare for him, we did a lot of cleaning. We’ve spent the past couple of days just going around with a fine-toothed comb just making sure that everything looks as best as we can possibly get it.”