By Robert Noles
Last Friday was a long but wonderful day, which included a lot of personal firsts.
I woke up at 3 a.m. C.S.T to make the deadline to be able to meet a bus at 6 a.m. E.S.T at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus.
At 6:30 a.m., the shuttle bus departed for Lawson Army Airfield. Travel was slow once we got on base.
There were a number of troops out running along the road, so that meant the bus driver did special things such as turning on his blinkers and going slower than the speed limit of 15 mph as he passed the formations and their full backpacks. As the 22-member media group arrived, we were carried to the tarmac where we set up our equipment and claimed our space. We were moved inside where we stayed until we were asked to go back outside so they could execute a security sweep. Upon our return, we were checked again, given our White House Press Pool badges and sent back to the tarmac to wait for Air Force One. Everyone had to recheck their equipment and get ready for the arrival.
As 11:35 was approaching, everyone was scanning the sky for Air Force One. Around 11:40, I saw a dot coming from the east over the tree line. Then the awesome site of Air Force One was overwhelming as it approached the tarmac to land.
This huge Boeing 747-200B with the code 28000 on the tail of the plane landed, and all I could focus on was the big seal with the words “United States of America” on the side of the plane. The rear door opened to let support personnel onto the tarmac, and then the moment came.
Through the open front door, President Donald J. Trump stepped out, greeting the personnel and receiving line in front of him.
Before his foot touched the third step, the soldiers on the base of the stairs gave the salute. The president waved and called out to the crowd that had gathered. Some of those in the crowd was Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife Marty, three of many there to greet the president.
Then the president and his party moved from Air Force One to the Marine One helicopter. They taxied down the runway then flew off to the west to Auburn University Regional airport, where they would take a motorcade to the Beauregard area to see damage caused by the March 3rd tornadoes.
Those that traveled on Air Force one to Fort Benning were President of the United States Donald Trump, Wife Melania Trump, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Deputy Administrator Peter Gaynor.