Serving the president at 30,000 feet: What it’s like to work aboard Air Force One

It was 1976, and Tushar Gadre wasn’t quite ready for college.

He took his high school degree and his ambition, and set out to take the Armed Forces Vocational and Aptitude Battery Test: enlisting in the military seemed to be his only option.

“I said, ‘well, if I gave a little bit of my life to the military, the military is going to give me something back in exchange,'” he said.

After serving in the Air Force for five years in New Mexico, Gadre reenlisted and was put on a special duty assignment as a supply person in logistics at Andrews Air Force Base. He moved to Washington, D.C.,  where he would serve as a flight attendant supporting all “V.I.P flights,” or flights carrying members of Congress, the Senate, the Cabinet and more.

Fast-forward to the Ronald Reagan presidency, a time for tearing down walls, the “War on Drugs,” Reaganomics and, evidently, new Air Force Ones — Boeing 747s — that were much larger than the old ones.

“You got a big airplane, you need more crew members,” Gadre said.

Members from the regular squadron were tested to see if they would succeed at working aboard Air Force One. Gadre made the cut.

In 1990, Gadre became a full-time crew member on Air Force One. He served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and reflects fondly on his time aboard.

“You see international things happening, and I don’t know “a” plus “b” equals “c,” but I know I was involved in some mechanism of that equation,” he said. “It was phenomenal to see that happen.”

Photo provided by Tushar Gadre

Gadre saw international news unravel hours before it hit newspaper headlines. He also met the presidents, their families, and dozens of dignitaries from far and wide. He kept every itinerary from every mission he served, and he still fits into some of his uniforms.

Gadre left the Air Force in 1998 with dozens of plaques and accolades, and he even has a small bottle of official Air Force One champagne kept in a high cabinet of his kitchen. He served for a total of 22 years, and now works for the Transportation Security Administration.

Allie Caren About the author:
Allie Caren is the Rare People editor. Follow her on Twitter @alLISTENc.
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