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From passenger to passenger briefings

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Randee Clohessy
  • 54th Airlift Squadron
"Welcome aboard, ma'am. What may I get for you?"

Those few words and a warm smile were a welcome sight for me each and every time I walked up the stairs of the C-40 aircraft while working as a military liaison. No matter how long I was gone, how little sleep I got or how many meals I missed, the flight attendants were always a comforting reminder of home--a safe haven where we knew we were going to get a warm meal and a little sleep.

Having been a traveling passenger aboard distinguished visitor, or DV, aircraft, I considered myself blessed to travel all over the world and meet people who have a global impact. As military liaisons, we set itineraries, prepared hospitality rooms, carried and loaded luggage, and attended meetings. We did this all with smiles on our faces, despite the erratic schedules which provided little sleep and a hunger in our stomachs longing for a regular meal. We were the first ones up in the morning, worked late into the night where many of our meals consisted of only Doritos and Pepsi. Most days it was a struggle to make it through another meeting or another itinerary stop, but then we would pull up to that beautiful blue and white aircraft. We knew that on the other end of those air stairs stood a team with smiles waiting to take care of us. It sounds silly, but that jet was a place where there were no language barriers and no threats; just generosity, hospitality, and if we were lucky, one of those homemade gourmet meals.

Sure, you could say we got spoiled traveling like this--but I never did. I never once took the crew of any DV aircraft for granted. I never once felt they owed me a thing. They were there to serve and were very happy doing it. There were several trips that it seemed like the only real meals or sleep that we got was onboard that plane. They would dim the cabin lights, hand us a pillow and blanket and let us catch a three hour nap before starting the grueling schedule all over again. At times, I don't think they had an idea of what they were really providing. They were caring enough to want to take care of us and it didn't matter if you were the lead DV or the lowest ranking member on the jet. It was their genuine smile and desire to make that jet feel like home that gave us a chance to catch our breath, relax and refocus. It wasn't just a delicious hot meal or a cold drink; they were providing that comforting, caring piece that helped us make it through the next stop.

Those experiences on the receiving end of all that hospitality are the very reasons I chose to cross over and repay the favor. A year ago, I put in my retraining paperwork to become a flight attendant. At the point where most people would look towards retirement and ride out their remaining years, I started over in a completely new career field. I knew that I had to be a part of a team like those truly caring men and women; the quiet professionals who took such great care of me and my fellow staff members for the past several years.

I have spent the past eight months getting the inside view as to what goes on behind the scenes of the "blue and white" mission. The little extras such as learning special ways to make beautiful fruit bowls, adding the extra touches to create a stunning dessert or a salad and learning the gentle touch that these men and women have that make you really feel welcome and appreciated. This team's passion to go the extra mile and truly serve the customer is inspiring. It's clear in the DV airlift world that we believe in giving our passengers so much more than they expect--that's part of the fun. Watching their faces light up when we come through with hot/cold towels or a personalized boarding drink and seeing their surprise and appreciation when they see that we have anticipated their needs before they have to ask. That's what makes all the work worth it.

Am I better at what I do because I sat in that seat? No, not at all. I have so far to go before I can begin to perform at the high level of my fellow flight attendants, but I really do believe that I am bringing a fresh perspective to my new job. A peek under the curtain at the genuine appreciation that is felt when sitting in that seat as a passenger. I truly believe that by feeling the heartfelt gratitude that we had for the flight attendants, I can now learn to be a great one as well. My heart is in it. I know what it feels like to be taken care of. I can now turn around and pay it forward. I will work a little harder, go a little farther, because I know that sitting in that seat, is a tired, hungry, hard-working passenger that has smiled their way through sundried fish appetizers or salted animal parts for three straight meals with little to no sleep. I know just how much each passenger is truly looking forward to cutting into that steak and chocolate cake and closing their eyes for some well needed rest as the lights dim, if only for a few short hours.

For me it's not just a neat job that I landed or a lucky career break. This is something that I understand really makes a difference. I love seeing the smiles on our passengers' faces when they see how we go above and beyond to make sure their stay with us is the absolute best that we can make it for them.