Machinery Technician Takes Flight on Air Force One

by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Evanson

Imagine air travel with no waits in long lines and without having to remove items of clothing at a security checkpoint. There’s no worry of long term parking fees or sitting next to someone obnoxious. Neither are there mind-numbing checked baggage fees that sink morale faster than a parking ticket during lunch.

One lucky Coast Guardsman took such a flight of imagination.

Petty Officer First Class Christopher Hutto, a machinery technician and engineering petty officer stationed aboard Aids-to-Navigation Team Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded a trip aboard Air Force One as a salute to his selection as the 2007 Coast Guard Enlisted Petty Officer of the Year.

“It was beyond words,” said Hutto.

Hutto and his EPOY colleagues from the other four services accompanied President George W. Bush to New York City to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

“Prior to the flight, no details were given about our trip with the president,” said Hutto. “I was contacted by the commandant’s office, and simply told that I would be flying to Washington, D.C., to visit the White House on Veterans Day.”

When Hutto arrived at the White House he was notified that President Bush had arranged for all of the EPOYs to be transported via Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base in nearby Maryland for a flight to New York City.

“It was obviously unexpected,” said Hutto. “I remember all of us looking at one another in a state of shock; I don’t know if we believed it was real.”

Once aboard Air Force One, Hutto and his traveling comrades were given a tour of the plane. “We got to see the oval office of the air,” he said.

They were then shown to their seats, which resembled traditional first class seating found aboard commercial airlines. “I asked myself how so much stuff can fit within a plane, somehow it did,” he said.

Once airborne, Hutto and company were allowed to call friends and family from executive phone lines, and some of them ate breakfast.

“He wants to see you now!” Those were the electrifying words of a crewmember to Hutto and his colleagues. President Bush invited everyone into his private office to chat for the duration of the flight.

“President Bush talked with each and everyone of us,” said Hutto. In a manner of reflection, the president expressed his gratitude for their service during such a difficult time.

After landing in New York City, Hutto stood behind President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush as the president delivered remarks to the press corps at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“As you can see, I have the honor of traveling with men and women who have volunteered to serve our nation in a time of war. Behind me are five outstanding Americans representing each branch of the military service,” said Bush. “Veterans have inspired troops such as these. Veterans have inspired me. I was raised by a veteran. I appreciate the commitment to our country that the veterans have made,”

“The whole experience was amazing,” said Hutto. “The president provided real Southern hospitality.”

Now back in Jacksonville, Hutto is transitioning into his new role as the engineering petty officer at ANT Jacksonville. He is serving as the third in command of a unit comprised entirely of enlisted members, while operating under the spotlight of being the Coast Guard’s top enlisted performer. “Being the EPO as the current EPOY is challenging but very rewarding,” said Hutto.

Very rewarding indeed! Hutto is one of the rare Coast Guardsmen to share the once-in-a-lifetime experience aboard the president’s chariot of the clouds.

“The one thing I will never forget is that President Bush made us feel as if he was honored to have our company, not the other way around.”

*Editors Note* – Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Hutto is a ten-year veteran of the Coast Guard, and native of Woodrow, S.C. He was honored as the 2007 Enlisted Petty Officer of the Year in March for his exceptional performance of duty while stationed aboard the 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, home ported in Homer, Alaska. Upon his selection, Hutto was meritoriously promoted to petty officer first class, a perk of his EPOY selection. He now brings his expertise to the First Coast of Florida.

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