The time: Saturday morning, Memorial Day weekend, the day before the biggest car race in the world, the Indianapolis 500.
The place: Shelbyville, Ind. Indiana National Guard helicopter pilots and their crews line the tables in the briefing room of the Army Aviation Support Facility. They sit with smiles and chatter amongst themselves as Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles Sawyer, the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade air mission commander, walks into the room.
Sawyer addresses the soldiers in the room and gives the crews their mission brief for Sunday’s close-hold operation, a mission that took weeks to plan and prepare for.
The soldiers fidget in their seats. Some lean in closely as Sawyer reveals the details of the forthcoming mission.
The details are crucial said Col. Daniel Degelow, the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade commander.
“Extensive planning goes into every mission we fly. Aircrews thoroughly review the supported unit's plan, evaluate weather, mitigate risks associated with the mission, assess aircraft performance factors and other criteria in order to assure mission success,” said Degelow.
After the crews received their missions, Sawyer escorts the members to the rehearsal area to conduct a walk-through of the next day’s events. The soldiers gather by aircraft crews. They spend the next moments walking through every decision and contingency options to ensure the successful implementation of the mission.
Sunday arrives. The crews report back to the armory before daybreak. The Hoosier National Guard soldiers busy themselves with tasks big and small. They load their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with supplies and move them into takeoff position.
Minutes before their scheduled departure the soldiers receive their final brief.
The helicopters and their crews are now loaded and in ready position.
As the sun rises above the horizon, the Black Hawks take off … one, two, three, four, five, six and they are all in the air. Off to their first destination of the day, eager to receive their distinguished passenger.
The Indiana National Guard Black Hawks arrive at the Columbus Municipal Airport to an already gathered crowd eagerly awaiting the special guest.
Not much time passes. Then what looks like a long blue and white bird comes closer into view.
A plane, spanning nearly 150 feet in length, with “United States of America” emblazoned on the fuselage touches the ground.
Yes, there it was, Air Force Two, carrying Vice President Mike Pence and his team. Back home again in Indiana.
The crew members stand at attention to welcome aboard the vice president and his staff.
Indiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Adam Herbert, the helicopter’s crew chief, receives his special guest. He salutes the vice president and receives one in return, as Pence and his wife, Karen, board the aircraft.
After all the new passengers have boarded and are safely strapped in, the pilot, Sawyer, calls to the tower.
“Columbus tower this is Army Two, ready to taxi for takeoff,” said Sawyer.
“Army Two, you are cleared for takeoff.”
There on that Sunday morning heading to the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, with Vice President Pence on board, an Indiana National Guard UH-60 becomes Army Two.
“What an awesome feeling to fly the vice president. We have flown him before as our governor, but there is something special about flying him now as the vice president of the United States,” said Sawyer. “Our team is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to support this mission.”