Wednesday, March 18, 2009
This is a report of one volunteer’s experience driving a vehicle in a U.S. Presidential motorcade.
Victoria Schalinske is the volunteer and these are her recollections as reported on Bexley Public Radio Thursday March 12, 2009.
Just a few days before the presidential visit to Columbus, Victoria learned of the need for volunteer drivers from a friend, Molly Fried. Victoria and Molly are both graduates of Bexley High School. Toria is a senior at Capital University and Molly is a student at George Washington University.
The volunteer assignment was to be a driver in the motorcade that would drive President Obama from the airport to the police cadet graduation ceremony in Columbus.
The presidential visit was scheduled for Friday March 6.
After telling her friend that she wanted to volunteer, Victoria called her mother, Bexley resident Connie Schalinske, to learn if she too wanted to volunteer. Connie didn’t hesitate and volunteered immediately.
The daughter’s sorority sister , Jennifer, a nursing student at Capital University, also volunteered.
They were all contacted by a presidential advance man in charge of transportation. He confirmed their willingness to serve as volunteer drivers and invited them to a training session at the downtown Renaissance Hotel on Thursday night.
The same man asked them for information so security checks could be completed. He requested information like social security numbers, driver license numbers and other personal details.
The Thursday evening session at the Renaissance Hotel was a briefing on what the volunteers should expect. There were seven volunteers attending the training. They were advised not to talk to their passengers and if the passengers spoke, to keep their conversations confidential. The volunteers were requested to keep the details of the route confidential.
The volunteers then participated in a practice run along Fifth Avenue from the airport to downtown Columbus.
At 8:00 a.m. Friday morning, the volunteer drivers met at Port Columbus International Airport. The vans and other vehicles were checked by security. Security personnel were from the Secret Service, FBI and a bomb squad.
The fleet of ground vehicles was three police cars, two presidential limousines, and three or four grey Suburbans.
Victoria was selected as a driver and Connie served as her daughter’s back-up.
Victoria said that because of the number of security personnel at the airport, guns were everywhere but not too visible. Weapons were stored in one of the vehicles. Nine security officers were in each van. There was also a hazardous material disposal truck in the motorcade.
There were 20 ground vehicles in the procession. Victoria drove the seventh car behind the presidential limousine.
Air Force One was scheduled to land at 10:30 a.m. on one of the southern runways near the Fifth Avenue side of the airport. The plane arrived a little early and touched down at 10:25 a.m.
All of the volunteer drivers were cautioned by Secret Service officers to avoid touching the plane wings. For safety reasons, if any wing were touched by a vehicle, the plane could not be used until an engineering inspection had been conducted. That would result in a major delay.
The presidential staff exited Air Force One from the exit door near the aft of the plane; the president and presidential party exited from a door at the front section of the plane.
After exiting Air Force One, staff and the president quickly jumped in the vehicles and limousine and the motorcade began the road trip.
The Thursday night practice route to downtown Columbus was not used for the actual trip taken by the motorcade. Interstate 270 was taken from the airport to the exit for Aladdin Temple on Stelzer Road. The Thursday practice route was a back-up route in the event anyone got left behind or for other contingencies.
The president was the guest of honor and featured speaker at the police cadet graduation ceremony.
After the speech and ceremony, the volunteers were taken to a backroom and photographed individually with President Obama.
The motorcade then returned to the airport. The president and his staff climbed aboard Air Force One. The plane was cleared for take off and on its takeoff run down the runway, a Secret Service vehicle followed behind until the plane lifted off the ground.
Victoria and Connie then returned the rental vehicle to the rental office at the airport.
Just another day in the life of Bexley volunteers.
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Bexley Public Radio Foundation broadcasting as
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Design is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation Editorial Collective. Photographs are copyright 2009. All rights reserved Victoria Schalinske.
Posted by WCRX-LP Editorial Collective, at 3:48 PM