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NEWS | Aug. 16, 2007

Airman lives Air Force core value, supports president

By Airman Melissa White 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Service before self is always recognized as an Air Force core value, but it had a lot of personal meaning to a Charleston Airman who was called in for duty to aid President Bush recently.

Senior Airman Kyle Brooks, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, was part of an aircrew that transported Marine One to Minnesota Aug. 2 to aid the president in viewing the site of the bridge collapse which occurred Aug. 1.

Being part of a crew that has helped transport Marine One is not out of the ordinary for Airman Brooks. He has helped transport the president's helicopter about four times, including in support of Hurricane Katrina and a trip to Guatemala.

However, this time was different from the others.

Airman Brooks got married to Heather July 14 in Nashville. His wife and two-year-old stepson, Hayden, had just moved to the Charleston area from Tennessee to live with him.

"They had been living with me for just two days when I got the alert call and we hadn't even started unpacking from the move yet," said Airman Brooks. "My wife didn't really know what was going on at first until she saw the look on my face. Then she realized what was happening and helped me pack my bags and drove me to the crew bus."

Airman Brooks said he didn't know where he had to go, what he was going to do or how long he would even be gone.

"I was really worried about her because missions like this can sometimes take several weeks and I had no idea how long this would take," he said. "I didn't know if anything would happen so I gave her phone numbers and names of people she could contact in case of an emergency."

Airman Brooks was first alerted around 5 p.m. and was on base within an hour of the call. The 6-person crew then departed Charleston AFB for Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., to pick up Marine One, support equipment and 17 Marines. The crew consisted of Capt. Carl Rotermund, 14 AS aircraft commander, Capt. Steve Brown and 1st Lt. Quinton Swantner, 14 AS co-pilots, Senior Airman Gonzalo Mata-Buxade, 14 AS loadmaster, and Senior Airman Anthony Suzuki, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief.

Airman Brooks said he was relieved when he got to Quantico and found out they were going to Minnesota instead of farther away because then he knew he would be able to be back with his family sooner.

The crew landed and unloaded Marine One around 4 a.m. the next day in Minnesota. The mission was completed in about nine hours from the time they left Charleston until the time they returned.

"This was a great experience and it was really amazing to see how our support made such a difference because the president was using his helicopter right away the next day," said Airman Brooks.

Though a call to duty may sometimes be inconvenient or at what people may think is the "wrong time," Airmen are ready and willing to serve their country and adhere to the Air Force core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.