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Take every opportunity, you never know where it will lead

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Vianesa Vargas
  • 82nd Aerial Port Squadron

When opportunity “knocks” you answer, right?  That’s what I did last year when I was selected to lead Joint Team Records, responsible for moving presidential records, gifts and artifacts of the outgoing administration in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.  It was a tremendous opportunity for an Air Force officer to lead a joint team and work with interagency partners and executive staff.

In 2014, I was asked to return to active duty to assist with a program I managed when I originally left active duty in 2011.  This duty was at the Air Force District of Washington, an Air Force direct reporting unit.  Upon completion of the program I was asked to extend, as the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region specifically asked if a logistician could lead the presidential records effort.  My supervision at the AFDW wanted me.  There were two problems at other levels; 1.  I was a Reservist, and 2.  I was a commander.

After months of vetting, attending meetings and conducting briefings, I was selected.  Since it had been 10 years since having my hands in operational logistics, I told the planners that I wished to pick the skillset of my deputy. I didn’t care where the individual came from, however, I wanted an officer proficient in airlift planning.  I was granted my wish, and went to work deployed on a unit line number in Washington, D.C.

I was one of the first of the JTF team commanders on the scene in August 2016.  My days largely consisted of meetings and getting to know the lay of the land.  Because I was embedded with the Army at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., I also attended morning physical training sessions.  The JTF was largely responsible for all aspects of presidential ceremonial transition.  It is a complex muscle move, with many moving parts.  Fortunately for me and my team, we operated out of the National Archives building near the White House where our operation remained until completion six months later.  We were the first team in and last out.

I led two branches—“Team D.C.,” who, besides my operations officer, also included an Army infantry officer and 25 Soldiers from the 3d Infantry Regiment-(The Old Guard).  Additionally, I was allotted 40 Sailors on the Chicago end—“Team Chicago,” which consisted of a Navy lieutenant and personnel from Naval Air Station Great Lakes, Illinois.  We worked to secure the president’s legacy, moving over 230 short tons of cargo on 51 trucks and a single C-5M Super Galaxy over a six-month period.

As a history aficionado, it was a dream to work in the National Archives.  As an Air Force officer, it was particularly exciting to lead a diverse group of military professionals from three different services at this stage in my career.  I was told this was the most seamless and efficient presidential move since President Carter, the first time the military led the duty.  Something tells me you will see more Air Force logisticians replace me in that duty in the future.