TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – While every installation hosts distinguished visitors, Travis Air Force Base, Califonria, has become a hub for many DVs traveling to the Pacific. Whether it’s a cabinet secretary, politician or military leader, Travis has recently seen them all.
In the last six months, Travis has hosted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Air Force Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Giovanni Tuck, 18th Air Force commander, a host of congressional delegations and other significant dignitaries.
There’s a variety of reasons for the high number of visits to Travis according to 1st Lt. Christy Martin, 60th Air Mobility Wing chief of protocol.
“Travis is the gateway to the Pacific,” said Martin. “Right now at least 40-50 percent of our mission is handling distinguished visitor visits. World events over in the Pacific have facilitated the influx of visits.”
These visits provided wing leadership an opportunity to highlight areas of accomplishment and concern to those individuals who can make a difference.
“When distinguished visitors come to Travis, it gives us a special opportunity to talk about Airmen, Team, Pride and Mission,” said Martin. “We can give Congressmen, and senior military leaders a snapshot of what we’re doing as a real Air Force.”
Each visit provides Travis a chance to make a lasting impression on those who are seeing it for the first time.
“Our expectation for these distinguished visitor visits is to treat them as good as we treat our Airmen,” said Martin. “Normally, there’s not much time to highlight everything we do here at Travis, so making an impression is important.”
Putting these visits on isn’t easy and takes a lot of moving pieces to ensure their success, according to Staff Sgt. Alexandria Estwick, 60th Air Mobility Wing protocol specialist.
“It takes a lot of interactions with other organizations on base to make these visits successful,” said Estwick. “We have contingencies. For example, if the aircraft breaks down, we need to have lodging reserved just in case.”
The focus of every organization involved is to ensure the distinguished visitor has everything they need during their stay.
“We work extremely hard to accommodate the needs of the distinguished visitor,” said Estwick. “Whether it’s something particular they want to see, communications or a dietary need, it’s important we go out of our way to oblige them.”
It is also important to get as much information about the distinguished visitor and find out what their interests are.
“We try to look at the interests for the distinguished visitor to help focus what we want to brief or show them,” said Martin. “If a governor is coming through and they’re interested in health care, we may highlight David Grant USAF Medical Center or the partnership we have with the Veterans Affairs.”
This is particularly important since Travis is one of the preferred locations for the next active-duty-led KC-46A Pegasus. Funding for construction and other support needs will be a topic that leadership can convey.
“It’s a win-win for both the distinguished visitor and Travis,” said Estwick. “These military leaders and government officials will be able to speak on our behalf.”
Who is accompanying the distinguished visitor is also a vital piece of information that protocol likes to have.
“When we get a notification on a distinguished visitor arrival, we gather as much information as possible,” said Estwick. “The duration of the visit, amount of personnel and if their spouses are accompanying them are all questions we ask.”
The amount of time to prepare for visits may determine what the distinguish visitor sees at Travis.
“Notification on distinguished visitor visits vary,” said Estwick. ‘Sometimes we can get a few weeks’ notice and sometimes we find out six hours prior.”
This is the exact reason why the Travis Command Post has created a checklist for this type of scenario according to Senior Airman Taylor Landis, 60th Air Mobility Wing emergency actions controller.
“Sometimes these visits happen with almost no notification,” said Landis. “This is why we’ve created a Quick Reaction Checklist so we know exactly who to notify and what they will have to provide.”
Once all the notifications are in place, each agency works together to ensure a successful visit.
“Typically the command post or distinguished visitors’ point of contact will inform us of the visit,” said Martin. “A Prior Permission Request gets generated from base ops, then they notify the command post, transient alert, security forces and maintenance.”
Each distinguished visitor has a classification that determines the type of support they need.
“Distinguished visitors are coded and usually determined by rank and position,” said Martin. “A colonel and above or GS-15 and above are what we consider distinguished visitors here at Travis.”
When distinguished visitors arrive, they are always greeted by Travis leadership, most often by the wing commander.
“U.S. Air Force Col. John Klein, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, makes it a point to greet every distinguished visitor coming to Travis,” said Estwick. “Who better to talk about the mission and personnel than our wing commander?”
As of now, there is no foreseeable slowdown in distinguished visitors coming to Travis.
“We average at least two distinguished visitors a week here at Travis,” said Martin. “That’s a lot of resources that we need to have available to ensure these visits go as planned.”
For now, Travis will continue to impress distinguished visitors with their secret weapon.
“We always want to leave a lasting impression on the distinguished visitor,” said Estwick. “Having fresh-baked cookies in the distinguished visitor lounge doesn’t hurt.”