***image1***A common misconception of flight attendants is the stereotypical
commercial stewardess serving bad microwavable food. Many people have
no idea that the job even exists in the Air Force. But the 86th Airlift
Wing’s 76th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein and 309th Airlift Squadron at
Chièvres, Belgium employ 17 flight attendants who fly an average of 30
missions per year, cook meals from scratch and perform crew chief
duties for their passengers.
“We mainly fly high-ranking generals and occasionally, congressman and
other civilian distinguished visitors, on our two C-20 Gulfstreams and
one C-40 business jet,” said Master Sgt. Sandra Buffington, 76th AS
flight attendant of 10 years. “The most common mission we have is to
transport distinguished visitors to meetings in Washington, but we
travel all over the world.”
Even though most of the flight attendants’ time on a flight is consumed
with passenger comfort, their number one purpose is safety and
***image2***“We are primarily there for passenger’s safety during aircraft
operations,” Sergeant Buffington said. “We also demonstrate and
maintain proficiency in emergency equipment use, emergency procedures
and egress. We brief passengers and are responsible for orderly
expeditious evacuation of passengers and crew, as well as provide
emergency medical assistance if required,” she said.
The flight attendants supervise the loading and unloading of the
aircraft and validate passenger manifest, said Staff Sgt. Fred Johnson,
76th AS flight attendant.
But meal preparation is where the flight attendants excel. They plan
all menus in coordination with the DVs, then prepare and cook the meals.
They also procure all the food and beverages, which becomes difficult in some remote locations.
***image3***“It’s tricky when we fly to Africa,” said Tech. Sgt. Raidy Klepadlo,
76th AS flight attendant. “We pack everything we need because some
area’s sanitation requirements aren’t as strict as ours and it’s hard
to find potable water and necessary ingredients for certain meals.”
Sometimes, they travel to places where force protection requires that
they have a guarded escort when they leave their hotel. Recently
Sergeant Johnson was in Jordan with Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and
was told not to leave the hotel. He also played look-out in Afghanistan
with Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, Central Command vice commander.
“I remember flying into Bagram and watching the A-10s sweeping the
airfield before we landed to make sure it was safe,” he said. “The
pilots told me to look out the back window for any suspicious objects.”
In 2005, the flight attendants flew a total of 450 missions serving
over 800 DVs on missions lasting anywhere from three to 18 days.