Air Force Featured Stories

US Embassy Singapore, AF team up for diplomatic success

  • Published
  • By Col. Curtis Walker
  • Singapore air attaché
Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, recently passed away at the age of 91. Given Lee’s stature and standing, all of us at U.S. Embassy Singapore expected a large state funeral and a high-level U.S. delegation would be named and arriving soon; the funeral was just a few short days away.

It didn't take long for President Barack Obama to select former President Bill Clinton to lead our delegation. That meant the embassy and the Air Force had roughly 72 hours to build and execute a plan of action to support our president’s diplomatic mission.

We knew the complexity of the movement and the compressed timeline meant we would have to come together quickly as a team, call on the sum of our experience, and leverage our personal and professional relationships around the world to pull off such a tall order. The clock was ticking and failure was not an option.

Watching this mission come together was like watching poetry in motion. There were thousands of questions that demanded answers, countless details to be tended to and critical decisions to be made at scores of separate agencies – each a potential showstopper.

Working side by side with my embassy colleagues as the air attaché, I watched with pride as my fellow Airmen did what I've seen them do for nearly 30 years: they enthusiastically tackled what looked impossible and made it look easy.

Men and women assigned to the 65th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, flew the former president and his delegation safely halfway around world and back with the professionalism, precision and the dignity befitting our great nation. Airmen and contractors on the ground in Singapore from Detachment 2, 730th Air Mobility Squadron worked long hours in sweltering heat to recover, secure, service and launch the delegation’s aircraft. At the U.S. Embassy Singapore, Master Sergeant Kristen TenWolde worked around the clock wrestling with diplomatic clearances, weapons permits, airspace requirements, base access and a thousand other details too numerous to track.

The result of all this extraordinary effort was, first and foremost, a successful mission from beginning to end. But it was so much more and while it is difficult to put into words, I wish every Airman could share in it.

I want every Airman to know how it feels to stand on a flightline in a distant land in your service dress uniform with a U.S. ambassador and foreign dignitaries at your side while a big, beautiful Air Force aircraft taxies up with those iconic block letters emblazoned on its fuselage that proudly say “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

It makes you stand a little taller and straighter. It makes you realize that you’re part of something special, something much larger than yourself or any one person, and it makes you understand and appreciate what a privilege it is to serve our Air Force.