SENIOR MASTER SERGEANT
WANDA M. JOELL
As a young girl living in Bermuda, Wanda Joell knew that she wanted to travel the world. What she didn't know, she would make history as the First African American Female selected to serve as a permanent Presidential crew member aboard Air Force One. Growing up on a small island in Bermuda, Wanda envisioned a life of travel and opportunity.
She joined the US Air Force at age 22, and was blessed to have been placed in the transportation squadron. Her first assignment was in England. Her career took a huge turn in a chance encounter with the crew members aboard Air Force 2, after they landed at her duty station in England. She asked the question, "How can I become a crew member?"
From there, she started to pave a pathway to becoming a flight attendant. She submitted countless documents over the span of 2 years. She finally got the “call” to do a test flight to determine if she was a good fit. In her words, "The Chief flight attendant told me he wanted to see if I could work well and play well with the other crew members."
She did a good job and was recommended for hire. The Presidential flight crew is hand-picked by the Chief of the flight attendant section, and finalized by the sitting President's hand-written approval.
Until the early 80's, this position was primarily held by men. Over the span of her 28 year military career, Wanda has served during the Presidential terms of Bill Clinton, George Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. She also served as Superintendent of First Lady Operations, having flown with Mrs. Laura Bush, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, and Mrs. Michelle Obama. She also flew several non-supervisory trips with Mrs. Barbara Bush and Mrs. Nancy Reagan.
As a Presidential crew member, Wanda's job included planning menus, procuring culinary items, coordinating dietary restrictions, and managing cabin duties for America's highest ranking government officials, military officers and other foreign and domestic dignitaries. She was required to always be prepared to depart at a moment's notice, having to shop for food in order to prepare a five-star meal for all passengers aboard. She was also in charge of passenger comfort and safety which included all emergency procedures.
One of Wanda's most memorable flights was being aboard Air Force One during 9/11. She remembers meeting President Bush in the aisle, embracing, and telling him "God is with us" as she witnessed the F16 escorts on both wings, like angels in the sky. Wanda retired from the Air Force in 2010 as a Senior Master Sergeant, right under Chief which is the highest rank. She holds a Master's Degree in Human Resources. Currently, Wanda is a sought after speaker at churches, schools and colleges. She is also working on her first book, “Dreams in Flight.”