I served in the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2010. I was a Marine One Crew Chief for 1 year and three months. I will answer any reasonable questions but keep in mind I cannot divulge classified info. AMA

Edit: In response to frequent requests for proof here are pics and what not for those who do not wish to sift through the comments. Pic of me when I posted this IAmA:http://i.imgur.com/xsH90.jpg Pic of me 2 1/2 years ago:http://i.imgur.com/3v5Qb.jpg Pic of me Bush's last flight:http://i.imgur.com/khhnh.jpg Pic of on my last lift:http://i.imgur.com/02YwU.jpg Pic of my Presidential Service Badge:http://i.imgur.com/CiyaR.jpg

EDIT: Sorry if responses are slow, I honestly was not expecting this mass volume of questions. I will try to answer all your questions though just please be patient.

Comments: 1582 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

ilikemopeds208 karma

Funniest thing the President ever said to ya?

Bananarine790 karma

President Bush: Thank you for your service, what are you planning to do with your life? Me: After the corps I plan to attend college and eventually teach high school Mr. President. President Bush: That's good, thank you, we need all the teach we can get.

fiftyseven63 karma

And did you?

Bananarine221 karma

I'm in college right now working towards that..

pittpat143 karma

I knew an FBI agent that was in the WFO and he told me that there are 5-7 helicopters of the same model and when they leave to and from Andrews they all fly in different directions so any would be potential threats wouldn't know which one was carrying the President.

Bananarine188 karma

I would really like to but I cannot tell you about this one man...sorry classified info by the way congrats, you're the first person to ask a question I could not answer....

ssj4megaman138 karma

I very much enjoyed reading your posts, thank you for your time.

Bananarine136 karma

Glad I could give it you

frenchbot137 karma

I've always imagined secret service agents to be cool customers - straight down the line professionals. What is your opinion on them?

Any cool secret service stories?

Bananarine410 karma

That is pretty much the exact definition of what they are. When the president is around they are balls to the wall serious and professional and they won't hesitate to push you out of the way if they feel you're in the way. I hold them in the highest regard.

My girlfriend also served in my squadron and we were on a trip in Texas with President Bush. She was lying down on the tarmac taking some pretty badass photographs of me and the helicopters just before the lift when a service agent walked up behind her and said "Maybe it isn't a good idea to lay in a prone shooting position when you have trained snipers on you." At that point she stood up and apologized to the agent who then said "it's not a problem as long you don't do it again."

woo_hoo52 karma

My girlfriend also served in my squadron

Did you serve together and then hook up? Or somehow get your gf transferred to your team?

Bananarine119 karma

We went through school together early in our military training in 04'. We were great friends then and by sheer luck happened to get orders to the same squadron. We didn't make the decision to start dating until our last year in the corps. But we've been together ever since.

econleech32 karma

What types of hand to hand combat training did you receive? And were you expected to take a bullet for the president?

Bananarine72 karma

Marine Corps Martial Arts Program: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Corps_Martial_Arts_Program

and yes

[deleted]131 karma

I read this as: "I blew both President Obama and President Bush."

Bananarine404 karma

I read that as "Freudian slip"

bumblebeetuna_1113 karma


Bananarine261 karma

I was given the opportunity to fly President Bush for his last flight on the day of President Obama's inauguration. It was by far the most publicized and nerve-racking lift I ever did. It was incredible though, to be there on a historic day and fly over the national mall was an amazing experience.

woo_hoo98 karma

What was Bush's mood on that trip?

Bananarine249 karma

It was short and I didn't get the chance to speak with him. But from what I could see on his face he seemed relieved but sad at the same time.

nicmos40 karma

so what happened? you flew him to Andrews, and then he walks out the front gate a civilian?

Bananarine99 karma

After that he got on another plane and flew to Waco, TX to go home and do whatever he wanted to...

ArchibalKnewIt110 karma

I see on TV that whenever the president boards the helicopter, the pilot looks at him all the way to the stairs. I see it every time there is a pic or footage of the pres boarding the copter, the pilot looks at him. Why is that, what's the reasoning behind that protocol? Is he just trying to make sure everything is alright?

Bananarine495 karma

Actually all that is is the co-pilot trying to get as much face time on the TV camera as possible...

gimliclc93 karma

I have read that Air Force One has a number of defensive mechanisms in place (flares, etc) most of which are top secret. Obviously, it wouldn't be smart to divulge too much information, but do the Marine One vehicles defenses go above and beyond what a typical craft would have and were you made aware of all of its capabilities.

I wouldn't want you to get in trouble over an AMA, so a 'safe' answer is completely understandable.

Bananarine184 karma

I was fully aware of all of Marine One's defensive capabilities because part of my job was inspecting and maintaining them. The information is highly classified but I can tell you that similar equipment can be found on other military and DOD aircraft and it works very well.

Throwaway_Novelty192 karma

Confirmed: Air force one has a warp speed accelerator.

Bananarine287 karma

and a flux capacitor

tiger_lily85 karma

What are they both like? Any good stories on either Obama or Bush?

Bananarine260 karma

Bush was a very friendly person. He has a firm handshake and kinda gives you an old friend feel. He was very quirky though. His favorite gum was classic pink extra and on his last flight I gave him 3 giant packages of it. He joked with us a lot and always invited us to exercise with him or help him on his ranch in Texas.

Obama was more....professional i guess you could say. In some ways he seemed rude but I understood he is an extremely busy person, especially at the beginning of his term. He did give me a "cold fish" hand shake though when I last flew with him. But talking to him one on one he is a very cool guy. I only flew President Obama maybe 10 times as opposed to Bush I flew almost over 50 times so unfortunately I never got a chance for any cool stories with him.

[deleted]105 karma


Bananarine249 karma

He was, we used to help him clear brush to build biking trails on his ranch.

planetmatt55 karma

Wait, so that clearing brush crap was true? Poor guy, all this time I thought it was just a metaphore for going home and getting hammered out his brain but he actually was trying to clear his whole ranch of brush?

Bananarine102 karma

just parts of it to make bike trails around the ranch.

frenchbot71 karma

Have you ever been in any emergency situations with the President on board?

Bananarine106 karma

Thankfully no.

CountNoAccount68 karma

Did you work with a pilot friend of mine? Callsign Shaft? He started at HMX-1 early '07 or so.

Bananarine77 karma

Was he a 46 or a 53 pilot? I may have but the callsign doesn't ring a bell. What was his last name and rank?

CountNoAccount52 karma

53, transferred from K-Bay. Maj. Garrison.

Bananarine103 karma

I literally just got off the phone with the ODO at HMX asking about shaft. Maj Garrison was a fucking awesome dude. By far one of the best pilots I ever flew with. If you talk to him soon tell him Sgt. Kish says hello and to e-mail him.

CountNoAccount56 karma

Will do! I went to high school with "Maj. Garrison" and we've been good friends since. He's a stand-up guy. That wiry little Gyrene fireman carried my ass a mile when I got too drunk at an Ole Miss game back in the day. I see you are in Kennesaw, I am in Chattanooga. Hit me up if you get up this way and we'll get a beer.

Bananarine30 karma

Sounds great man and thank you.

dagayute65 karma

What did you have to do as a crew chief? Were you armed? What are you up to these days? Do you have a favorite helicopter?

Thank you for your service and stay safe out there :)

Bananarine115 karma

As a crew chief I maintained the planes as well as flew on them. I was responsible for making sure the planes were safe for fight and clean for missions. In flight I assisted pilots with flight operations and navigation and was a mechanical representative for the helicopter, essentially if something went wrong it was my job to know what, why and how to fix it.

I was not armed but the HMX-1 (the squadron) security guards were at all times.

Currently I am living in Kennesaw, GA and attending Kennesaw State University working towards a degree in History Education. I drink a lot of beer, play hockey in a local league and play airsoft in north GA.

Favorite helicopter will always be the CH-46, picture it as the Chinooks little brother. We call the 46 a phrog, because from the front it looks like a frog sitting on a lilypad. It was a great helicopter because it was highly capable and easy to maintain. Unfortunately it's being phased out by the Marine Corps and being replaced with the V-22 Tilt-rotor Osprey...

[deleted]133 karma

They aren't going to fly the president around in an Osprey are they? That pretty much counts as an assassination attempt.

Bananarine113 karma

I could not agree more with that comment. As far as I know they will not be anytime soon. They don't even have Ospreys at HMX thankfully.

STGItsMe35 karma

Bush era budget was developing VH-71 as the new Marine One. Obama axed it right away as too expensive. No new replacement is in the works yet that I know of.


Bananarine71 karma

That is 100% correct. The VH-71 was a horrible idea, logistically and operationally. Why we even considered it I have no idea. The aging VH-3D fleet will need replacing soon. We should have chosen this for the replacement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-92

mrrar23 karma

Can you please explain why? Sans classified info, of course, but I cannot fathom the differences between the vessels (right term?), so I'm very curious as to what the differences are. What made the 71 suck, other than cost? Why is the Sikorsky good? What's better about that over the 3D's?

Bananarine68 karma

The 71 was a logistical nightmare. Parts for the plane were in England. Lockheed Martin had no idea how HMX operated. They promised that oh yes of course the 71 can do this. Once HMX and the secret service and WHCA got their hands on it they quickly realized that the 71 in fact could not do 50% of what they thought it could. Breaking down the 71 to put it into a C-17 was a nightmare as well, the entire tail section had to come off.

Sikorsky already has been working with HMX for 60 years, they know what they need and how to do it. The Sikorsky 92 (superhawk) was smaller but they made realistic projections to HMX. They explained what it could and could not do because they knew what the agencies would want on it. The plane is easier to transport in a C-17 and logistically all the parts are right here in the US.

The 3D's are just old, plain and simple...

metaman212 karma

I don't know anything about planes, but doesn't the government in general always buy american?

Bananarine22 karma

Typically yes, Lockheed Martin (american) had a joint contract on the 71 with Augusta Westland(also known as the 101 in europe). Thus the 71's parts were based in Europe.

mionendy15 karma

how safe are those helicopters? you always hear about crashes and stuff, makes me wonder if it's safe to put up presidents in there... and also, did you have a ton of background checks and stuff done on you? and psych evals? I mean you are literally holding the life of the president in your hands. how common are screwups?

Bananarine40 karma

Background checks are very, very thorough. They won't let just anybody work on the planes. Helicopters are very safe. In the entire 60 some odd years that HMX-1 has been flying the president there has never been a mishap of any kind with him on board. Helicopter crashes have happened though, 3 or 4 that I know of at HMX but that's only within the last 25 years. There was a VH-60 that crashed back in 1993 and an HMX-1 CH-46 that crashed in 1998. Don't let this worry you though. Flying is still the safest way to travel. I have flown over 750 flight hours without any major incident.

the_cereal_killer11 karma

what were some minor incidents?

Bananarine47 karma

Taxiing down a runway in the summer, was so hot outside that my brakes locked up and we almost tipped up and put the rotor blades in the ground. We scratched up the bottom of the plane on that one.

Some navigational equipment in one of the bays under the cockpit caught fire in flight and we had to land and put the fire out.

Also in the summer in Texas this time flying back to the airport my landing gear would not come down. The pump that operated the system for the landing gear had seized and I had to use the emergency system for the gear in order to get them down and land safely. If that hadn't worked we would have landed on mattresses.

These are considered minor because no one was hurt and damage to the helicopter was minor.

JSK2363 karma

What was your first day on the job like; nerves, thoughts, expectations and the reality?

Bananarine144 karma

I was nervous wreck. I was triple checking everything before my flight. All I could think about was the helicopter and making sure I didn't miss anything, everything had to be perfect. I wasn't really expecting anything because I had heard enough from past crew chiefs about it and I was to busy with the plane. But just before takeoff I got some butterflies in my stomach. As far as the reality goes I was blown away. Flying past the Washington monument, touching down on the south lawn and saluting the man as he walked on board was such a rush that I almost didn't have time to appreciate it. It seemed as if I had just taken off when we were already dropping him off at Andrews AFB.

JSK2372 karma

Thanks sir, for both your service and the awesome AMA.

Bananarine72 karma

My pleasure

frenchbot11 karma

Conversely, how was your last day on the job?

Bananarine45 karma

A relief, doing that job day in and day out was very stressful. There was a lot of travel involved and a lot of lost sleep. My last day I got very early and just kinda soaked the day in so to speak. I took everything slow and tried to savor it as much as I could. One last approach past the Washington monument, opened the doors, stood at attention, saluted President Obama as he walked down the stairs. He shook my hand we talked for about 30 seconds and then he walked off. I closed up the doors and flew on out. When I got home that night I sat out on my front porch and polished off a bottle of Jameson. Here's a pic of my last day actually. http://i.imgur.com/02YwU.jpg

Question013 karma

why was there a last day?

did you resign or does someone make the call or do they just replace you guys often?

what are you planning to do now?

Bananarine25 karma

Marine Ones are limited to a term of one year (longer if there is no replacement available). They keep it short so that other marines have the opportunity to do the job. Currently I am attending college in GA at KSU.

eramos13 karma

Did Obama know it was your last day?

Bananarine23 karma

He did, my pilot informed the milaide who in turn told Obama

Dorfidiot61 karma

great AMA! thank you.

Bananarine57 karma

You're welcome

cmajewsk57 karma

Used to live in Maryland and you guys would always fly over my house from Camp David. Are you able to go as low as you want, in DC as well? I've seen Marine One nipping the treeline on a few occasions...

Bananarine110 karma

Flight restrictions for DC keep you at maximum altitude of 200 ft for helicopters. I've flown as low as 50 ft through the mall area and Anacostia/Potomac river area though. It's a pretty cool experience.

enad5855 karma

How do you feel about being 'that guy in the background' in thousands of pictures? Have you ever seen yourself on the news/web/tv show as they are showing video/pictures of the prez boarding Marine One?

Bananarine122 karma

I've seen myself hundreds of times. I'm all over a national geographic special called On Board Marine One. I'll also be in an occasional news clip or news paper here and there. It doesn't bug me being the guy in the background at all because that way I get the satisfaction of working an awesome job without any of the negatives of being famous (like the guy in the foreground of those pics)

enad5893 karma

I've actually seen that NatGeo special. Next time it's on I'll look for you. And if I'm watching it with anybody, they'll get a coolstorybro about the time I communicated with you on this one website that they've never heard of.

Bananarine114 karma

Make sure you add a True Story when you're done telling him about me.

enad5810 karma

But of course. A quick follow-up question for ya - When in flight, you say you assist the pilots and crew. How busy are you up there? Are you constantly busy-bodying around or are you just kind of waiting for stuff to happen?

Bananarine27 karma

A little of both, usually when the president is on board all my focus is in the cockpit assisting the pilots with anything (nav, comms, switches, etc.). If it's just a routine training flight I still do that to a certain extent but most times I would be training another crew chief in the back or looking out the windows making sure there wasn't another plane about to hit us. Flying cross country was boring and monotonous, sometimes it was hard not to fall asleep.

johnofthedead53 karma

First time I've gone through and read an entire AMA. I maintain the EW systems on planes in the AF. Thanks for posting man!

Bananarine56 karma

Your welcome and thank you for your service

vuzuv49 karma

Anyone ever barf?

Bananarine99 karma

All the time actually, thankfully we stock the helicopter with plenty of barf bags.

frenchbot42 karma

Did either President ever barf?

Bananarine83 karma

Not to my knowledge but I'm sure it's happened in the past.

vuzuv33 karma

Nice! Was anyone ever drunk?

Bananarine91 karma

Bush senior and Raegan used to keep alcohol on the helicopter, but Bush junior and Obama did not. It's probably happened though.

aflex23 karma

Official Marine One barf bags?

Bananarine62 karma

Just a standard little envelope with a plastic bag inside to pull out and barf in. Funny story: we were flying in New York City scouting out locations with a security guard in back. It was his first time flying and it was very windy that day. I saw he was looking sick so I pointed out the envelopes with the barf bags in them to him. I turned back to the cockpit for a minute and then turn back to check on him. He had the tiny envelope open and was getting ready to puke into that! WTF!

Bananarine41 karma

Thank you for that...made my day...

patricksaurus49 karma

Is Joe Biden a boob in person? Also, you might have the coolest job I've ever heard about.

Bananarine155 karma

I never got the chance to fly with Biden but from what I heard about him he is a dick. I flew Cheney on multiple occasions and I can firmly attest to you he is a huge dick....and that he loves planters salted peanuts, lol

KibblesnBitts80 karma

Could you elaborate on Cheney being a dick from a personal experience?

Also, this is the most interesting and best AMA I have read in a long time.

Bananarine187 karma

Cheney was a dick in several ways. He was always late, 15 min at least. He never saluted except in one occasion when there was mass publicity. He was always grouchy and left a mess in the helicopter. Also, part of our job was making sure the back of the plane was stocked with snacks and whatnot and he would take every packet of peanuts he could find! I even tested it one time and I put 12 packs, 12!, in the back...all gone. This sounds dumb but it was just one small thing to irk a crew chief...because that meant you had to restock them all which was a pain.

bloom61649 karma

So, he's like the Penguin, but he likes peanuts instead of fish?

How often would you get any kind of time with the President outside of short pleasantries?

Bananarine53 karma

very rarely...only 3 or 4 times during my entire tour...

edenite44 karma

During your time did you ever work with the crew of Air Force one? Thank you for your time, your replies and your service (and im not even american)

Bananarine88 karma

We worked with them in the sense of passing the president to each other but we never interacted outside of that. Occasionally we would get a tour of air force one and in return we'd give them one of Marine One...Air Force One is NICE!

koolkats43 karma

I know I could probably Google this but how did you get into that line of work? What helicopters did you fly? And how cushy were the insides?

Bananarine71 karma

Joining the marines was pretty easy, mostly paperwork then bootcamp. The selection process for Marine One after you get to the squadron is very tough though. There are multiple requirements and you must be voted on by the peers in your shop. It's mostly a political game among your peers though, most of the requirements are just met with time in service.

I originally crewed CH-46s but after I received my clearance I worked on VH-3Ds (The helicopter you usually see on the south lawn of the white house.) The squadron also uses VH-60s (blackhawks) but we use those more for overseas trips because they are smaller and easier to break down.

The insides are nice considering how stripped down they are. Weight is a major issue with helicopters so the insides have to be mostly very light materials. All in all it's not quite on par with Air Force One but they're still pretty nice for a short flight.

[deleted]34 karma


Bananarine71 karma

By the point where you are eligible for the Marine One vote you're most likely a corporal or a sergeant by then. If you've established yourself as a hard worker and a good leader then you really don't need to "get your peers to vote for you". They will vote for who they see is best for the job.

There wasn't so much additional training as there is just minimum requirements to be eligible (flight hours, maintenance hours, Vice Presidential lifts, etc...)

[deleted]27 karma


Bananarine37 karma

You're welcome

redditorguy21 karma

You mention going to college but as a former Marine (not in the wing though), I thought all pilots had to be officers. Clarify?

Btw, great post man.

Bananarine58 karma

Clarification. I was an enlisted crew chief, not a pilot... Btw, thanks for the compliment

Osum36 karma

From Australia but just wanted to thank you for the interesting AMA.

Bananarine12 karma

You're welcome

sezyou36 karma

May I ask who you supported in the last Presidential election?

Bananarine156 karma

You may, I voted for McCain but strictly because of his policy on the war in the middle east. I like Obama and I like a lot of his policies but I did not agree with what he wanted to do with the war during his campaign. In several ways McCain and Obama were very close in comparison though.

mcgovernor35 karma

What was your absolute favorite part of the job and why?

Great AMA by the way. Thanks for answering so many questions.

Bananarine105 karma

This might surprise you but I really miss working on the helicopters, Marine One in particular. Something about working on a plane and being able to call a multi-million dollar aircraft "mine" was very cool.

mcgovernor26 karma

That sounds awesome.

How did working on Marine One differ from other helicopters you've worked on?

Also, are you still in the marines? If not, what are your plans for the future?

Bananarine61 karma

Marine One was more about appearance and cleanliness, as well as maintenance. It was kind of like taking care of a classic car in your garage, your constantly polishing and wiping it down. I'm not in anymore, I'm currently going to college in GA at Kennesaw State University studying history ed.

lordkarumbo31 karma

When you fly, do you have multiple helicopters flying around as 'decoys'?

Bananarine55 karma

In some cases

[deleted]30 karma

Did you ever get a chance to talk to them, or were they all business all the time?

Bananarine65 karma

I got a couple of "how are you" or "thank you for your service" comments, but most of the time they were all business. The only real chance for interaction is an occasional meeting and Camp David. On the helicopter it is strictly business.

frenchbot29 karma

Flown any cool dignitaries?

Favourite place to fly to/from?

Bananarine59 karma

Unfortunately I never got the chance to fly any foreign dignitaries.

Favorite places to fly: Keep in mind the squadron is based out of DC so picture the flights from DC to these places as well as flying around in these places. -New York -Normandy, France -West Palm Beach, FL -Chicago, IL

anotherkenny32 karma

How does a helicopter fly to Normandy? Air refuel? Does the president helicopter around in those places (other than local like from the White House to Andrews or Camp David) or is it only car rides on the road?

Bananarine78 karma

We break the helicopters down and stick them into C-17's, fly them to Normandy and then build them back up.

He rides in his limo in several locations but if there is a larger distance (relatively speaking) say Waco airport to Bush's ranch (45min-1hr driving) (10-15 min flying) he would fly in the helicopter there. Most cases though we do not fly the president in a helicopter for more than 1 hr.

Goldberry26 karma

Why is that? I understand that it takes more time to drive but it is so much more expensive to operate a helicopter... please tell me there were security reasons for avoiding having him on the road?

Bananarine271 karma

security is the principle reason why...and it's not that much more expensive when you take operational costs of a road trip into consideration. You have to use local police assets as well as secret service to escort the motorcade and block off all the highways and streets on the route (results in an hour long or more traffic jam). In comparison it's pretty darn cheap to just fly a helicopter for 15 minutes.

frenchbot26 karma

Did you get this badge?

Bananarine44 karma

I did indeed, you can see me wearing that badge in this picture actually. It's pinned on my right breast pocket. http://i.imgur.com/3v5Qb.jpg

frenchbot23 karma

Very cool.

Best IAmA in a long time - thanks!

Bananarine12 karma

My pleasure

speedyleedy25 karma

did you ever get an upskirt of any hot interns?

Bananarine74 karma

lol, no...the only chicks that ever rode on the helicopter were the first lady and the occasional secret service woman, all of whom wore pants...

PaXango45 karma

Are the secret service women hot?

Bananarine97 karma

Most of the ones I saw, yes.

Campbells24 karma

Was either Obama or Bush scared of heights?

Bananarine35 karma

Not to my knowledge...

senor_chang23 karma

How does your arrangement compare to other marines? Are you "on call" whenever, or do you have normal on-duty hours like everyone? Do you eat/sleep in a different place?

Bananarine40 karma

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I can't divulge much info here but there are cases where we are "on call" 24 hours a day for multiple days where we do eat and sleep in different places. We also have normal duty days as well though.

workbrett21 karma

Which one tipped better?

Bananarine54 karma

No tips for me...but I did get some challenge coins from several higher ups...not from the president though...

Meretrice27 karma

What are challenge coins?

bobman1514 karma

Who started the conversation when you spoke to the presidents?

Bananarine39 karma

Most times it was the president that started the actual conversation after pleasantries were exchanged.