Whenever our Commander in Chief flies into Chicago, he is greeted by a select group of Teamsters Local 700 aviation members at O’Hare airport. Led by foremen Hector Tellado, Jr., John Locelso and Nick Lamonica, Local 700 members coordinate all of the logistics of the President’s arrival and departure with his staff and the Secret Service. Air dispatch, Pool Motor Truck Drivers and the support staff all play an integral role in carefully planning and executing each presidential visit.
Tellado is the support staff supervisor and has been a Teamster for 24 years, of which the last 18 have been at O’Hare. The Motor Truck Drivers that he assigns to the Secret Service detail are the only workers that are authorized to get within close proximity of the President’s aircraft.
“Not everyone gets to work hand in hand with the secret service,” said Tellado. “Myself and the other Teamsters that get to work this detail feel privileged and honored and there is always a sense of excitement when the President is on his way.”
Part of the aviation support staff’s duty is to escort all personnel to and from the aircraft, which also includes performing runway sweeps. The aviation drivers each take two Secret Service agents and travel up and down the runway making sure it is safe to land the aircraft, searching for any kind of objects or activity that would be considered a threat to the President. The team also drives up a set of stairs to the President’s aircraft and makes sure everyone gets on and off the plane safely.
The President was most recently welcomed by the Teamsters at O’Hare on April 7 when he came to Chicago to speak at the University of Chicago Law School about the Republican opposition to Judge Merrick B. Garland, his Supreme Court nominee. Tellado selected 15 support staff members to work the special detail for that visit and said everyone worked extra hours and starts and ends the shift together.
“This is not a single day event,” said Tellado. “We are all prescreened through the Secret Service with background checks well before we are allowed to be on the runway with the President.”
“I am so proud that our members are on the front lines to welcome President Obama when he comes to Chicago,” said Becky Strzechowski, Teamsters Local 700 President. “To our members that work this very special and honorable detail, I can’t thank you enough for working so hard to serve and protect our President and being the example of what it means to be a Teamster.”