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RODEO 2009: Flight attendants - first class service, first time competing at RODEO

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Imagine, you are flying to your destination when all of a sudden, the flight attendant says the hydraulic system has failed and we will be doing a crash landing in 10 minutes. 

Luckily, the plane was an Air Force plane with a qualified Air Force flight attendant and that was just a scenario during the first flight attendant competition at Air Mobility RODEO 2009. 

Eight years ago being a flight attendant was a special duty but now it is its own Air Force specialty. Since then, it was decided that they should compete with the other aircrew members. 

"We enable warfighter commanders and world leaders by getting them where they need to be with a mobile office," said Master Sgt. Shannon Hughes, 54th Airlift Squadron flight attendant, Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Sergeant Hughes was one of two umpires during the competition. 

Sergeant Hughes developed the competition from scratch along with Master Sgt. Barbara LaPlant, Air Mobility Command command evaluator for flight attendants. 

"We evaluated the flight attendants on how they briefed the passengers, used their cards, whether they followed procedures and used the right commands, and how they evacuated the plane," said Sergeant Hughes. "We also added a simulated injured passenger that they didn't know about and had to treat during the the after-crash procedures." 

Tech. Sgt. Fred Johnson, 310th Airlift Squadron flight attendant, MacDill AFB, Fla., was among the flight attendants being evaluated. 

"It's been great to be here and meet the other flight attendants," said Sergeant Johnson, a flight attendant of almost 10 years. "It also gives us a good perspective on what emergency evacuation is and to find out what other experiences they have had. 

"It also helps to make us feel more a part of the mobility family. We carry cargo, precious cargo," he added. 

"The main reason we are here is to keep our passengers safe, but fortunately because of our great pilots and maintainers we don't get to practice emergency evacuations often," added Sergeant Hughes. 

Another lesson Sergeant Johnson learned was to be flexible. 

"The plane I usually fly on is a C-37 and this plane was a C-20, but I had to adapt and overcome and have patience." he said. 

Now that the flight attendants have come to RODEO, they know what they need to do for the next competition. 

"It was fun to compete and it is great for the flight attendants to be part of the team," said Sergeant LaPlant. "We also have some things that we learned that we can take back to the command."