Vice President Mike Pence left the humidity of the East to travel to the dry desert temperatures of the West for a morale visit with Nellis Airmen Sept. 7.
Pence visited Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in January and returned for another firsthand look at the world’s premier proving ground for air, space and cyberspace lethality.
Upon landing, Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing commander, and other base leaders escorted Pence to the flightline to converse with the Airmen, who regularly fight the sweltering heat to maintain the world’s premier warfighting aircraft.
“The nation’s proud of you,” said Pence. “Proud of the way you take to the skies and this world-class maintenance team that makes it all possible. Nellis Air Force Base trains the best combat aviators in the world.”
To recognize one of those great Airmen, Novotny pulled Staff Sgt. Vanessa Redman, U.S. Air Force Weapons School, 32nd Weapons Squadron NCO in charge, from the group for the surprise of a lifetime. “We normally present our stellar Airmen with a coin for their hard work,” Novotny explained to Pence.
“But, Sergeant Redman, how does this work instead?” asked Novotny, as he and Pence each pulled technical sergeant stripes from their pockets. Following Redman’s surprise promotion, Pence took to the stage of the Thunderbirds hangar, home of the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron. Flanked by two of the Air Force’s fifth generation F-35A Lightning II fighter jets, Pence addressed more than 130 Nellis Airmen and Las Vegas veterans.
“It is great to be back at Nellis – home of the fighter pilot!” said the vice president. “Thank you for the warm welcome and what each of you do to provide for our national defense each and every day.”
Since Pence’s last visit, the Thunderbirds’ No. 4 Pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno died in an aircraft incident. Pence took a few moments to honor Del Bagno’s memory.
“You lost him in a tragic incident in April of this year, but this major had a lifelong love for flying,” said Pence. “Just over 10 years ago, he had a chance to prove that love to the world in the United States Air Force. As an officer in the Air Force, over the course of his career, he spent 3,500 hours in the air. He was a Thunderbird, he was a patriot. Let me just say to his family and to all the Airmen and comrades gathered here today, America will never forget and never fail to honor the life of Maj. Stephen Del Bagno.”
In addition to his personal gratitude for the Nellis warfighters, Pence expressed the administration’s steady gratitude for the military and veteran communities.
“It’s been humbling being here with you today,” said Pence in closing. “I look forward to meeting with as many of you as possible. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for stepping up to serve your country in such a time as this.”