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TSU Welcomes first African American Female crew member of Air Force One                 

By Angel Higgins

Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell visited the TSU as a part of an Academic Lecture Series

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University had the pleasure of welcoming Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell as guest speaker for the “Dreams In Flight” Academic Workshop. Sergeant Joell is the first African American female to serve as a permanent Presidential crew member aboard Air Force One. Her visit to campus was a part of the John Merritt Classic 25th Anniversary Celebration.

Guest speaker Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell speaks at the Dreams In Flight Workshop at TSU.

Students were able to ask Sergeant Joell questions about her time in the Air Force and being a part of Air Force One, in addition to what it was like to serve 4 presidents. This included former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

ROTC Cadet Jaiden Walker said his big takeaway from the workshop was to always be prepared for new opportunities planned or unplanned.

 “Sergeant Joell inspired me to stay prepared because it is always opportunities that we never really thought of,” said Walker, a junior majoring in political science and mass communications.   

“As long as you stay prepared, whatever opportunities do come your way, you can take advantage of them.”

The trailblazing presidential flight crew member said she hopes that the workshop inspired students to never give up and keep chasing their dreams and goals in life.

“I hope I made a difference in at least one person’s life. It was important to me to try to inspire and make a difference.” She is working on a book called, ‘Dreams in Flight’ that tells the whole story of how her career started and what she is doing now.

From left to right, guest speaker Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell, Dr. Melton, Dr. Smith and Lt. Col Cash, posing with a statue replica and picture of Air Force One and a signed photo from former President Barack Obama.

Sergeant Joell grew up in Bermuda and always dreamed of leaving the small island to see the world. She made that dream come true by joining the US Air Force when she was 22 years old. While leaving Bermuda she encountered a flight attendant boarding Air Force One and had another dream she wanted to fulfill, being a flight attendant aboard the same aircraft one day.

“I got inspired by a flight attendant when I was leaving Bermuda, and I loved her compassion towards me. She made me want to fulfill that dream.”

From that point on, Sergeant Joell started to pave a pathway to be a flight attendant aboard Air Force One. Over the span of 2 years and countless documents submitted, she finally got the call she had been waiting for, a call to see if she was a good fit by doing a test flight.

“The Chief flight attendant told me he wanted to see if I could work well and play well with the other crew members.” According to her recommendation, she passed with “flying colors” and was hired.

After 28 years and 12 days of service, Sergeant Joell decided it was time to retire. Since then, she has been a guest speaker among other things to try and inspire others to never give up and achieve their dreams.

Junior ROTC Cadet, TSU student Jaiden Walker, a Political Science and Mass Communications major, sings the Alma Mater during the Academic Workshop.

TSU ROTC Commander Lt Col Stephen Cash said the event was ideal for his cadets to see how planning and following your goals can lead to success.

“We immediately thought this was something that would be helpful for the student body and especially our University 1000, first-year students. For them to hear on how to establish then chase and achieve their goals.”

Dr. Johnnie Smith, assistant vice president of Academic Affairs, added that she was excited that TSU would get the opportunity to hear from such a dynamic individual with an amazing life story, to showcase the TSU ROTC program at the same time.

 “We are excited to have Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell. This is a great day for TSU, having a woman who has not only served our country but who has served under four sitting Presidents of the United States of America. TSU has one of the best Air Force ROTC programs and I think it’s a quiet kept secret that I plan on unlocking.”

Academic Affairs hosted the workshop and is looking forward to making this event a part of future John Merritt Classic celebrations.