Trump congratulates Air Force’s newest members at Daytona 500

President Donald J. Trump talks to a small group prior to the start of the Daytona 500. During his speech he congratulates the Air Force's newest members. (Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chance Babin)

President Donald J. Trump became the first sitting president to utter the phrase “start your engines” at the Daytona 500, Feb. 16.

Prior to the start of the 62nd running of the NASCAR race, a group of the Air Force’s newest enlistees were fortunate enough to have the president applaud them in person for their service.

The mass enlistment took place on stage in the center of the track. Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, Air Education and Training commander, conducted the oath to the Air Force’s newest members. Moments later, the group moved to a private gathering where the president gave a brief speech before the race.

“I’d like to congratulate all the new enlistees in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “To each of them, and all the service members here today, as commander in chief of the greatest fighting force on the planet … I want to thank you for your service.”

For the new enlistees, sitting a few feet away from the president, was a warm welcome to the Air Force.

“What an awesome experience,” said Nikolas Orozco, one of the new enlistees. “I can’t ask for anything better than that. Not many people get to say that the president was on hand when you got sworn into the service.”

“In my 20 years I’ve never been that close to anyone of that level,” said Master Sgt. Sean Christian, Air Force Recruiting Service noncommissioned officer in charge of special events. “For someone that is just coming in and starting their career to be able to hear the president already thank them and congratulate them … it just doesn’t get any better than that. He is the commander in chief and he is congratulating you and being there on that same day. Just an awesome experience that I don’t think they will forget for the rest of their lives.”

In addition to the mass enlistment and seeing the president, AFRS made a huge statement at this year’s race. Bubba Wallace, Richard Petty Motorsport’s No. 43 car, driver, made a grand entrance by jumping out of an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III with the air demonstration squadron, Wings of Blue parachute team, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, performed the flyover, Air Force band, Max Impact, played before the race and Tech Sgt. Nalani Quintello, sang the national anthem.

Wallace’s car was also decked out in an Air Force theme which resembled the iconic A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, right down to the tiger-shark teeth painted on the grill.

By Master Sgt. Chance Babin, Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

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