Presidential honor bestowed on Air Force officer

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --

When the President of the United States travels, stateside or abroad, there is an advance team who arrives weeks ahead to handle airport logistics. These team members, or agents, volunteer for the job and are the “best of the best” at what they do. That is why Maj. Francisco "Cisco" Leach, 25th Air Force deputy chief of safety, felt honored when he was recently selected from 96 agents as the 2016 Presidential Advance Agent of the Year.

“Winning the award was a very humbling experience,” Leach said of the accomplishment. “The Presidential Advance Agency is composed of some of the sharpest officers in the Air Force; it’s an honor and a privilege to be part of a very special mission.”

Being a Presidential Advance Agent is considered an additional duty, which Leach eagerly volunteered to take on.

“I applied for the Presidential Advance Agent program shortly after I moved to 25th Air Force in the summer of 2015. I then successfully interviewed and was hired in September 2015,” he said. 

“This additional duty requires me to go on five to 10 presidential or vice-presidential trips per year,” he said. “Last year, I supported 10 POTUS/VPOTUS trips.”

Leach considers his agent assignments a special way to serve his country.

“This was a unique opportunity, working for an agency with a ‘no-fail’ mission directly supporting POTUS/VPOTUS travels,” Leach said. “We show up one or two weeks prior to the arrival of the president or vice-president at a destination and coordinate all Air Force One logistics at the airport to ensure a safe arrival and departure.”

Leach, a Puerto Rico native, also likes that advance agent assignments allow him to work with numerous embassies and consulates.

One of the most important trips Leach made was to Cuba.

“It was the first time in 88 years a U.S. president had visited Cuba,” he said. “It was definitely the toughest and most rewarding trip I’ve been to.”

In a letter to Leach’s commander, Col. R. Bruce Ybarra, Presidential Airlift Group commander, expressed his appreciation for Leach’s work on the trip.

“He flawlessly coordinated and deconflicted the arrival and departure of U.S. support aircraft and personnel,” Ybarra wrote. “Major Leach and his team battled language barriers, complex security issues, diplomatic clearance concerns, and a host of other problems that are associated with nearly a 90-year U.S. absence.

“His superior Spanish-language skills proved invaluable, helping multiple White House agencies bridge the wide communication gap and get the mission accomplished. His distinctive performance, positive attitude, and flexibility led to a successful mission and significantly contributed to the safety and security of Air Force One.”