As the first female steward to fly Air Force One, retired Chief Master Sergeant and Traverse City native Rose Hutchinson flew with Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush – and adds they always treated her well.
“Speak only when spoken to,” Hutchinson says. “That’s how I made my career.”
Hutchinson achieved the rank of Chief Master Sergeant in 1985, joining only 11 other women at the post. Prior to that, she climbed the ranks from the moment she joined the Air Force in November 1964.
“Traverse City always seemed so small to me,” she claims as her reason for joining up. “I wanted to move around and see the world. I always volunteered for new assignments to show that I was willing to do things other women weren’t doing.”
Hutchinson began her career in the Air Force at the Pentagon, where she served 11 years in personnel assignments spanning from secretarial work to assistant to the Air Force aide. In 1976, she volunteered to go to Andrews Air Force Base and take a stewardship assignment. On her first presidential flight, she visited Portugal with President Carter.
“My husband was always gone in combat in Vietnam, Korea, Thailand,” she says. “I never flew a Gulf Stream. I always wanted to be on international assignments.”
Being the only female steward in a staff of males was not without its trouble; Hutchinson admits she experienced hazing when she first joined the steward team.
“They’d steal my Pepsi prior to assignment so I’d have to go a whole trip without my favorite drink,” she says, laughing. “They’d take my eggs and hard-boil them so I’d have to buy new ones in foreign countries. Always harmless and it seems funny now, but back then I was always so angry.”
Before retiring in 1992, CMSgt Hutchinson was responsible for 107 staff and seven planes on base. She logged more than 6,000 hours in flight, traveling with Olympic teams and various foreign dignitaries during her 16 years on Air Force One.
“We always had to be careful when we flew to Russia or Latin America during the Cold War,” she says. “The hotel maids would steal my jeans or things out of my purse. I learned to bring tokens of American life along with me to give to them—chocolates, cigarettes, matchbooks, they loved things like that.”
In the 20 years since her retirement, Hutchinson has spent her time volunteering for the American Red Cross, Child and Family Services, Women’s Resource Center, the State Theatre, and the Traverse City Film Festival.
“As a member of the Air Force I wanted to serve my country, and when I retired I wanted to serve my community,” Hutchinson says. She was inducted in to the Traverse City Central High School Hall of Fame in 2012.
Curious to hear more? CMSgt Rose Hutchinson will present “The Secrets of Air Force One” on Wednesday, October 30 at 11am at the Senior Center in Traverse City, and will share several stories and answer questions about her life aboard Air Force One.