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A Flight to Remember for 95-year-old Goochland Resident

Maj. Jennifer Grieves is the first woman to serve as helicopter commander of Marine One, the HMX-1 helicopter used to transport the U.S. president. At any one time, only five Marine pilots are allowed to fly the president and the presidential family aboard the helicopter. "It's not really about being a female," said Grieves, 38, adding, "It's about being a Marine and about being part of an organization that is exceptional." Flying the president is stressful--and the most stressful days are flying President Obama's young daughters, says Grieves -- although Marines follow the same protocol for every flight regardless of passengers. When landing on the South Lawn of the White House, the Marine pilots land aboard landing disks call pucks, and Grieves says, "The pucks are very small that we have to land on, so it's certainly intimidating the first couple times you do it. You have all the cameras on you." Grieves enlisted in the Marines in 1990 because of her view that it had the most rigorous training program, and though at the time she planned to be a veterinarian, she was encouraged in the Marines to attend college and then go to flight school. She has traveled to seven countries since May 2008 in assisting the U.S. president, most recently to Italy for the G-8 summit, from which she went directly to St. Louis so that Obama could throw out the first pitch at the All-Star baseball game. "It's a very busy schedule," she says, but "I would have to say I'd do it for free."

August 20, 2009

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