DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – President Donald J. Trump became the first sitting president to utter the phrase “start your engines” at the Daytona 500.
Prior to the start of the 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 Total Force 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 and there are plenty and they love our country,” the president 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 commander in chief, was a warm welcome to the United States 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 NCO 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 the Daytona 500 this year. Bubba Wallace, driver of Richard Petty Motorsport’s No. 43 car, made a grand entrance to this year’s Daytona 500 race jumping out of an Air Force C-17 with the Wings of Blue parachute team Thursday. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds did the flyover at the race. Air Force band Max Impact played before the race and an Air Force member 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 on the grill.