How on earth was the president of the United States able to leave his residence in Florida, get on a plane for a visit to troops in a hostile country, all without detection from media, public, or enemy elements? The White House had even arranged for preplanned tweets from the president to be released during the many hours he was flying into the conflict zone.
The secret trip was quite a fantastic achievement, and one young reporter who was privileged to be on the journey with a small group of officials shared her amazing journey into the unknown.
“Meet on top of a parking garage. Pack warm. Pack light,” reporter Kristen Fisher from Fox News was instructed, of her top-secret assignment.
“In a few minutes, I’m going to need to take all of your cellphones, iWatch, iPad, MiFi—anything that can transmit a signal,” Fisher was told after being transported to Joint Base Andrews.
Boarding a plane for a two-hour flight to Florida with the group, they landed at an undisclosed airport, and Fisher was given instructions to relocate to the cockpit. “The boss is coming,” Fisher, the only media representative on the flight, was told.
“But shortly after boarding, President Trump climbed into the cockpit and said, “Where’s the press?” We shook hands, and he asked if I was going “all the way.” Yes, but, all the way … where?”
“Suddenly, there was a pesky dividing wall between us. The president was taking a seat behind the pilot, while I was getting strapped into a seat facing the opposite direction with no way to see or hear the commander-in-chief. I strained my neck as far as the restraints would let me, to the point one crew member told me, “Don’t worry, we’ll let you look out the window after takeoff when the president leaves.” Wait, he’s staying in the cockpit for takeoff? The crew member nodded like he too couldn’t believe it,” said Fisher.
When the plane landed back at Joint Base Andrews, Fisher looked for Air Force One expecting it to be lit up like a Christmas tree, but it was in darkness in a hangar. The party, including the president, boarded, joining the White House press corps and other officials who were to make the trip as well.
The press corps was keen to get the details of the plane flight Fisher had just been on with the president.
“They were peppering me with questions about the secret flight from Florida before I even found my seat. They’re a feisty bunch and one of the best parts of every trip is getting to know the other journalists that cover this beat,” said Fisher.
“We all had fears that the embargo would be broken before we were allowed to report on the trip. We all wanted to know when we were going to get our cellphones back. And most of all, we all wanted to know where we were going,” said Fisher.
During the flight, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham informed them, “We’re going to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.”
After a long 13-hour flight, the plane landed at Bagram, around 8.30 p.m. on Thurs. Nov. 28. With the plane and the tarmac in total darkness, it was an indication of just how dangerous the mission was.
“It was quite possibly the fastest three-and-a-half hours of my life. The 13 reporters and photographers on the trip were raced from place to place. First, to a dining facility decked out in Thanksgiving decorations to watch President Trump serve turkey to the troops; then, a hastily arranged bilateral meeting with the President of Afghanistan, who had been informed of this trip only a few hours earlier due to, once again, security concerns,” said Fisher.
The trip wasn’t just about serving up Thanksgiving dinner to the troops, as the president announced: “The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we are meeting with them, and we are saying there has to be a cease-fire.”
After the President’s Thanksgiving speech to the troops, it became a scramble for the media to get their stories back to their respective editors, as cellphones were handed back. Soon the secret trip to Bagram was behind them as they all boarded Air Force One for the flight back home.
“I took a second to smile at the coolest Thanksgiving Day I’ll ever have,” said Fisher.