Grad: Experience Serving President Bush ‘Prepared Me Well’ for College

Brandon Lawson stands at attention as President George W. Bush prepares for take-off in Marine One.

While he was in the Marine Corps, Brandon Lawson spent two years serving President George W. Bush as crew chief on Marine One, the Black Hawk helicopter that transported the president to and from Air Force One, the presidential jet.

After his honorable discharge from the military, Lawson enrolled at UT. On Friday, the twenty-seven-year-old graduates with a degree in logistics and international business.

“In 2010, when I enrolled in the College of Business Administration, I quickly realized that my service in the Marines had prepared me well,” Lawson said. “The operational tempo of serving on the president’s helicopter required me to be task-oriented, patient, and committed to working through a process to the end.”

While at UT, Lawson interned with the UT football team’s recruiting program. He’s now been hired full time.

“In many ways, the culture of college football is similar to that of the Marines,” he said. “In both arenas, young men train long and hard to achieve their best.”

Lawson learned about the opportunity to serve on Marine One while in Marine Corps flight school. He completed security clearances and was chosen for the job.

“While most of my Marine Corps colleagues spent their days dressed in camouflage fatigues, I reported to work in my dress blues and greeted the president with a salute every time he climbed aboard the chopper,” Lawson said.

“Most Americans see only the public face of their president, but on Marine One I stood only a few feet away from President Bush, and I overheard his conversations with his wife, Laura, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and Secret Service Agent Donald White. When the helicopter’s doors closed and the president was beyond the reach of the press, he really relaxed and was always open and direct, whether he was discussing US politics or foreign policy.”

Lawson said flying on Marine One also gave him the chance to see the world.

“Wherever in the world the president traveled, we arrived ahead of him, greeted him as he stepped off Air Force One, and shuttled him to events and meetings within the host country,” he said. “During my two years with the president, I visited Thailand, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Egypt, Vietnam, Uruguay, Italy, Vatican City, and Latvia.

“For me, one of the highlights of my life was flying aboard Marine One high above Cairo, with the president on board, and peering down to see the Great Pyramid of Giza.”

Lawson said his service in the Marines has given him skills he’ll use the rest of his life.

“Perhaps the most important one is the ability to see the big picture—much like taking in the view from 10,000 feet in Marine One—and clearly seeing the series of steps necessary to realizing your dreams,” he said.

“My attitude toward my future reflects a fundamental lesson I learned in the Marines: You have to set yourself up to succeed. You have to prepare to win. ”

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

Cindy Raines (865-974-4359, craines1@utk.edu)

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