President’s whirlwind tour over as quickly as it started

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — After a hectic, 15-hour stay in Utah, President Barack Obama boarded Air Force One on the Hill Air Force Base flightline April 3, leaving the state almost as quickly as he came. 

The president arrived at Hill just before 8:30 p.m. on April 2 and jetted out of town by 11:30 a.m. April 3, completing a jam-packed schedule that accompanied his Utah tour.

On the first night, he met with several Utah politicians and with leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the second day, he led a roundtable discussion on renewable energy, then delivered a speech about a new energy initiative that includes Hill, before heading back to Washington, D.C.

During his speech, Obama thanked Hill military members, specifically mentioning Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler and Col. Ronald Jolly, commanders of Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex and 75th Air Base Wing, respectively.

“Every single day, your work keeps our Air Force ready to meet the threats that are out there, threats like ISIL,” Obama said. “You keep the American people safe.” 

Obama also thanked the state of Utah for its “wonderful hospitality” and said he’d like to return in a nonworking capacity to visit some of the state’s “amazing national parks.”

“I was telling the governor yesterday I’m going to make sure that I come back next time when I don’t have to do so much work,” the president said.

Gov. Gary Herbert said Obama invited him to ride in the April 2 motorcade to the Sheraton Hotel to discuss important Utah issues.

Herbert said he and the president spoke about Utah’s Public Lands Initiative, the state’s efforts to craft an alternative to Medicaid expansion, the importance of Payments in Lieu of Taxes and a proposal to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to give the states greater authority in education.

“It was an honor to welcome the president of the United States to Utah, particularly at Hill Air Force Base,” Herbert said. 

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said Obama should have taken more time to visit some of the base’s facilities and see the kind of work being done there. Bishop spoke of important Hill work related to the Air Force’s Enhanced Use Lease program, the F-35 Lightning II and Intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“It seems like the White House had a very focused agenda on one issue,” Bishop said. “It seems, unfortunately, like this was a missed opportunity. From the first F-35 beddown to the extensive data work being done, Hill is at the forefront of our nation’s security efforts. The commander in chief should have taken the time to see these efforts with his own eyes.”

Bishop said he will be keeping an eye on Obama’s new “Solar Ready Vets Program,” which will train 75,000 people to enter the solar workforce by 2020 and include military veterans transitioning out of active-duty service.

“I support anything that brings jobs to Utah and Utah’s veterans,” Bishop said. “But this isn’t a silver bullet. We have to have a balanced approach, which includes unlocking energy resources on our federal lands.”

Bishop’s said that despite having some views that differ from Obama’s, he was glad to see the president come to Utah.

“I am grateful to the commander in chief for taking some time to visit the state of Utah,“ he said. ”Regardless of politics, it is an honor to host the president of the United States.“

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker described Obama’s visit as ”inspiring for me“ and lauded the president’s plan to create jobs and reduce carbon pollution.

Buddy Briesmaster, director of Hill’s 75th Air Base Wing Civil Engineer Group, participated in the morning roundtable discussion on renewable energy with the president. Briesmaster said Obama listened intently to the discussion before offering any of his own input.

”I’ve spoken to different four-star generals and other high-ranking military officials, but being able to speak to the commander in chief was an honor,“ he said. ”His message was extremely important — support veterans and create jobs.“

On the first night, Obama met with LDS leaders Henry B. Eyring, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, L. Tom Perry and D. Todd Christofferson.

Obama praised the church’s effort to seek a balance between religious freedom and nondiscrimination, as well as the church’s worldwide humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts. Church leaders expressed their appreciation to the president for the example he and his wife provide through their healthy marriage and family life.

Church President Thomas S. Monson was not able to participate in the meeting “because of the need to preserve his strength for this weekend’s general conference,” according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

Though he couldn’t meet with Obama, Hawkins said Monson “remembers fondly his visit to the White House to present President Obama with his personal family history in 2009.”

The Utah Attorney General’s Office released a statement on Obama’s Utah visit, thanking Obama for supporting members of the military and for recognizing Utah’s “leadership and innovation, as well as our state’s spirit of industry, service, entrepreneurism, and fiscal responsibility.”

“We hope his trip helps him understand why we feel Utah is the greatest place to live, raise a family, and start or grow a business in America,” the statement said.