The VP & Asbestos Training

The VP & Asbestos Training

Washington, D.C., United States – May 9, 2010

On Friday, May 7, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Madrid, Spain for a visit.  That made for a couple of hectic days before my trip to Washington, D.C. for asbestos training.  At each embassy, when a high-level visit occurs, the facility manager normally gets baggage detail.  This visit was no different for me.

A couple of days before the VP arrived, I was at Torrejón Air Base to witness the limousine arrive courtesy of a U.S. Air Force C17.  Then, when Air Force 2 arrived on the 7th, my colleagues and I loaded all of the baggage from the airplane into a box truck.  Once loaded, to my surprise, the truck was given a police escort to the hotel.  What a trip!

One of the Vice President’s limousines coming off the C-17 at Torrejon Air Base, Madrid, Spain.
Yours truly in front of a limousine.
One of the limos.
Air Force 2 taxiing to its final location.
Air Force 2 has arrived. The local press is on the scaffolding, waiting for VP Biden to deplane.
Vice President Biden walking down the stairs.
…and the motorcade is off…
One of my colleagues assisting with the visit.
One of my colleagues assisting with the visit II.
Yours truly again…
The tail of Air Force 2.
Air Force 2 parked.
A police escort for the luggage truck.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a long day.  I got to the embassy at about 07:00.  I did a lot of work until about 10:15.  Then I left the embassy and walked to the Intercontinental Hotel.  The Vice President spent the night there.  I met my contact with the U.S. Air Force there for the baggage detail.  We coordinated getting all of the bags from the hotel to the airport for the Vice President’s return flight to Washington, D.C.

At Torrejón Air Base, once the flight crew arrived, we were able to begin loading the baggage onto Air Force 2.  While we were waiting for the Vice President to arrive, we feasted on Spanish tapas that my colleagues had made and brought to the airbase.  Not long after tapas, the VP arrived, boarded Air Force 2, and in a snap, the visit was over.

One of my colleagues assisting with the visit III.
VP Biden boarding Air Force 2.
Air Force 2 taxiing away from the ramp.
Taking off for Washington D.C.

Later, I left Madrid on Aer Lingus which has a codeshare with United Airlines.  This is a direct flight from Madrid to Dulles, Virginia.  The flight was supposed to have been eight hours long; however, because of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, the flight time was 9:45.  The airplane diverted quite a way south to safely miss the ash cloud.  This was a long day for me.

On the plane, I was reading the book, War and Peace. One passage struck me.

“Love?  What is love?” he thought.

“Love hinders death.  Love is life.  All, all that I understand, I understand only because I love.  All is, all exists only because I love.  All is bound up in love alone.  Love is God, and dying means for me a particle of love, to go back to the universal and eternal source of love.”

Asbestos training may sound odd, but it is imperative.  Many of the countries in which there are embassies have asbestos present in many forms.  It normally falls to the facility manager to inspect facilities for asbestos, take samples of suspected asbestos-containing material, ship the material for testing, and then coordinating the remediation if required.

During the week of training on asbestos and underground storage tanks, there was an opportunity to go with some others from the training to the National Museum of the American Indian. There the group received a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum and its various mechanical systems.  It was quite fascinating…at least for facility managers.

It is always very interesting to see what equipment and programs other buildings have in place.  Visits like this offer an opportunity to share best practices.  I was very impressed with the tour we received.  Every part of the operation was presented to us.  I was particularly impressed with the cleaning crew.  It was quite evident that a lot of time and effort had gone into setting up a display which allowed them to describe their operation very well.

When we were done with the tour, we were able to walk through the museum.  This was my first time in the museum.  I really enjoyed it.  As it happened, there was an exhibition by artist, Brian Jungen.

Buffalo Dancer II by George Rivera, outside the National Museum of the American Indian.
Sacred Rain Arrow by Allan Houser.
The Oneida Indian Nation sculpture.
Detail from the sculpture.
Intricately decorated book covers.

One of the first I saw was the Chair Whale.  As one first approached, it looked like the skeleton of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.  Upon closer scrutiny, one realized the “skeleton” was actually made out of those molded plastic patio chairs that nearly everyone owns.  It was amazing to me the imagination and vision it took to put this together.

Shapeshifter by Brian Jungen (2000).

The next sculpture was that of an Indian standing tall.  Again, on closer inspection, one could see the entire sculpture was made out of multiple baseball gloves.  Each glove was cut into a specific shape and then added to the sculpture.

The Prince by Brian Jungen (2006).
Various totem poles by Brian Jungen.
Looking down on the Potomac Atrium space.
A totem with a light.

There were many items in this exhibit.  The last one that really struck me were the totem poles made out of golf bags.  Much like the baseball gloves, the golf bags were cut into a specific shape and then added to the totem pole.

I enjoy art such as was on display today.  I always find it amazing how some artists can take everyday, ordinary objects and form them into something one would never expect to see from such an object.

I would highly recommend a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian.

During one of the training days, over lunch, I walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  It was the first time I had seen either memorial.  I thought they were both very moving and worth the trip.

Approaching the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.
Thousands of people walk by daily.
The Washington Monument in the distance.
A sculpture near the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial.
People at the memorial.
People at the memorial II.
Detail of the Lincoln sculpture.
Lincoln’s speech.

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