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Airman appointed first White House Social aide from the Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kyle Key
  • National Guard Bureau
Since President Theodore Roosevelt established the White House Social aide program nearly 114 years ago, the White House has never had an Air National Guard officer until now.

Capt. John D. Fesler, a native of Lebanon, Tennessee, recently began his duties as a White House social aide, an honor and privilege only reserved for military officers who represent the best that the service has to offer.  His road to the Executive Mansion began more than a year ago after a mentor suggested he would be a good candidate for the program. 

After his nomination, Fesler progressed through a series of intense interviews by panels of military officers.  The longest part of the process, however, was patiently waiting almost nine months for an extensive background investigation to be completed for his security clearance.  After the investigation closed, Fesler was granted a "Yankee White," category one, top-secret security clearance allowing him to serve in direct support of the President and First Family. The screening is identical to what Secret Service agents undergo who are detailed to the White House.

Fesler said he felt honored just to be asked to interview and was humbled to be selected.

"If you asked me two years ago, serving as a White House social aide would have been a wild-eyed, pipe dream," said Fesler. "It's exciting, exhilarating and an incredible opportunity to meet and interact with extraordinary people who are making history. These are stories I'll be telling my grandchildren someday."

The highly selective program is made up of military officers from all branches of the military who are currently stationed in the Washington area on active duty orders. Approximately 45 military officers serve in this elite and prestigious additional duty through the White House Military Office. Aides work an average of four events each month with the holidays being the busiest period of the year. In December alone, Fesler is scheduled for nine functions at the White House.

Fesler said he and his fellow social aides work quietly in the background to assist guests during dinners, luncheons, teas, state arrivals, and seasonal celebrations. 

"As we move up in seniority, White House Social aides may start by lining the hallways at events to greeting, escorting and even announcing guests as well," Fesler said. "Once we get our sea-legs, we are also picked for more esteemed events bestowing the nation's highest honors such as Medal of Honor ceremonies or arrivals for heads of state."

Fesler said it has been a long and interesting road leading to this milestone of his military career. His previous assignments were challenging, giving him greater perspective and appreciation for representing the Air National Guard at the White House. But for all of the glitz and glamour of his current assignment, Fesler said he would not be able to fully appreciate the significance behind the highest office in the land prior to his tour with the Air Force Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

"No other duty had as much impact as working the Dignified Transfer mission at the Air Force Mortuary," Fesler said. "Providing comfort to families of the fallen, while ensuring they are given the dignity, honor and respect they earned while paying the ultimate sacrifice, is the most honorable duty I have had or ever will be a part of."

During his tour in 2010 as Deputy Chief, Public Affairs for the Air Force Mortuary, Fesler oversaw 162 dignified transfers of fallen Warriors. He said each one had a significant emotional impact and continues to be the most meaningful and poignant point of his career.

In addition to serving as a White House Social aide, Fesler serves full-time as the Traveling Executive Officer, Aide de Camp for the Director of Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III at the Pentagon.  He is currently a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Wing based in Nashville and was recently elected to the board of directors for the National Guard Association of the United States.