Carrying the "football" for the president
Two years ago, when Steve Chealander spoke about his service as a military aide to President Reagan, the audience was spellbound, and many asked for him to speak again.
This season, Chealander opens the Premier Lecture series at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, when he will explain the duties of the president's military aide, which include carrying the “football.”
Chealander's career included flying with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, rising through the ranks to colonel, piloting for American Airlines and directing its flight-operations efficiency and serving on the National Transportation Safety Board.
Of all his accomplishments, however, the one he is most often asked about is his service to President Reagan from 1985 to the end of his term in office.
Officially known as the “president’s emergency satchel,” the so-called nuclear “football” — portable and hand-carried — is built around a sturdy, aluminum frame, encased in black leather. Contrary to popular belief, the football does not actually contain a big, red button for launching a nuclear war. Its primary purpose is to confirm the president’s identity, and it allows him to communicate with the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon, which monitors worldwide nuclear threats.
Chealander commits significant time to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi, CA, regularly participating in various events. Most noteworthy was the procurement of and his participation in the dedication ceremony of the Boeing 707, tail number #27000, which served as Air Force One and is now on exhibit at the library. He also had the honor of speaking on behalf of Nancy Reagan at the dedication ceremony of the Air Force C-17, christened “The Spirit of Ronald Reagan.” Chealander was the keynote speaker at the 2008 celebration of President Reagan’s birthday and placed a wreath at the president’s gravesite on behalf of President George W. Bush.
Chealander and his wife, Becky, have lived in PebbleCreek since December 2012.
Tickets to all Premier Lectures are $15 per person anAll Premier Lectures are held in the Renaissance Theater.
For more information:
- Steven Chealander’s biography
- History Channel story of the football
- Smithsonian article about the football