This photo, made available by First Lady Michelle Obama’s office, shows her and the President aboard Air Force One, playing with Monticello native Roland Paramore’s childrenfrom the left, Braylon, Ayana and Taureanand fianceé, Tanya Hagarman, herself a master sergeant in the Air Force.
Meet the man presidents depended on
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Monticello native Roland Paramore could tell you what President Barack Obama likes for a snack aboard Air Force One, or what President George W. Bush preferred for a pillow on overnight trips, or who President Bill Clinton invited to join him for dinner en route to a foreign country.
He could… but even after retiring this year as an Air Force flight attendant, he’s a professional to the core. And that obligates him to preserve what little privacy presidents of the United States of America still possess.
Besides, Senior Master Sergeant Paramore is headed to the White House this monthlikely to be working closely once again with the nation’s 44th president. So spilling secrets isn’t exactly good form right now.
But that doesn’t mean he or his proud family have little to say.
“I enjoyed working with Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama,” Paramore notes with an affable modesty, “going around the world travelling with the most powerful man in the world.”
“Especially being African-American, it tells you what anyone can do when you set your heart to it,” relates Paramore’s first cousin, Dorothy “Dotty” McCoy of Monticello.
“I think he came a long ways and did well,” adds Paramore's mother, Minnie, also of Monticello.
Says dad Robert, “I’m very proud of him and hope the best for him in his life.”
Some would say Paramore’s life has always been about “the best.”
Born in Monticello in 1966, “Rolex” Paramore graduated from Monti High in 1984 and a few months later entered the Air Force, eager to see more of the world.
The military gladly afforded him that opportunity, sending him across the globe over his 27-year career: first Britain, then Florida, then South Korea, followed by Italy, Turkey, Guam, and Japan, plus briefer deployments to Kuwait, Alaska, Indonesia, Australia and Thailand, among othersessentially relocating every two to three years.
“I can’t say I ever had a bad assignment,” he recalls.
But these trips were always at the Air Force’s bidding, and in 1999 a reluctant Paramore was told he’d be transferred to the lower 48.
Having reached top-level proficiency as a supply support specialist and respect as a decorated officer, though, he had his choice of assignments stateside, and he chose to apply for duty as a flight attendant (or as the Air Force calls it, an “in-flight passenger service specialist”).
That March, he earned assignment to the 99th Airlift Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base just outside Washington, DCincluding stints on Air Force One serving President Clinton and his family.
His service aboard the president’s plane turned permanent in April 2001, and over the next decade, Paramore rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the superintendent of the presidential flight attendants and President Obama’s chief attendant.
“I guess I was a likable guy,” he quips.
And it kept him travelling around the planet, ensuring the needs of the president, his family, friends and guests were met.
By all accounts, it was an extraordinary job.
Minnie Paramore remembers visiting her son’s place of work when Air Force One landed at Stewart Airport in Newburgh.
“It’s just like a houseit has three stories to it,” she says. “They gave you these little paper shoes to walk in.”
“I don’t think you get used to it,” Roland Paramore admits, “but it does become second nature. You can’t afford to fail.”
He wasn’t on board Air Force One in the tense hours after 9/11, but Paramore acknowledges the impact that had on a job that’s as much about safety as it is comfort.
“All our security measures were heightened from that point on,” he recalls.
Paramore served the longest with President Bush, whom he feels rarely earned a complete portrayal from the media.
“People assumed Bush wasn’t a good president,” he says. “But people only saw what they saw on TV. They’re different people when they’re away from the cameras.
“Bush was a personable guy, a practical joker, very down-to-earth,” Paramore relates.
So is President Obama, he added.
“I think people take the president for granted,” he states. “But I’m on the other sideI’m there with them.”
Paramore says he always maintained a professional distance (“it’s the position for me, not necessarily the person”), but he admits a bond formed between him and the people he served.
“I think you have to,” he acknowledges, “for them to open up and trust you.”
Still, it was an exhausting job at times, always at the president’s beck and call no matter the time of day (or the time zone).
Paramore particularly remembers when Bush was running for re-election in 2004.
“I’ve been through that once, and I’m not going to miss it,” he admits with a laugh.
Yet he’s soon to have a berth at the White Housein the midst of Obama’s re-election campaign.
Not surprisingly, that doesn’t faze him.
“It’s an honor to be able to do that,” he says of his coming service.
Paramore now lives in Maryland with his children and fianceé, Tanya Hagarman, who also serves in the Air Force as a master sergeant.
He still returns to Monticello, marvelling at how good Broadway has begun to lookbut he doesn’t regret leaving.
Nor does his mother.
“If he hadn’t left,” she says, “I don’t know what he would have gotten into.”
But she also knows his local upbringing prepared him well for his careerespecially being raised in Bethlehem Temple Church, where his family still attends.
“It taught him respect and to get along with other people,” Minnie affirms. “And I told him that God would direct his path if he put Him first.”
“He had a good foundation,” adds Dotty McCoy, who offered the invocation at her cousin’s retirement ceremony in September (which doubled as Minnie and Robert’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration). “We taught him the basic truths of respect and honor.”
That legacy continues with Paramore’s nephew, Lakeith Manson, who’s a military flight attendant aboard Air Force TwoVice President Joe Biden’s plane.
“Probably next year he’ll be on Air Force One,” predicts Manson’s proud grandmotherone Minnie Paramore (who nevertheless admits to a fear of flying).
McCoy hopes local kids are paying attention to Paramore and Manson’s accomplishments.
“The sky really is the limit,” she points out. “It does not matter where you came fromit’s all about where you’re going.”