Vice president praises 1st responders, rallies sailors at NAS Jacksonville

Mike Pence also sat at controls of a P-8 simulator during Monday's visit

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor, Jennifer Ready - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - While Vice President Mike Pence was in Jacksonville on Monday to promote the Trump administration's replacement trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, he took time to commend the first responders to the Boeing 737 crash landing at NAS Jacksonville two weeks ago and praise a few hundred sailors for their service.

Air Force 2 touched down at NAS Jacksonville just after 11 a.m. After spending a few minutes shaking hands and posing for photos with people on the tarmac, Pence traveled to the Schultz Center on the Southside to tell small business owners that replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement will benefit them and American workers.

He returned to NAS Jacksonville for a session in a P-8 aircraft simulator, talking with Navy and Jacksonville Fire Rescue Division firefighters, a couple of Jacksonville police officers and U.S. Coast Guard members who were involved in rescue operations when an Air Miami charter jet skidded off the runway and into the St. Johns River.

UNCUT: Vice president's remarks at NAS Jacksonville |
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Michael Lapine was the first Navy firefighter/EMT in the water to try and get to the passengers, who were out of the plane on the wing.

"It was a great feeling to have somebody that high come and say thank you for what we did," Lapine said. "It was really amazing -- the highest level of our government for paying attention to what happened here."

Navy firefighter Russell Russ also swam to the plane to help rescue the passengers.

"He was very personable humble, appreciative," Russ said of meeting Pence. "I think he really felt for the passengers."

Assistant Fire Chief Fred Chalmers was happy that Pence took the time to thank his staff.

"Far too often first responders are not getting enough attention, so (it's) definitely a great honor to receive that kind of reverence from the Number 2 man of our country," Chalmers said.

Pence with first respondersPence was then introduced to a hangar full of sailors and some of their family members.

"It’s my great honor to be here with you extraordinary Americans who every day serve the fleet and serve our country, the men and women of Naval Air Station Jacksonville," Pence said, adding, "America is proud of you."

He talked about the Trump administration's commitment to improving the "finest volunteer military in history," noting the proposed 2019-2020 budget includes pay raises for service members and construction of more ships for the Navy.

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