Senior Airman Trisha Gresco of the 911th Airlift Wing said she was a little star-struck by her meeting today with Michelle Obama.
"She was very friendly, nice, super sweet, warm," said Gresco, of Moon Township, after her encounter with the First Lady at the township's 911th Airlift Wing.
Gresco, along with other local military personnel and their families, met Obama as she stepped off her airplane after it touched down this afternoon at the 911th.
Gresco said she didn't mention plans to close the 911th in 2013, but she said Obama spotted her 2-year-old daughter's bright-red T-shirt and its "Save the 911th" slogan.
"I didn't say anything to her [about plans to shutter the base]," Gresco said. "But she said that she hopes it will remain open and that she's praying for us."
Obama arrived shortly after 3:30 p.m. at the air base, where she shook hands with service members from the 911th and neighboring 171st Refueling Wing.
On the runway, Obama also greeted the 911th's Senior Airman Domenic Mash of Aliquippa, his wife Katlyn and their infant daughter Savannah. In 2011, Mash received the Air Force Achievement Medal—awarded for outstanding achievement or meritorious service—following deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The First Lady is scheduled to attend two Democratic National Committee fundraisers tonight in Pittsburgh. The White House said the visit to Western Pennsylvania also commemorates the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces, an initiative launched by Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to recognize veterans and military families. Obama did not make any public remarks or take questions from reporters.
Protestors who oppose the 911th's closure waited outside the base's gates on Defense Avenue, using traffic signs to drape and hold homemade banners asking President Obama to keep it open.
The Air Force announced plans to close the 911th in February as a part of a plan to cut $8.7 billion from its 2013 budget. The closure will eliminate each of the base's more than 1,100 military and 280 civilian positions.