‘I Basically Ran On Adrenaline’: A Staffer Remembers Obama’s White House

When I became deputy chief of staff, [I] got a secure communications system that was in my bedroom, made it quite warm, because there was an actual server next to your bed and my apartment was not that big, but you could always be reached. … “There is nothing like walking off the steps of Air Force One,” she says. Mastromonaco remembers boarding Air Force One for the first time as a “humbling, awe-inspiring” experience. Pete Souza/The White House

Former Obama staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco is well acquainted with the privilege — and sleeplessness — of working in the White House: “I basically ran on adrenaline, almost, for six years,” she says. Interview Highlights On being available at all hours You always had to be available. “There aren’t beds for us on Air Force One,” Mastromonaco says. Sometimes at 3 o’clock in the morning the red phone rings and it’s the situation room and something’s happened. Alyssa Mastromonaco sits with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One in 2012. … “We had those Snuggies that you buy on QVC and we would sleep on the floor … I could never say I was off, ever. and then you’d get up and everybody shares two bathrooms.”

Though Mastromonaco loved her work for the president, the unrelenting pace took a toll on her. Mastromonaco served as the president’s director of scheduling and advance from 2009 until 2011, then became his deputy chief of staff for operations from 2011 until 2014. Mastromonaco began as President Obama’s director of scheduling and advance, then became his deputy chief of staff for operations. Her responsibilities ran the gamut from overseeing the confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries to managing the president’s daily schedule and foreign travel. Now an executive at A&E Networks, Mastromonaco revisits her White House years in a new memoir, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? The reception, too, of other people in countries, when they see that beautiful blue and white plane, it always gives you goose bumps.” But, she adds, the presidential plane wasn’t always the most comfortable way to travel — especially on overnight flights. “You always feel so proud. In 2014, she decided to move on.