Troops Dress to Impress During Commander in Chief Ball
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2013 Service members were treated to an evening of dancing, cake, drinks and general celebration here last night, courtesy of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The U.S. Army Honor Guard presents the nation's colors during the opening moments of the Commander in Chief Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Troops filed into the Commander in Chief Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in their sharpest dress uniforms, with spouses in tow wearing their gowns and tuxedos, to party and dance with the president and first lady in celebration of the president’s second-term inauguration.
The formal part of the evening began with the arrival of each branch of service's senior enlisted advisor, led by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler's welcome.
“We're going to have a great evening here tonight,” he said. “We're going to recognize the commander in chief's role and our responsibility for it. I hope you have a wonderful evening.”
Following Chandler, each senior enlisted member introduced himself and welcomed the troops on behalf of their service secretaries and chiefs as the crowd mingled and enjoyed drinks and a multi-layered cake provided by Ace of Cakes. Wounded warriors sat near Tuskegee Airmen, bridging the generational gaps of service.
The president came out to thunderous applause, joined by the services’ senior enlisted members, to address the audience.
“I'm not going to give a long speech,” Obama said. “What I really want to do is come down and express the extraordinary gratitude, not just of me as your commander in chief, but more importantly, the thanks of all the American people.”
Obama also greeted Army Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commanding general for 3rd Infantry Division and Regional Command South, and a host of his troops through a satellite feed from Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they thanked the president and congratulated him on four more years in office.
“Sir, good evening, Mr. President. Congratulations on your inauguration,” Abrams said. “We're proud to be able to join you there this evening.”
Then the president brought out his “date” for the ball -- the first lady -- and they shared a dance for the audience. Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson serenaded the couple with her own rendition of Al Green's “Let's Stay Together,” which the president famously sang last year at Harlem’s Apollo Theater for the first lady.
Afterward, Air Force Staff Sgt. Bria Nelson joined the president for a dance, and First Lady Michelle Obama and Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Easterling shared a dance, much to the crowd's delightful cheers.
Some of the service members thought that dance was the best moment of the evening.
“Definitely seeing Michelle and the president,” said Coast Guard Lt. Samantha Gordon. “I think [seeing] them dancing with military members was probably the best part of the evening.”
The Smithville, Miss., native said she had an excellent evening. “It was great to see everyone up there and get a little closer with our commander in chief. So it's good to see.”
Army Sgt. Erick Harris a Meridian, Miss., native stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., agreed.
“It was outstanding,” he said. “I loved every minute of it. I loved the entertainment, I loved the president, I loved the food. It was just outstanding. It was my first time here. I'm excited.”
Harris said he was surprised when the senior enlisted service members came out, but appreciated their support.
“You know what, I wasn't even expecting that,” he said. “They showed us some support and let us know that they're not bigger than us.”
Army Sgt. Ivanisha Ray, from Wichita, Kan., also had a “great time,” and enjoyed being there with the president.
“It's showing that he's down-to-earth,” she said. “He like a 'people-person,' and he can come out here and speak to us.”
Harris said the ball reflects the president’s regard for military people. “He just knows how to capture [our attention],” he said. “He knows what to do and when to do it.”
The ball showed service members that the president is “not too big for the military,” Harris added.
“He's got the junior enlisted here -- it's not just the higher-ranking people,” he noted. “He just came to show his support, and we support him.”