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Guard Troops to Help Inaugurate State Commanders in Chief

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 21, 2004 – National Guard troops in 11 states and Puerto Rico are preparing for some post-holiday festivities in January. They will take part, in one way or another, in the inaugurations for their state commanders in chief -- their governors.

In events like the inaugurations, National Guard soldiers and airmen get to take part in a public celebration while supporting state and local law enforcement agencies in the name of homeland security.

Gubernatorial elections were held in American Samoa, Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, the state of Washington, and West Virginia in November.

Wherever there was a gubernatorial election, there will be an inauguration early in the new year, said a spokesman for the National Governors Association. The inaugurations will begin as early as Jan. 2, if a winner is declared in Puerto Rico, and will last practically until George W. Bush is inaugurated for a second term as president in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20.

Guard troops are expected to take part in every state inauguration except in American Samoa, which does not have a National Guard force.

Missouri is pulling out all of the stops for Gov.-elect Matt Blunt, according to Guard officials in the "Show Me" State, who have prepared Operation Order 05-05 with the catchy subtitle "Show-Me Smooth Transition" for the Jan. 10 inaugural festivities in Jefferson City.

The order calls for the 35th Engineer Brigade to have a Quick Reaction Force ready to roll in case of an emergency. Members of Missouri's 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team and the state's newly minted team of Guard people trained to help emergency responders and victims deal with weapons of mass destruction will also be on duty or on call.

Missouri's new team is one of 12 Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Packages that have been trained and evaluated across the country within the last year. Called CERFP teams, they can be deployed to wherever they are needed, including other states, to provide medical aid and decontamination support for civil authorities during the inaugural season.

The nation's 32 Army-certified Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams can also serve in other states.

Other Missouri Guard troops, meanwhile, are preparing to take part in the pomp and ceremony of Blunt's inauguration.

The state's 135th Army Band will perform; F-16 fighters from the Missouri Air Guard's 131st Fighter Wing will perform a flyover over Jefferson City, the state capital; and members of the 135th Field Artillery Brigade will fire a 19- gun salute to the new governor at high noon on Jan. 10.

An estimated 40 members of the Indiana Guard will participate in the two days of ceremonies for that state's Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels in Indianapolis on Jan. 9-10, explained Capt. Lisa Kopczynski, the Indiana Guard's spokeswoman.

The Hoosier Guard members will provide protocol personnel for gala events scheduled for the day before the Jan. 10 inauguration. They will escort Daniels to the inaugural ceremony, post the nation's and state's colors, fire an artillery salute, and provide protocol personnel for an open house in which members of the public can meet the new governor.

The state of Washington's National Guard will provide an honor guard of 40 volunteers for the Jan. 12 inaugural ball at the state capital in Olympia, explained retired Col. Rick Patterson, the Washington Military Department's spokesman.

That state's inauguration committee maintains that the ball will take place even though all election results have not been tabulated. The National Governor's Association reports that Dino Rossi has been certified as the winner of a machine recount, but the hand count is still going on. Stay tuned, Patterson advises.

(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

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