Armed Forces Inaugural Committee Prepares to Welcome New President
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2008 Members of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee are preparing to welcome President-elect Barack Obama when the nation’s 44th chief executive takes the oath of office Jan. 20.
Navy Reserve Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Daniels and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Robinson fill out information forms during an in-processing briefing of new Armed Forces Inaugural Committee members in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 2008. Daniels, 42, heard about the opportunity to join the AFIC during a duty tour in Bahrain. DoD photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
AFIC is a joint-service organization that coordinates all military ceremonial support for presidential inaugurals, according to the committee’s Web site. The committee falls under Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., who wears a dual hat as the committee’s chairman. The committee, he said, will grow to about 700 members prior to Inauguration Day.
Inauguration Day will mark the 56th time the U.S. military has welcomed the incoming commander in chief with fanfare, music and parades, Rowe said, a tradition that goes back to the first U.S. chief executive, George Washington.
“We’re very excited about it,” Rowe said.
AFIC works with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inauguration Ceremonies and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said Marine Corps Col. Tim Cole, AFIC’s chief of staff. The JCCIC is made up of key congressional leaders and is responsible for the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol and the congressional luncheon. The PIC is a nonprofit organization representing the president-elect that’s responsible for organizing and funding many inaugural events.
Supporting the inaugural “is quite an honor,” Cole said, citing the historical importance of yesterday’s election, which selected America’s first African-American president as the nation remains at war with global terrorism.
Cole saluted America’s servicemen and women, including the half-million troops stationed overseas – many of whom are serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq -- as well as military retirees and veterans.
“We in uniform today represent them at this nation’s inauguration,” Cole said.
AFIC’s military composition “is purple all the way,” said Navy Capt. Benjamin Yates, the committee’s director of personnel. The color purple, he explained, signifies the blending of the different-hued uniforms worn by members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard who serve on the AFIC. Yates is a retired Navy officer who was recalled to active duty to serve on the committee.
“It’s a major operation,” Yates said of AFIC’s mission. “No matter what inauguration you’re going through, it’s a piece of history.” Following the inaugural, he said, the committee should finish closing up shop sometime in April.
Today, the day after Election Day, about 70 servicemembers reporting to the AFIC were involved in various in-processing actions at the committee’s offices in downtown Washington.
AFIC members Army Capt. Sam Kieffer, Coast Guard Lt. Kishia Mills and Air Force Staff Sgt. Olayinka Olatunji issued building and other credentials to the new arrivals.
“It’s great to be in a joint environment and working with the other services,” said Mills, 27, who hails from New York City.
Working on the AFIC is an “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Lancaster, Pa., native Kieffer, citing the significance of U.S. presidential inaugurations. “It is history in the making, and obviously this one is special,” Kieffer said of Obama’s upcoming inauguration.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Serafico, a 34-year-old administration specialist from Reno, Nev., said he is inspired to be part of the AFIC.
“It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be here to be taking part in this very historical event. … To just be part of history is truly amazing and something I’ll truly remember,” Serafico said.
Navy Reserve Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Daniels, 42, heard about the opportunity to join AFIC months ago during a duty tour in Bahrain. “I applied for the program, … and fortunately I got selected,” said Daniels, who hails from Warren, Ark. “I am glad to be here.”
Daniels, who will serve with the committee as a duty driver, said she recognizes that Obama’s journey to the White House is a notable event in U.S. history.
“I support any president,” she said. “It’s all about the support of our government and sticking together as a team and forming unity for our nation.”