WASHINGTON, D.C. – What a difference a few months makes. Back in the summer, Army Maj. Gray Cockerham was pushing needed supplies to paratroopers operating from Baghdad to the Syrian border, including the Sunni Triangle flashpoints of Fallujah and Ar Ramadi. As he reviews the Washington DC parade route for the 2005 Presidential Inauguration, he knows he’s carrying on a tradition that began with the inauguration of President George Washington in 1789.
Like Cockerham, many service members who have assembled in Washington to prepare for this inauguration have played roles in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the major campaigns in the war on terrorism.
Cockerham, logistics coordinator for inaugural ceremonies, served in OIF as the executive officer of the 782 nd Main Support Battalion of the 82 nd Airborne Division, His battalion overcame many challenges moving food, water, bulk fuel, ammunition, construction material and a variety of equipment throughout the division’s operating area which included some of the most hostile regions of Iraq.
Hailing from Martinsville, Va., Cockerham appreciates the change in working environment, but he finds more than a few similarities between his Iraq duties and his duties at JTF-AFIC.
“Logistics for the inauguration will require our people to anticipate, improvise, remain responsive, and maintain continuity of support. This is a no-fail mission… just like keeping paratroopers supplied in battle,” he said.
Navy Lt. Jessica Lipsker deployed to OIF with Destroyer Squadron 23 and was heavily involved in the squadron’s pre-deployment planning for surface warfare, antisubmarine warfare and maritime interdiction operations in the Persian Gulf.
While in the gulf, she served as a squadron tactical action officer and coordinated the patrols of up to five ships and several aircraft on a daily basis. Lipsker, of San Diego, is now a JTF-AFIC plans officer in the Operations Directorate and is engaged in preparing the operating plan which will order JTF-AFIC participation in the inaugural festivities.
“A key point that I learned during my staff job at the DESRON was the importance of working closely with outside agencies and that really relates to what we’re doing at JTF-AFIC,” she said. “Basically, you can’t plan a major operation in a bubble, there has to be coordination.”
Lipsker’s observation is echoed by Air Force Maj. Kiley Stinson, chief of the Credentials Branch at JTF-AFIC, who will be coordinating with the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Park Police to ensure more than 4,000 military members receive credentials for access to their duty locations on inaugural day.