On the other hand, he can’t be too judgmental. And no matter what he says, the decision ultimately belongs to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
As bands and marching units are selected—a click on the American flag gives them a thumbs up—a computer program keeps track of how many states are represented and how long the parade has become.
Once these decisions are made, the work really begins.
JTF-AFIC helps to organize participants in five divisions and, on Inauguration Day, ensures all bands and marching units are lined up and screened for security in exactly the order they’ll march.
Buses that carry them are given precise times and lanes to park in at the Pentagon North parking lot and at the National Mall assembly area. Anything can happen – bad weather, sick horses, a stalled float.
“This is where the military really helps the PIC, because we’re so organized in our mission,” Powers said. “It’s painfully detailed, but it’s got to be that way.”
As the parade begins, so does the ballet that goes on behind the scenes.
JTF-AFIC route control members control the parade pace with hand-held signs that tell band drum majors to “close the gap” or “speed up.” Signs also tell bands when to start and stop playing along the route so they don’t drown each other out, and when to “render honors,” which means to play their theme song, near the White House.
By sundown, when the parade usually ends, members of JTF-AFIC will have been on the job for nearly 14 hours. Months of effort, of training and practice and planning for the worst, really comes down to this one big day—this single chance to shine.
“The key to doing any event, but especially something this huge, is to have thought of all the scenarios that could happen,” Powers said. “It’s about staying in control and solving problems.”