National Guard Members Prepare for Presidential Inauguration
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 14, 2012 Around 6,000 Army and Air National Guard members from 15 states and territories are preparing to take part in and support the 57th Presidential Inauguration, according to National Guard officials.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Hinds, with the District of Columbia Air National Guard, walks along a large-scale map of Washington, D.C., while giving a briefing about the 57th Presidential Inauguration at the District of Columbia Armory, Dec. 12, 2013. The D.C. National Guard has participated in every presidential inauguration since 1861. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, District of Columbia National Guard commanding general, said National Guard members will report to the District of Columbia, and then disperse to several parts of the city to support inauguration events.
The Presidential Inauguration will be held Jan. 21, 2013.
Many of those 6,000 soldiers and airmen, who will join an additional 7,000 service members from other military services, will support local authorities, the general said.
“Most of the National Guard members will be outside of the parade route,” he said. “There are a few, about 300, that will be involved in the ceremony and the parade.”
Guard members will assist largely in traffic control, crowd management, and communications and medical support, Schwartz said. Over the past few months, he added, the D.C. Guard has worked with local and federal officials and agencies in planning for the event.
“We are working closely with the D.C. emergency management agencies, the Park Police, the active-duty military components and the United States Secret Service who are all performing the duties of the inauguration,” he said.
Army Brig. Gen. Arthur W. Hinaman, commander of Joint Task Force D.C., the Guard support element of the inauguration, noted many of those working relationships stem from everyday National Guard activities.
“We live here,” Hinaman said. “We work with these people during [several events] each year, so it’s not like we haven’t talked with these guys since 2009. We work with them every day. It’s continuous, and this is really just a culmination of everything we do.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class George Mickens, assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of logistics for JTF D.C., said planners for the upcoming inauguration have incorporated lessons learned from previous events.
“We have a good model that we go by and we take lessons learned in every [inauguration] -- and it gets [smoother] every four years,” Mickens said.
All involved agree about the complexity involved in planning such a large-scale event.
“Some of the challenges are just the dispersion of the units,” Hinaman said, referring to the participation of many units from outside the local area. “It’s not like I can come in the office and call in my 6,000-person task force and we can talk about what we’re going to do. There are challenges in that, but it’s also what makes our Guard great. We respond well and people are excited about taking part. We’re getting the support we need.”
Planning for this inauguration comes on the heels of the 2009 inauguration, which saw the largest public attendance at the event, he noted.
“The inauguration in 2009 really blew up about 30 days out, and we were scrambling to increase our effort from just a small one that we could handle here locally,” Hinaman said. “This time we’ve anticipated that it’s going to be large, and we’ve planned for it to be large, and it’s turned into something a little bit smaller than what we expected -- so we’re way ahead [of] where we were last time.”
Many in the D.C. Guard said taking part in the inauguration brings a sense of pride. The D.C. Guard’s tie to the event dates back to President Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration.
“There is a great amount of pride that comes with that,” Hinaman said. “Our slogan, ‘Capital Guardians,’ truly every four years we exercise that. We pretty much live for this event. This is our trademark event. We take a lot of pride in it. It’s an honor for us as the D.C. Guard to pay respect to the commander in chief.”
Many within the D.C. Guard have participated in more than one inauguration. This is the fourth event for Mickens since he marched in President Bill Clinton’s 1997 inaugural parade.
“I had just come into the D.C. National Guard in February 1996, so I was a starry-eyed kid,” he said. “And 11 months later, I’m marching in the inauguration celebration. It was like Christmas to me. I had always seen it on TV, and I had always wondered what it would feel like [to take part in the inauguration]. It’s history. It’s something you can tell your kids and grandkids one day. I was a part of that.”
Schwartz said this will be his ninth inauguration. Each one is unique, he added, and though the events vary over the years, many things have remained constant.
“One of the things that the D.C. National Guard is proud of [is], we have participated [in each inauguration] since … President Lincoln,” Schwartz said. “We have the skill sets and we have the know-how to do this, and we want to make sure the eye of the world sees what a peaceful transition of power looks like.”