Military Support Group Prepares for Presidential Inaugural
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2005 A little-known group of sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard members is preparing to provide behind-the-scenes military support for presidential inaugural activities, the organization's deputy commander noted here Jan. 11.
The Joint Task Force Armed Forces Inaugural Committee provides all military ceremonial support for the Department of Defense for various 55th presidential inaugural events, Air Force Brig. Gen. Duane J. Lodrige explained during a Pentagon Channel interview.
Support for President Bush's second inaugural, Lodrige said, spans from Jan. 15 through Jan. 24. Bush will be sworn in Jan. 20.
The committee has about 700 servicemembers who come from all five armed services, the general pointed out, noting that 25 percent of the committee is made up of reservists or National Guard members.
The U.S. military has been involved in every presidential inauguration since 1789, Lodrige noted, when America's first president, George Washington, was sworn in as chief executive and military commander in chief.
Lodrige said support will include military cannon salute teams, trumpeters, and phalanxes of marching servicemembers and bands. More than 5,000 U.S. servicemembers participated in inaugural activities during January 2001. About 5,600 servicemembers are expected to participate in this year's Inauguration Day events, Lodrige said, including 200 ushers and 5,000 parade marchers and cordon members.
About 400 service members, the general noted, have been tasked as presidential escorts and will accompany Bush down Pennsylvania Avenue en route to the White House after his swearing-in at the Capitol.
"I'll be part of that" escort, Lodrige said. The general theme for the 2005 inaugural, he noted, is "Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service."
"Nobody does the 'pomp and circumstance' better than the military," Lodrige pointed out, noting the armed services "have a long heritage of doing that."
He said a lot of planning and practice needs to take place before Inauguration Day. As many as 4,000 servicemembers, he pointed out, will take part in a Jan. 16 inaugural dress rehearsal in downtown Washington.
Lodrige said the president recognizes the sacrifices servicemembers are making in the global war against terrorism and "wants to do some special things for the military" as part of this year's inaugural activities, including a two-hour "Salute to Those Who Serve" entertainment gala for the military that Bush will host Jan. 18 at the MCI Center arena here.
Half of the tickets for the gala, Lodrige noted, are being provided to military invitees, predominantly junior servicemembers. There are also plans, he said, to televise the gala to military members serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and perhaps South Korea.
In this way, Bush "will be able to reach out and touch some of our military members that we think about every day serving overseas," the general noted.
After Bush's swearing-in ceremony and the parade that follows, Lodrige reported, the commander in chief is slated to host an evening military ball that evening for 2,000 mostly junior servicemembers and thank them for their service.
"I just think it's a credit to him and to the administration that he's giving us these events," Lodrige said.
Months before the presidential election, the JTF-AFIC began collecting and organizing applications from bands and other performers wanting to participate in the inaugural parade, according to the organization's Web site. This eases the burden on the incoming Presidential Inaugural Committee, which selects parade participants.
This year's inaugural parade is expected to last two hours, Lodrige noted, and will feature 13,500 military and civilian participants.