An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Despite COVID-19 Restrictions, Service Members Play Important Role in Inauguration

You have accessed part of a historical collection on Some of the information contained within may be outdated and links may not function. Please contact the DOD Webmaster with any questions.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed much of the military-influenced pomp and circumstance that typically surrounds a presidential inauguration, service members will still play an important role during the event, said the commander of Joint Task Force — National Capital Region, which orchestrates the military's involvement.

Service members march while carrying sabers.
Ceremony Rehearsal
Ceremonial marchers participate in an 59th presidential inauguration rehearsal for President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2021. Military members from across all branches of the armed forces of the United States, including Reserve and National Guard components, provide ceremonial support and defense support of civil authorities around the inauguration.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Jacob Holmes
VIRIN: 210118-A-GA562-003

During a teleconference Tuesday afternoon, Army Maj. Gen. Omar Jones, who also serves as the commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, outlined the roles service members will play during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

First, he said, will be to provide security support to civilian law enforcement personnel.

"All security support from the DOD [Defense Department], to the inauguration, to civil law enforcement organizations is being provided by Title 32 forces ... all through the National Guard," Jones said. Title 32 service members are National Guard personnel who are operating in support of state governors. Active duty service members operate under Title 10.

"There are no Title 10 forces that are conducting security operations in support of civilian law enforcement for the inauguration," Jones said.

In an indoor setting, service members stand in formation amid columns.
Inauguration Rehearsal
U.S. service members with the Joint Armed Forces Honor Guard position themselves during rehearsal for the 59th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2021. Military personnel assigned to the Joint Task Force - National Capital Region provided military ceremonial support.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum
VIRIN: 210118-D-YM181-0021C

Active-duty service members from all branches of the service do have a role in the inauguration, however. They will perform traditional ceremonial roles as well as provide consequence management support, Jones said.

"Consequence management is something we do all the time, and we absolutely do for national special security events ... bottom line is that America's military is ... always ready across the components, always ready across the joint force," Jones said.

Consequence management involves U.S. military personnel being ready to provide support to civilian authorities if requested by them to do so and if that request is approved by the secretary of defense.

Jones said there are soldiers and Marines stationed within the National Capital Region ready to provide that support. There are also Navy airborne search and rescue crews and Army and Air Force helicopters, as well.

"Those are the kind of capabilities we have available ... again, if directed to provide Title 10 consequence management support," Jones said.

A service member in a colonial uniform stands behind a flag.
Old Guard
Soldiers from 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, called the Old Guard, march during the rehearsal for the 59th presidential inaugural in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2021. Military members from across all branches of the U.S. armed forces, including Reserve and National Guard components, provide ceremonial support during the inaugural activities.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Jacob Holmes
VIRIN: 210118-A-GA562-007

The most visible role the U.S. military will play is in providing ceremonial support to the inauguration, Jones said. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, there will be no inaugural parade this year, and so the military's role has been reduced.

For previous inaugurations, Jones said, some 5,500 personnel have been brought into Washington from around the world to participate in the inauguration. This year only about 2,000 personnel will participate — and most of those are from the local area.

"We have tried as much as we can ... to take from local forces," Jones said. "It hasn't been 100%, but it's been pretty darn close because we are, as you can imagine, very conscious of the pandemic, very conscious of the increased risk both to our force but also to the American public by folks having to travel. So, as much as possible, we've tried to resource all the Title 10 regular military requirements from members of the DOD team here in the National Capital Region."

This year, service members will participate in a pass and review for the new president on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. There will also be a new element to the inauguration this year. Biden will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery following the swearing in ceremony, Jones said.

Uniformed service members play musical instruments.
The President's Own
The U.S. Marine Band, called "the President's Own," practices at the rehearsal for the 59th presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan 18, 2021. The Marine Band is believed to have made its inaugural debut in 1801 for Thomas Jefferson, who was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Charlotte Carulli
VIRIN: 210118-D-JY614-779

"It's an honor to have our new president honor both our fallen as well as our unknown who are memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery, and it's humbling to be a part of that," Jones said.

Service members will also escort Biden to the White House — which is a tradition more than 230 years old.

"[It's] in keeping with the tradition that goes all the way back to our first inauguration of George Washington in 1789, when the military escorted George Washington from his swearing in to his residence in New York City," Jones said. "Frankly, it's an honor for the joint task force and for the U.S. military to be part of that and to sustain that tradition."

As part of all the U.S. military support to the inauguration, Jones said, military personnel will practice necessary social distancing.

"You will see physical distancing among all the service members, [among] the formations for the presidential escorts you will see us wearing face coverings ... to protect the force, to protect our mission, consistent with the pandemic that all of us continue to be faced with," Jones said.

Related Stories