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News

13,000 service members to support 58th presidential inauguration

By C. Todd Lopez
December 19, 2016

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- The still relatively short-staffed Joint Task Force-National Capital Region hosted a rehearsal of concept drill Wednesday to demonstrate the roles the members will perform Jan. 20 during the 58th presidential inauguration.

Using a 60-by-40-foot map of the nation's capital, spread out on the floor of the D.C. Armory, Army Master Sgt. Aaron Lovely walked journalists and other guests through the plans for the inauguration, detailing the various roles military elements would play during the event.

"Across the Potomac River, we have the Pentagon north parking lot," he said as he walked across the floor map and gestured downward to the image of the Department of Defense headquarters. The location, he explained, will play host to the largest number of participants on inauguration day.

"In addition to [hosting] the joint service men and women who make up the military cordon, the 1,500-person formation who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder across Pennsylvania Ave," he said, "[the location] will also be the starting point for both the civilian and military participants in the parade."

The senior enlisted inauguration planner for the task force, Lovely also serves as a tuba player in the Army band "Pershing's Own." The upcoming presidential inauguration will be the fourth one he has played a role in, though it's his first time as the task force's senior enlisted planner.

He considers it an honor. Every day, he said, it's exciting to get up and go to work.

"Normally, I'm in an Army environment, but this is a joint-service environment," he said. "Our sister services and the teammates I get to work with are stellar, and I enjoy the product we're able to put together in preparation for whatever the Presidential Inaugural Committee is going to ask us to do."

When inauguration day rolls around, about 13,000 military personnel will be on hand to provide support. That number will include about 7,000 active-duty military personnel and 8,000 National Guard members from more than 40 states and territories -- some as far away as Guam. The inauguration will involve the participation of all five military services.

This year active-duty personnel will provide support in musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries, and honor cordons, said Maj. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, commander, Joint Task Force-National Capital Region.

"Along with orchestrating the ceremonial aspects of the inauguration," Becker said, "Our [task force] provides substantial assistance to the Presidential Inauguration Committee, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and the U.S. Secret Service, as well as other federal, state and local agencies, to ensure a safe and secure environment."

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commander, District of Columbia National Guard, said the guardsmen, many of whom come from military police and secretary forces backgrounds, will provide support to local law enforcement. They will provide crowd control and security assistance to the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police and the U.S. Park Service Police.

According to Schwartz, the Guardsmen will be deputized by the Metropolitan Police Department before going on duty during the inauguration. But it will be local law enforcement who will be calling the shots.

"If something goes bad, it's up to the law-enforcement agency to make the first move," Schwartz said. "We look forward to having a peaceful transition of power on the 20th of January. And we will continue to work with our state and interagency partners to make sure that we have a peaceful transition of power."

The Guardsmen working with local police to keep order the streets in D.C, Schwartz said, will not be armed. Neither will the active-duty personnel.

THE UNKNOWNS

The U.S. military has participated in every inauguration since the very first one, which took place April 30, 1789. Even with that long history and tradition, Soldiers and organizers will nonetheless have to adapt to a number of unknowns when the event finally plays out in January.

Among them will be the weather. Depending on the conditions that day, it's possible, however unlikely, that the inauguration could take place without any outdoor events at all, Becker said.

Becker expects to know early that morning, around 4:30 a.m., whether outdoor events will proceed as scheduled. He will then issue orders to ensure all participants are wearing the appropriate uniforms.

Schwartz expressed some concern for Guardsmen who are traveling from warmer areas like Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"My concern is that they find their cold-weather gear before they get here," he said. "But we make sure all of our service members have all of the equipment they need, whatever weather may come at us."

Also currently unknown are the wishes of the president-elect himself. Ultimately, how the events of inauguration day play out will be determined largely by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. And that committee takes its marching orders from the incoming president.