ARLINGTON, Va. - Approximately 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, said officials.
"They will be coming into the District of Columbia, processed in and will go out to several parts of the city where they will support these events," said Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard.
Many of those 6,000 Soldiers and Airmen, who will join an additional 7,000 service members from other military services, will be providing support to local authorities as part of their inaugural duties.
"Most of the National Guard members will be outside of the parade route," said Schwartz. "There are a few, about 300, that will be involved in the ceremony and the parade."
Guard members will primarily be providing traffic control, crowd management, and communications and medical support, said Schwartz, adding that over the past few months, the D.C. Guard has been working with local and federal officials and agencies as part of 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," Schwartz said.
And many of those working relationships have been ongoing ones from everyday activities.
"We live here," said Army Brig. Gen. Arthur Hinaman, commander of Joint Task Force D.C., the Guard support element of the inauguration. "It's not like it's new people. 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."
Additionally, lessons learned from previous events have been incorporated into planning for the upcoming inauguration.
"We have a good model that we go by and we take lessons learned in every (inauguration) and it gets (smoother) every four years," said Sgt. 1st Class George Mickens, the assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of logistics for JTF D.C.
But, there are still challenges that come from planning for such a large-scale event.
"Some of the challenges are just the dispersion of the units," said Hinaman, referring to many units from other areas outside the local area. "It's not like I can come in the office and call in my 6000-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. "
And planning for this inauguration comes on the heels of the 2009 inauguration, which saw the largest public attendance to the event.
"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 than where we were last time."
And for many in the D.C. Guard, taking part in the inauguration brings with it a sense of pride, much of which comes from the D.C. Guard's long-standing tie to the event, which dates back to 1861 and the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln.
"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 taken part in multiple inaugurations. This is the fourth one for Mickens, with his first being the 1997 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, where Mickens marched as part of the inaugural parade.
"I had just come into the D.C. National Guard in February 1996, so I was a starry-eyed kid and 11 months later, I'm marching in the inauguration celebration," he said. "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. "
For Schwartz, this is his ninth, and he said he's seen how each one is unique, and though it has changed over the years, many things have remained constant.
"One of the things that the D.C. National Guard is proud of, we have participated (in the inauguration) since the inauguration of President Lincoln," said Schwartz. "This is personally my ninth inauguration. 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."