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Home : News
NEWS | Jan. 17, 2014

Virginia National Guard members support governor’s inauguration under rainy skies

By Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti Virginia National Guard

RICHMOND, Va. - The inauguration of Terry McAuliffe as the 72nd Governor of Virginia, held Jan. 11, 2014, in Richmond, Va., included the support of more than 225 Virginia National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force. The Department of Military Affairs personnel provided ceremonial music during the rain-soaked event, fired a 19-gun salute with artillery howitzers and acted as the command and control for the inaugural parade, as well as the lead marching element.

"Each and every participant worked diligently to ensure the mission was executed flawlessly," said Col. Marti J. Bissell, who commanded Joint Task Force 91, comprised of the various DMA inaugural support elements. "JTF 91 brought together a variety of units not normally assigned together in order to support the inauguration. I am extremely proud of their efforts and dedication to duty."

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia, echoed Bissell's sentiment, saying, "I thought from planning to execution, the Virginia National Guard's support to the governor's inauguration was superb. I was very proud of our men and women, and I thought the inauguration, except for the rain, was a great event. The National Guard is the governor's military force, so it is important for our commander in chief to see us there and see that we support him. This was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate some of the many capabilities we have."

The day started early for many of the event participants, with the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team, trained to assist law enforcement in the event of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear attack, the first from DMA to arrive at the Virginia State Capitol, where the inauguration took place. Once there, the 34th CST roved the site, helping to ensure the event went off without issue.

At noon, in the midst of a downpour, the inauguration began, with DMA personnel spread out across Downtown Richmond conducting a variety of missions.

The Covington-based 29th Division Band, stationed next to the stands holding McAulliffe and his family, former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as past governors, distinguished guests, and state leaders, provided ceremonial music during the inauguration.

As McAulliffe spoke the final words of his Oath of Office, the band played four ruffles and flourishes followed by 32 bars medley of "The Stars and Stripes Forever,"and the Sandston-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fired a ceremonial 19-gun salute from four M119A2 105mm howitzers.

"Everyone performed incredibly well despite downpours and potential lightning," Bissell said. Lightning had spread across the Richmond sky shortly before the start of the ceremony, forcing the artillerymen to move themselves and their ammunition indoors for safekeeping.

Despite the weather, the artillery Soldiers were honored to be part of such a high-profile event and 1st Lt. Doug Wiltsie, platoon leader, said, "The thing with these Soldiers is that they love shooting - that's what they live for, shooting those guns, and getting to do it here today is great opportunity."

Following the salute, McAuliffe offered his acceptance speech to the crowd gathering in front of the capitol as members of the Virginia Defense Force and Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard worked to ensure the success of the parade. To accomplish this, each of the 31 marching elements, which included the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets, the James Madison Marching Royal Dukes, Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H Horse Program and Equality Virginia, was assigned a VDF member to act as a guide early on Inauguration Day.

This guide directed the elements to their assigned parking spot, ensured they received lunch and, most importantly, ensured that all elements of the parade were in the correct order.

"With over 2,700 parade participants, JTF 91 met the parade participants, lined them up, moved them around the capitol and then made sure they headed home safely."

Brig. Gen. Blake Ortner, Virginia Guard Land Component Commander, led the parade around the capitol, followed by the Virginia National Guard's Joint Color Guard and more than 60 Soldiers and Airmen from units across the commonwealth.

"We're the state's National Guard, and not only the leadership, including the governor and other leaders in his cabinet need to know who we are and what we do, but the citizens need to see us out there as well," said Brig. Gen. Steven T. Scott, assistant adjutant general- joint staff. "They need to see us not only in times of disaster, but also during events like the inauguration, in a visible show of support to the governor, who is our commander in chief."

In addition to the more visible roles played by the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force, DMA personnel also provided mission tracking and coordination support at the Virginia National Guard Joint Operations Center in Sandston and at the Virginia Defense Force Headquarters in Richmond, monitoring the day's events as they happened. Additionally, Soldiers from the Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command provided mission command for all Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force personnel taking part in the inauguration.

About 45 minutes after the parade ended, Long, Ortner and the joint color guard gathered just inside the Capitol's north entrance for the Virginia Guard's final official act of the inauguration. Long presented McAuliffe with one of the shell casings from the ceremonial 19-gun salute fired by the Soldiers of Battery A.

"I appreciate all that you do, and I look forward to working with you," McAuliffe told the Soldiers and Airmen at the presentation. "I am going to be there for you, because you were there for us."

The entire McAuliffe family was on hand for the presentation of the shell casing, and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe said, "It was very stirring when those cannons went off. It was very symbolic of the great service you have done."

Long then escorted McAuliffe to the Governor's Mansion for the post-inauguration open house event.

"Thanks to all the men and women in the Virginia Guard who helped plan this event and participated and put themselves out there in that terrible weather and persevered with good attitudes and professionalism," Scott said.

"The Virginia National Guard's involvement and support were critical to making Governor McAuliffe's Inaugural ceremony and parade a success," said Jennie O'Holleran, events director for the inauguration.

"From the 29th Infantry Division Band, which provided musical entertainment, to the howitzer salute and shell presentation; from the units marching in the parade, to Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force members managing the parade itself. The governor and our entire team are grateful to the Virginia National Guard, its leadership and members, for helping us pull off such a historic day."