Military Support for Inaugurations Goes Back 200 Years

13 Dec 2012 | Claudette Roulo American Forces Press Service

Military support for presidential inaugurations stretches back 223 years to George Washington’s first inauguration ceremony, when soldiers, militiamen and Revolutionary War veterans escorted him to Federal Hall in New York City.

Service member support has been vital to every inauguration since then, and this year is no different, military officials said here today during a press conference at the D.C. Armory. In all, they said, about 13,500 service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will participate in the 57th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013, in ways ranging from logistical and ceremonial support to law enforcement.

The District of Columbia National Guard has participated in every inauguration since President Abraham Lincoln’s, said Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard. “Our primary mission is in support of the local authorities and the federal government,” he said.

About 6,000 Air and Army National Guard members from 17 states and territories will assist in traffic control, crowd management, communications support, logistics and any needed medical support, said Army Brig. Gen. Arthur W. Hinaman, the commander for National Guard operations in Joint Task Force-District of Columbia.

“These National Guard soldiers and airmen will be deputized by the Metropolitan Police Department and will provide a myriad of support to the civil authorities for the inauguration,” Hinaman said.

“Military support for the inauguration is appropriate, traditional and important … in honoring our president and commander-in-chief,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, the commanding general of Joint Task Force-National Capital Region. “It also recognizes our commitment to civilian control of the military.”

Planning an event like the inauguration, with its attendant security and access challenges, is a monumental undertaking, Linnington said, but the military is up to the challenge.

Besides supporting the ceremonial aspects of the inauguration, JTF-NCR's staff is assisting the Presidential Inaugural Committee by collecting applications to participate in the parade and providing planning and logistical support for the parade, Linnington said.

About 2,800 applications were submitted this year, he said, and 317 were successfully vetted and submitted to the PIC for final consideration. Applications came from all 55 states and territories, he noted.

This year, smaller crowds are expected than in 2009, Linnington said, but lessons learned from that inauguration have been incorporated into the planning for January.

“[The plan includes] extended hours for public transportation -- buses, Metro -- opening of additional bridges and making it more accessible for people to come in,” he said.

Access to the parade and National Mall will be similar to that of 2009, Linnington said.

“Four years ago was the first time the mall was opened up for public viewing, and that’s occurring again this year. That’s pretty much unprecedented for a second term,” he said.

“If anyone’s coming out to watch the inauguration, I think there will be much easier access this year and a great opportunity to watch an historic event,” Linnington said.

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