Military Stand-ins Support Inauguration Rehearsal

16 Jan 2013 | Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

With the 57th presidential inauguration a week away, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, likely are busy getting prepared.

It stands to reason they wouldn’t have much time, much less an entire day, to stand through dozens of rehearsals as the U.S. military prepares for its role in supporting the ceremonial occasion.

Therefore, stand-ins are necessary, which is exactly what four lucky service members did for yesterday’s large-scale dress rehearsal in the nation’s capital.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Serpico Elliott, 29, from Greensboro, N.C., was the man of the hour as he stood in for President Barack Obama.

Elliot, who said he was selected to represent the commander in chief because of his physical stature, standing at 6 feet, 2 inches, talked about his experience.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to support the commander in chief in such a capacity,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling, even if it’s for a day.

“It was a very good experience,” Elliot added. “The rehearsal went very smoothly. We just got a quick brief and everything like that for the run-through, and kept with the timelines and everything.”

Elliot noted that he and the other military stand-ins have roles for the actual inauguration ceremony, so the day of the event will be very different for them, compared to yesterday’s rehearsal. A communications noncommissioned officer by trade, he will support the mobile communications center team during the Jan. 21 public inauguration ceremony.

Army Spc. Delandra Rollins, 20, an automated logistical specialist from Dunwoody, Va., was asked how she selected her clothes for the rehearsal. She stood in for the first lady, who is known for trendy dressing.

“It took a while,” Rollins said with a laugh. “But I just readily chose it, and it just happened to fit perfectly. I fell in love with it.”

Rollins said she picked “something that is [trendy], but classy and casual, and gorgeous as well.”

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Richard Bolin, 43, from Pontiac, Mich., made sure to note the military stand-ins were simply filling in for the principals.

“We’re not here to impersonate them,” he said. “We’re here to stand in their place.”

Bolin, an operations center chief, said he volunteered to represent the vice president.

“They were looking for people who were not fully, actively engaged during the rehearsal this morning,” he said. “We had a lot of people out on Pennsylvania Avenue and throughout [the District of Columbia] rehearsing for what is going to happen.

Bolin said he reported to Joint Task Force National Capital Region in August to support the military’s preparations “to put this world-class show on for the president.”

“We’re proud to support him,” he added.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Rachel Washko, 37, of Plano, Texas, is a special events coordinator for the inauguration and represented Dr. Biden during yesterday’s rehearsal. As is the case with the other stand-ins, she has not had the opportunity to meet her counterpart, she said, but she knows exactly what she would say if given the opportunity.

“It would be a real honor to meet Dr. Biden,” she said. “As a military member, and a military spouse, [I know] she’s done a lot for military families, and she supports education. So I’d tell her it’s an honor to meet her and stand in her shoes for a day.”

Headquarters Marine Corps