Soldiers Prep for Inauguration


WASHINGTON --- The Army will play a major role in the 57th presidential inaugural, set for Jan. 21, and early Sunday morning Soldiers participated in a full dress rehearsal.

Soldiers participating in the rehearsal marched along Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street from Capitol Hill to the White House and several blocks beyond. Units included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions; a joint-service color guard, the U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own), the Army Field Band and the 3rd U. S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

Soldiers from Joint Task Force National Capital Region were also at the rehearsal, as they are responsible for planning and coordinating armed forces participation in the inaugural events which will be televised worldwide and be seen by thousands lining the parade route.

At around 6 a.m., the Soldiers began marching. Spc. Lindsay Rogstad was posted on 14th Street, where she would remain for the duration of the ceremony.

"We do everything with precision," she said, indicating that she had to be exactly centered on another Soldier from The Old Guard facing her across the street. At about every 10 feet of the route, Soldiers from The Old Guard were similarly posted.

"I'm proud to participate in the inauguration of our commander in chief," she added.

Posted about half a block from Rogstad was Spc. Anthony James. James, who hails from Florida, said he was glad the weather wasn't too cold and hopes it will stay mild for next week's inauguration.

Although there was fog and some drizzle and the temperatures were in the 40s, it was considered unusually mild for mid-January in the nation's capital.

Also happy that the weather was cooperating was Spc. Jordan Allman, a medic stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He said he hopes he doesn't have much work to do during the inauguration because very cold weather increases the chances of hypothermia.

Capt. Mark Worrell, a chaplain with The Old Guard, said he won't be saying an invocation or have a speaking part in the inauguration. "I'm here for ministerial presence -- checking on my Soldiers who are out here and taking care of them as they take care of our mission to honor our president."

Staff Sgt. Alexandria Brimage-Gray, from Fort Bragg, N.C., said she was "lucky to be here."

Brimage-Gray will be just one of a handful of Army photographers near the reviewing stand. She said she's lucky because her normal job was in the logistics field, and she made a lateral move into public affairs just a few months ago.

She said her family and friends will all be watching TV and are happy and proud for her.

"This is a great opportunity to be here and support the inaugural," she said.

Another Soldier who said he's happy to be involved was Pfc. Jonathan Etheridge from The Old Guard. He will have a prime spot, posting almost next to the reviewing stand. He said the Soldiers spent hours working on their uniforms to prepare and they were already up and on their way to pre-inaugural practice at 1:30 a.m.

"I've just been in the Army for one year and before that I was in high school," he said. "Events have been moving pretty quickly for me. This is absolutely a big step in my life and I'm honored."

Etheridge will be standing for a long time at his post. He said the key to standing for long periods is to "have your knees bent slightly, but not enough for anyone to notice. This ensures the blood keeps flowing."

Staff Sgt. Kevin McCulley has an especially important job. He will be doing all the announcements for the inaugural parade, not just for the Army, but for all other services participating as well. He will also introduce all of the parade participants and read the welcoming letter from the inaugural committee. He carried a thick three-ring binder with pages covered in plastic in case of rain.

McCulley, who is a broadcast instructor at the Defense Information School on Fort Meade, Md., served as a combat medic in a Stryker brigade in Iraq in 2006 and returned to Iraq in 2010 as a broadcaster.

Soldiers he served with still call him "doc."

"It's a title you earn," he said. "You're always there for your Soldiers, whether to offer a shoulder to cry on or to take care of them when they're sick or injured. It's a special relationship."

McCulley got his flu shot and said he doesn't expect to get sick, but if he does, there's backup. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tamie Moore is the backup.

"I really hope, McCulley has his voice," she said, "especially because I am not a broadcaster, have no voice training and would be really nervous."

Master Sgt. Jerry Amoury was working behind the scenes at the JTF's Band Control Office. His job was pretty big: processing thousands of applications from groups and people across the country -- bands, entertainers, veterans groups, singers, VIPs and even congressmen -- who were interested in participating in the inaugural parade and balls.

Although he didn't make the final picks, he offered his recommendations to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Another Soldier worked with him: Master Sgt. Lane Shoji.

His job isn't over, however. He will be providing guidance and coordinating with all these groups during and even after the inauguration.

Amoury, a trombone player, is a member of the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own."

"It was a real treat for me yesterday hearing my colleagues in the band as they passed the reviewing stand," he said. "I got this little twinge like I should be out there playing. But it was a real treat hearing and seeing the bands go by.

"It's going to be a great inauguration," he added.

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Army Barack Obama