More than 10,000 National Guard members will support President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration Jan. 20, the Guard's largest contribution to an inauguration in its 372-year history.
"The National Guard will help to ensure a safe and secure environment for all attendees," Manny Pacheco, spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, said. "National Guard members are a force multiplier to a variety of federal and state agencies and military task forces."
National Guard members from several states and the District of Columbia are working for Joint Task Force District of Columbia. "The number of National Guard members that will be used is larger than we've ever had in history," said Army Brig. Gen. Barbaranette Bolden, task force commander.
Citizen-soldiers and –airmen are providing communications, transport, traffic control and medical and logistical support – as well as playing music and marching in the inaugural parade.
"Those National Guard personnel will help quite a bit," Cathy Lanier, the District of Columbia's police chief, said last week. "[They] help us ... keep law enforcement focused on law enforcement."
The Guard's support to civilian authorities works well because relationships already are well-established through previous events and shared training exercises. "They know that we will be there and that we will perform professionally, no matter what the situation," Bolden said.
Members of the 257th Army National Guard Band are among 250 troops on duty from the District of Columbia. The band is providing ceremonial and inaugural ball support. "We're so proud of them," Bolden said. "This has never happened before, our Army National Guard Band participating in an inauguration."
More than 2,000 National Guard members from Maryland and Virginia are working in support of their states' lead law enforcement and transportation agencies to assist with traffic flow into and out of the District of Columbia.
The Iowa National Guard is supporting an inauguration for the first time, sending about 1,000 soldiers from the 34th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
More than 200 members of the New York National Guard are helping with communications and traffic control.
In addition to about 400 soldiers and airmen, the West Virginia National Guard is providing specialized homeland defense and security units, airplanes and helicopters, and mobile satellite communications equipment in support of federal and local agencies to help manage the large crowds expected at the event.
Tennessee's contribution includes airmen from the 228th Combat Communications Squadron and the 118th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and soldiers from the 117th Military Police Battalion.
The National Guard Bureau participates in Armed Forces Inaugural Committee efforts while coordinating the support provided by the National Guard with federal and state civil authorities. A joint operations center is being staffed around the clock through the inauguration.
The National Guard has a long history of supporting presidential inaugurations. Local militia units marched with George Washington as he proceeded to his first inauguration in New York on April 30, 1789, according to Guard historians.
"The National Guard is proud to continue this tradition of supporting and defending both the president of the United States, our constitutional form of government, and our American way of life," Pacheco said.
Guard members are proud of their role helping ensure a safe and secure environment for the event, Bolden said. "Every soldier and airman that comes here will be sharing this historic event with their families for many years to come," Bolden said.
(Author Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)
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