USAF inauguration participation historic

Department of Defense photo: Tech. Sgt. Alan Port Staff Sgt. Shequila Hunter and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexandria Elis work on administrative issues for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee in Washington, D.C.

By Maj. Gen. Ralph Jodice: Commander, AF, District of Washington

WASHINGTON — On Jan. 20, when President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office, U.S. servicemembers once again will participate in a time-honored tradition which began with President George Washington for his first inauguration in 1789.

Among those servicemembers participating with the new president will be more than 1,300 airmen from the Air Force District of Washington. These active duty, Guard and Reserve airmen represent the Air Force element providing support to inaugural events. They also stand as a reminder of the 2.3 million servicemembers stationed around the world, including the many servicemembers deployed defending the nation’s freedom.

AFDW did not exist during the last inauguration. The organization, first established at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., on Oct. 1, 1985, and deactivated July 1, 1994, was re-established shortly after the last inauguration, when it was determined each service component needed a way to plan and implement joint operations within the National Capital Region should another event like 9/11 take place. As a command, its airmen have participated in many other national special security events. However, this inauguration is the first large-scale activation of AFDW’s 320th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The first six airmen processed through the 320th AEW in December 2007 served as the initial Air Force cadre to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, or AFIC. Since then, the airmen arriving to participate in inaugural events, and the types of duties they are performing, have increased exponentially. They come from 43 stateside bases, five overseas bases and nine Air National Guard units, and include cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

As expected, the Air Force Band and Air Force Honor Guard, the ceremonial units from the 11th Wing at Bolling AFB, will participate along the parade route and at other inaugural events throughout the week. Additionally, airmen assigned to AFDW will form a segment of the ceremonial cordon, which are military members standing along both sides of the two-mile parade route.

Airmen also will serve as drivers, distinguished visitor and media escorts, photographers and ushers at events taking place throughout the inaugural period. These are the “faces” of AFDW and the 320th AEW. But the value of each airman’s participation is not measured by his or her proximity to inaugural events.

Hundreds of AFDW members have worked tirelessly for the past 14 months to ensure all goes well for the men and women out in front, and for the newly elected president. Air Force planners, in concert with their counterparts at AFIC and more than 20 state and federal agencies, have spent countless hours writing, refining and executing plans for the event. Specialists from nearly every Air Force career field continue to identify and manage inaugural requirements, leaving no stone unturned.

Also taking place behind the scenes is the participation of AFDW’s airmen in operational events surrounding and leading up to the inauguration, providing around-the-clock support during the 10-day “inaugural period.”

The morning of the inauguration, Services personnel from the 316th Wing at Andrews AFB, Md., will prepare and serve more than 1,400 hot meals for cordon members from all services and then transport them to the parade route. Medical specialists with the 79th Medical Wing at Andrews, as well as military medical units throughout the NCR, will deploy along the parade route to provide assistance as needed.

Finally, AFDW personnel will remain on alert with members from all service branches throughout the inaugural period to provide continuity of operations, military support to civil authorities and effective contingency response, if needed.

Putting together an event as large as a presidential inauguration is a monumental achievement. All the successes stemming from this will be due to the training, professionalism and dedication of the participating airmen and joint partners.