Inauguration day: A unique career experience for Incirlik NCO

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Bobbie Dobberstein
  • 39th Air Base Wing
The Armed Forces Inaugural Committee's purpose is military ceremonial support that is a centuries-old tradition to honor the commander in chief and celebrate democracy.

The committee represents the entire U.S. Armed Forces that proudly serve are trained, dedicated and professional.

The Inauguration Parade dates back to 1789, when George Washington took the oath of office on April 30. As he began his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City, local militias joined in procession as he passed through towns along the way. Once he arrived in New York City, members of the Continental Army, government officials, members of Congress, and prominent citizens escorted Washington to Federal Hall for his swearing-in ceremony.

Preparations for this year's ceremony started many months ago, but the bulk of us arrived right after the New Year. Upon arrival, in-processing started on Sunday; On Monday morning we went to work for two weeks without a day off. Training was like drinking water from a fire hose. We ran communication drills, we studied the routes - to include the exact placement of 500 cones. We studied the sequence of events over and over so much that I could tell you which division almost every parade element was marching in. There were over 13,000 people that made up 131 elements that were divided into six divisions. An element could have as few as five people - like the U.S. Armed Forces Staff elements, or as many as 460 like the Delaware Volunteer Firemen's Association, which included their fire truck. Elements varied from military units to high school marching bands, to 125-horse formations to the USO float carrying Miss America.

I was part of a three-person Merge Team. Our job was to merge the actual parade together. The marching elements - marching bands, color guards, etc., were formed up in order, but were separated from the float and horse elements. Sounds easy, right? We thought so too until the rehearsal. The Merge Officer in Charge stood in the center of the procession and called out the elements in order. I directed the marching elements into sequence, and the third team member directed the horse or the float elements into sequence. If any of the elements formed up incorrectly, there was no fixing it and we had to ensure we got the information out to the participants and well continuing to merge. The rehearsal was scheduled for a Sunday to minimize the disruption to the city since many streets and bridges were closed off. We were grateful that so many area citizens participated in the rehearsal so we could get a feel for the event. Of course there were some logistical hiccups - buses misrouted to the drop off and pick up zones, communication obstacles - too many people on the radios and dead batteries, etc. It was definitely enlightening. We dissected the day and brainstormed some fixes.

The week of the event, it was easy to see that the city was getting busy and we all were anxious for the day to come. Lines for the Metro got longer, souvenir prices went up, and the lines at coffee shops almost doubled. Because the estimated number of people coming into the city was between 1and 5 million with an unknown effect on traffic, much of the parade support was directed to stay at various military installations in the District of Columbia. All access into the city, including Interstate 395, 14th St. Bridge, etc., was shut down for the Secret Service to do security sweeps of the entire area. My element stayed at Fort Myer on cots in the gymnasium. By the time "I-Day" came, we were all definitely ready for it. It was a mix of feelings because of the long days with no down time and excitement that the events of this day were going to be watched by the entire world.

After about three hours of sleep, my "I-Day" started at approximately 3 a.m. After roll call, we headed to our entry control point. We waited while Secret Service personnel finished their security sweeps. We were allowed to enter just after 7 a.m., we grabbed our trucks and golf carts and started set-up. After everything was in place, my team had some down time while the inauguration was taking place at the Capitol Building. We were on the corner of Madison and 4th St., and since the roads were all blocked off, we were comfortably lodged between thousands of people barricaded on the lawns in front of us and thousands of people in the park behind us. We had a clear view of the Capitol Building, a great view of the jumbotrons, and heard every word perfectly. Looking out over the crowds of people waiving their American flags, all you could see for blocks was just a blur of red, white, and blue. When Michelle Obama came into view, the crowd erupted with cheer and then President Obama came into view; you just can't imagine the intensity of the cheers. "OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA!" Shivers went up my spine to see such dedication and support from people that stood waiting since before 2 a.m. that morning in the freezing cold.