WASHINGTON — About 5,000 service members participated in the 58th Presidential Inauguration dress rehearsal Sunday morning. The route stretched along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House and beyond.
Personnel in musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons including Soldiers from Fort Bragg units, practiced rendering appropriate ceremonial honors to the upcoming commander in chief. The actual inauguration takes place Friday.
“Everything went great!” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Bevins, a spokesman for Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, or JTF-NCR. “It’s amazing to see a joint team of more than 5,000 military members come together to execute ceremonial support to the incoming president.”
“We have these rehearsals to exercise movements, logistics, timing and cues so everything is seamless for Inauguration Day,” he added. “This is a great tradition that goes back over 225 years. As with any of the military's great traditions, we want everything to be perfect, and that’s why we practice.”
Role of JTF-NCR
The JTF-NCR's role in the inauguration is primarily ceremonial.
Because the Presidential Inaugural Committee, or PIC, was not formed until after the November election, JTF-NCR provided invaluable assistance to the PIC by collecting applications from prospective parade participants. It provides planning and logistical support to the parade, and coordinated ceremonial participation by military units months before the election took place.
Civilian law enforcement officers are responsible for the safety and security of all personnel during the inaugural events. The primary agency for security for the inauguration is the U.S. Secret Service.
The U.S. military has participated in this important American tradition since April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City.
The first organized parade occurred in 1809, at the inauguration of President James Madison. A troop of cavalry from Washington escorted him to the Capitol and he sat in review of nine companies of militia. Future inaugurations saw these military escorts become increasingly elaborate.
The Department of Defense, in the early 1950s, established what was then called the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, or AFIC. The first inaugural parade supported by AFIC — President Eisenhower’s in 1953 — lasted four hours, thirty-two minutes and remains the longest inaugural parade to date.
It was also the largest parade, with 73 bands, 59 floats, horses, elephants, and civilian and military vehicles.
The only parade known to be canceled as a result of bad weather was President Ronald Reagan’s second in 1985, when frigid temperatures made the situation dangerous. His first parade holds the record for the warmest inauguration day.
Role of the PIC
The PIC is a non-profit organization representing the president-elect. This organization is responsible for organizing and funding the inaugural events of the president-elect and vice president-elect. These official events may include ceremonies, concerts, inaugural dinners, the inaugural parade and the inaugural balls.
The PIC decides how many military members will attend, but historically, up to 5,000 total military personnel have provided ceremonial support during the inaugural period, which is defined as the five days before and four days after the presidential inauguration. This year’s number is about 5,000.
JTF-NCR closely coordinates with the Joint Congressional Committee on inauguration ceremonies as well as with the PIC.
The 58th Presidential Inauguration refers to the swearing-in ceremony that takes place on the Capitol steps on Friday, at noon. The inaugural period is the 10-day period from Jan. 15 to 24.