Commander in Chief: Thousands of Soldiers march on Inauguration Day

President and Commander in Chief Donald J. Trump greets the crowd from the presidential review stand during the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Friday. More than 5,000 military members from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, including Reserve and National Guard components and Fort Meade’s 200th Military Police Command and the U.S. Army Field Band, provided military ceremonial support and defense support during the inaugural period. (Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/200th Military Police Command)

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hours before he set out with his unit to march through the nation’s capital for the inaugural parade and the millions of spectators lining the streets and watching at home, Spc. Doug Sherman was worry-free.

“I’m just following the commander, so my job is actually kind of easy,” said the 29-year-old Reservist, who would carry the guidon — the flag signifying his unit’s designation.

With the 3rd Transportation Brigade, out of Fort Belvoir, Va., Sherman was among the roughly 5,000 military members participating in inaugural ceremonies Friday as Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the country’s 45th president.

Several units, including bands and horse-mounted Soldiers, represented the Army during the parade, which took Trump and dignitaries from the Capitol to the White House.

After Trump rolled by in his armored limousine waving to onlookers, the U.S. Army Field Band led one of the parade’s contingents onto Pennsylvania Avenue to join the other participants.

Participating in his third inaugural parade, Col. Jim Keene, commander of the Field Band, said the highly visible event was a prime opportunity for the Army to connect with the people they serve.

“This is one of those key times when all the cameras are on us,” he said. “We are representing the Army to the American people, both figuratively and practically.”

No strangers to pomp and circumstance, Field Band members often rehearse to keep their skills sharp on the conviction that their performances reflect the duty and honor of a 1-million strong force.

“We like to think that we do demonstrate the excellence and the precision of any Soldier in the United States Army,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Stults, a 34-year-old percussionist with the Field Band. “But we practice this. This is what we do.”

The Army’s official ceremonial unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard,” are among the estimated 5,000 service members who participated in the inaugural ceremonies. (Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The Army’s official ceremonial unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” also turned out in large numbers for the parade.

A newbie to presidential inaugurations, Old Guard member Spc. Jacob Lopez was soaking up the festive atmosphere.

“For me, it’s the first time I’ve ever done it as part of this unit and probably the only time I’ll get to do it,” the 21-year-old California native said. “It’s an honor to come here and celebrate with the country on having a new president come in.”

Future recruits from the New York Military Academy’s Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program also marched the streets. Leading a program of recruits whose ages range from 13 to 18, retired Master Sgt. Fletcher Bailey, JROTC commandant, called the event a teaching moment for the youth.

“More importantly for the cadets, this is history,” said Bailey, who served 24 years in the Army. “They are learning how our country actually functions.”

Witnessing the teamwork demonstrated by the dozens of parade elements was an eye-opener for the cadets, he said.

“Teamwork is a very big part in everything we talk about,” he said. “Now they’re seeing all the agencies coming together to make this happen.”

During the inauguration ceremony, Soldiers also assisted local, state and federal law enforcement in securing the National Mall as onlookers watched Trump sworn in as president.

Along the edge of the crowds on the mall, Pfc. Juliet McClintock and her fellow Soldiers of the Illinois National Guard’s 333rd Military Police Brigade kept an attentive eye on the jubilant masses of people.

“We’re pretty much doing crowd control, just watching out for the public’s safety,” the 19-year-old said. “I think it’s a good visual [for the Army] to give the public extra assurance.”

Mixed among the supporters were protesters from both sides of the political arena. Politics aside, Keene said, the peaceful transfer of power is the mark of a strong democracy.

“No matter what your perspective is, this is a day that we all recognize that there’s something greater than ourselves,” he said, “and there is a country that remains worth fighting for.”

President and Commander in Chief Donald J. Trump shakes hands with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, during the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/200th Military Police Command)
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