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Soldiers March, Ensure Peaceful Transition On Inauguration Day
by Sean Kimmons, Army News Service
February 2, 2017

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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, Virginia, Sherman was among the roughly 5,000 military members participating in inaugural ceremonies Friday as Donald 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.

January 20, 2017 - The U.S. Army Band marches along Pennsylvania Avenue at the start of the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
January 20, 2017 - The U.S. Army Band marches along Pennsylvania Avenue at the start of the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

After Trump rolled by in his armored limousine waving to onlookers, the 99-piece 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 Army 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, 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 band. "But we practice this. This is what we do."

The Army's official ceremonial unit, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or 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.

January 20, 2017 - Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard, march during the inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
January 20, 2017 - Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard, march during the inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

"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 ROTC program also marched the streets. Leading a program of recruits whose ages range from 13 to 18-years-old, retired Master Sgt. Fletcher Bailey, the program's 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 [to them]," 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 become the next 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."

By Sean Kimmons
Army News Service
Copyright 2017

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