About 250 Tennessee National Guard soldiers and airmen will likely travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend to help with the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Most of them are from Southeast Tennessee.
“We’re taking approximately 200 soldiers to Washington,” said Maj. Robert Zickgraf, operations officer for the Athens, Tenn.-based 117th Military Police Battalion of the Army National Guard. “We’re probably going to be doing things like helping with parking, traffic control, those types of things.”
Plans are not yet definite, however, according to National Guard spokesman William Layer. A total of five states — not including Tennessee — were officially signed up to help as of Monday afternoon.
Providing military ceremonial support to the inauguration dates back 220 years. When George Washington began his inaugural journey from Mount Vernon, Va., to New York City, local militias joined his procession as it passed through towns along the way. When President Washington arrived in New York, an escort comprised of members of the U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans accompanied him to Federal Hall for the presidential oath.
Source: Tennessee National Guard
“Everything else is still being decided with planning and funding,” Mr. Layer said.
However, local guardsmen already are eagerly preparing to provide whatever services they can, Maj. Zickgraf said.
“It’s a really big honor to be asked to participate in it,” he said.
The 117th, which includes the 252nd and 253rd Military Police companies, will be supporting the District of Columbia National Guard during Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony, according to Tennessee Guard spokesman Randy Harris.
Sgt. 1st Class Rick Mullins, of Chattanooga, said, “It’s kind of like being part of history.” He will go with the group as part of Cleveland’s 252nd Military Police Company.
The rest of the support will come from the Tennessee Air Guard’s 228th Combat Communications Squadron of Alcoa and the Air Guard’s 118th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron of Nashville. Those units are assigned to help the Virginia National Guard, Mr. Harris said.
In total, about 5,000 service members will provide military support Tuesday, according to a news release from the American Forces Press Service. Some units will be part of ceremonial details, while others will provide transportation or assist with logistics and security, the release stated.