Military News

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

National Guard Supports Historic Inaugural Mission

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 20, 2009 - About 9,300 National Guard soldiers and airmen joined thousands of active-duty and reserve military members from all services today to support President Barack Obama's inauguration. "We've always depended on the National Guard," Al Roker, the weather anchor for NBC's Today show, said from the parade staging area outside the Pentagon here.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "Suddenly, the National Guard took on a whole new meaning," Roker said. "So, it's only fitting that at one of the most secure inaugurals, the National Guard would be involved.

"When it comes down to our security, both domestically and internationally, the National Guard is obviously an integral part of that," he said.

Today's inauguration marked the Guard's largest contribution to a presidential inauguration since Minutemen gathered for the First Muster in Massachusetts more than 372 years ago.

"This is a historic first," Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said. "The National Guard is contributing not only to the federal response overseas, but we're also working very closely with our states and our governors. The inauguration is another example of how all our states, territories and the District of Columbia are performing their jobs."

While National Guard members from a dozen different states and D.C. provided communication, transport, traffic control and medical and logistical support to civilian authorities staging the inauguration, others marched in the inaugural parade.

"This is a historic moment, and I wanted to be a part of history," said parade participant Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Gardner, of the District of Columbia National Guard's recruiting and retention command. "The National Guard is the oldest military organization in the country. It's fitting that the National Guard is represented."

The day began as early as 2 a.m. for participating military members, and their duties were scheduled to run into the evening. But troops said they would not trade the opportunity, and many said they were proud to be a part of the inauguration on both a personal and professional level.

Air Force Senior Airman Jodi Leininger traveled here at the start of the year for a two-month mission to document the military's contribution to the inauguration for historical purposes.

As a result, this self-proclaimed "small-town girl," who serves with the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, was able to photograph the president-elect during the run-up to the inauguration.

"That was, to me ... the biggest opportunity of my life," Leininger said. "Having the opportunity to take a picture of our first African-American president -- my new commander in chief -- was exciting."

It was 20 degrees and windy outside the Pentagon when parade participants gathered today before dawn. Army Spc. Angela Harper, of the District of Columbia National Guard's 276th Military Police Company, called it "bone chilling."

Despite the cold, "This is a wonderful moment in time, and I'm privileged to have this opportunity," Harper said. "I would do it again, and again, and again."

Army Lt. Col. Xavier Brunson, from the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, brought about 100 soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., to represent the Army in the parade.

"The opportunity we have to participate in this transfer of government is exciting to myself and my paratroopers," Brunson said.

Leininger said the National Guard made a huge contribution before and during the inauguration, but what struck her most was how military members from the active and reserve components pulled together as a team. "It was just one big group," she said.

Navy Cmdr. Craig Kujawa led part of that group as the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee's parade division chief.

He called the assembly of more than 200 horses and 300 busloads of marchers a logistical miracle. "Every service is represented," he said. "It's a wonderful experience."

Both the Army and the Air National Guard were represented in the parade, Kujawa said, and both contributed to the preparation and execution of the event.

Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Mark Stallworth said he will never forget marching in the inaugural parade.

"I can tell my son, my grandchildren, great-grands," Stallworth said. "This is something that you can always say that you were a part of, pass it down the line. Call home to your mother and father, 'Hey, mom, look at me!' "

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves in the National Guard Bureau.)

Airmen Kick Off Inauguration Day Preparing for Parade

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 20, 2009 - Air Force Maj. Geraldine Holmes-Barnett remembers boarding a bus in Ohio when she was just 9 years old to hear Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech" during the 1963 March on Washington. That memory came full circle his morning as the 54-year-old African-American nurse with the 779th Medical Group waited here at the base club for another bus – this one transporting her and other active-duty airmen to march in President Barack Obama's inaugural parade.

"I knew that this would happen in my lifetime, but I thought it would be when I was 90 or 100 years old," she said of the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president. "And now that I have the privilege to be a part of it, I still don't believe it. I just want to be there in the moment."

Excitement and anticipation filled the Andrews club as Holmes-Barnett and about 70 other airmen gathered at 6 a.m. to prepare for the march. They'll travel to nearby Bolling Air Force Base to pick up additional Air Force marchers, then head out to a staging area at the Pentagon.

Air Force Capt. Christopher Karins, officer in charge of the 316th Wing contingency, estimated that the airmen will begin the 1.5-mile march from the Capitol to the White House at about 4 p.m.

"It's going to be a while because we're toward the back half of the parade," he said. "But that's okay. At least it's warmer today than it was for the rehearsal. And being a little cold is a small price to pay for the opportunity to be here to see history as it occurs."

Air Force Maj. Gen. Ralph Jodic, commander of the Air Force District of Washington, reflected on the magnitude of the day as he circulated through the room, shaking hands and wishing the airmen well.

"This is a great opportunity for everybody. It's a historical event, a monumental event," he said. "And it's happening at a crucial time in our nation, with a lot of problems to confront.

"We in the military are here to support the president," he continued. "We've been doing that since 1789."

Jodic, who will lead the parade along with his counterparts from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, called it an honor for him and his airmen to participate. "We're representing all the military, no matter what uniform," he said.

"But we're also representing all those men and women who are deployed. Because without them and what they are doing, we wouldn't be here doing this today."

As Jodic moved through the room, the airmen readied their uniforms for their departure. Most wore long underwear under their service blue uniforms and had liners in their coats and all had gloves and scarves to shield them from the cold.

Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Mikkelsen from the 844th Communications Squadron showed the airmen a trick to keep their wool scarves in perfect form. He stretched strips of duct tape out on a counter, overlapping them slightly, then transferred the mass of tape to the back of a scarf. "It's an honor guard thing," he said.

The airmen followed Mikkelsen's lead, expressed excitement about the day ahead as they duct-taped their scarves.

"It's an awesome feeling, and a real privilege," said Airman 1st Class Alyssa Super, a medical lab technician with the 779th Medical Squadron. "It's one of those things you never thought you'd be able to do, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for sure."

Airman 1st Class Kai Hall, a weather maintenance apprentice with the 744th Communications Squadron, said he's thrilled about the opportunity to march.

"But I'm really here marching for my grandmother," he said. "Yesterday was her birthday, she's been though it all – the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King. So this means a whole lot to her.

"And I'm just grateful to be a part of it," Hall said. "It's something not that many people ever get a chance to do."

For Air Force Tech Sgt. Jason Williams, marching in the Inaugural parade is the perfect conclusion to a tour of duty in Washington that ends tomorrow with a move to Robbins Air Force Base, Ga.

"I've been here for two and a half years, and I've gotten to do the [President Gerald] Ford funeral and this," said Williams, a vehicle maintainer with the 316th Logistics Readiness Squadron. "It's one of those unique things you get to do when you're stationed in Washington. And everybody is pretty excited about it."

The 316th Wing, under the Air Force District of Washington, has provided myriad support to the Inauguration.

It provided lodging for hundreds of Air National Guardsmen assigned to Federal Emergency Management Agency District 3, provided hot meals to 1,500 military members to make up the honor cordon during the parade route, and stocked each bus headed to the Inauguration with water, coffee, cocoa, hot broth and box lunches.

Later today, Andrews Air Force Base will host the departure ceremony for President George W. Bush.

Troops Bid Bush Farewell at Andrews Air Force Base

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 20, 2009 - The U.S. military bid farewell today to the outgoing commander in chief during a stirring and emotional departure ceremony in which he called leading men and women in uniform the highlight of his presidency. A joint service honor guard, military band and about 4,000 cheering, flag-waving fans greeted former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush as they arrived here from what's been called "the ultimate change of command ceremony."

The participants -- former staffers, invited guests and servicemembers and their families -- waited inside the 316th Airlift Wing's Hangar Six to hail the president and former Vice President Dick Cheney. They watched the inaugural ceremonies on a jumbotron screen suspended from the hangar ceiling, then waited with anticipation as Bush lifted off from the Capitol grounds aboard the Marine Corps VH-60 helicopter referred to as "Executive One."

The crowd roared as the former president and vice president made their dramatic entrance into the hangar. The rousing sounds of the "Air Force One" movie theme rung out as the huge hangar slowly opened, revealing the huge blue-and-white presidential aircraft glistening in the sunlight.

Children climbed onto their parents' shoulders to catch a better glimpse, and spectators hoisted cameras high to capture the moment in history.

Bush admitted that he wasn't sure how he would feel passing the presidency to the next administration, but declared, "I am thankful, I am grateful and I am joyful!"

"I've had a lot of great experiences," as president, he told the group, but said none has been better than leading military members who have volunteered to serve the country in a time of danger. Bush said he'll miss being commander in chief and being able to stand in front of the troops to tell them "how much we respect you and how much we admire you."

Bush said he'll leave the presidency with his "head held high," confident that he took the right course in difficult times. Historians will sort out his time in office, he said, expressing belief that they'll note "we did not shirk our duty, we did not shy away" from difficult decisions and that "we served with conviction."

Cheney praised Bush for taking on "the big jobs that needed doing" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks launched some of the greatest challenges to ever confront the United States. "George W. Bush protected America," he said. "History remembers such leaders and marks them well."

Bush shook hands with many in the crowd, then turned toward the VC-25 aircraft that would take him home to Texas. The flight was designated Special Air Mission 28000 rather than Air Force One, which belongs only to the airplane carrying the sitting president.

On the tarmac, Air Force Brig. Gen. Maggie Woodward, the 89th Airlift Wing commander, escorted the Bushes to a red carpet stretching to the aircraft. A 42-piece joint honor guard flanked both sides of the carpet.

At the end of the carpet, Air Force Col. Steven Shepro, commander of the 316th Wing, and Col. Eric Snadecki, his vice commander, said their final goodbyes before Bush climbed the steps to the plane.

Shepro said he felt honored for him and his airmen to bid a personal goodbye to the departing former president. "It's like saying goodbye to an old friend," he said. He credited his elite team that regularly serves the president -- with the Air Force's only flightline protocol office and a second-to-none security detachment, among them -- with bringing honor to the Air Force.

"This is another moment in history that they share," he said. "We're giving him a fitting sendoff just like we always do."

Command Chief James Davis, Andrews' top noncommissioned officer, relished his base's role in the inauguration and presidential departure ceremony. "We are a part of history, from the person working the logistics to the ones in the cordon to the ones marching in the parade," he said.

"We're all here to honor our former honor in chief as he departs," said Army Sgt. Tyler Murray, one of six members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard" to serve in the joint service honor guard. "President Bush has looked out for his troops, and we're here to honor him."

"I've been involved in a lot of high-priority missions," said Army Pfc. Jared Robison, a fellow "Old Guard" soldier. "But this one is the highest on my list, personally."

"It's wonderful being a part of it, especially as a military member," agreed Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven Hawkens, from the 316th Security Forces. "It's breathtaking, it's exciting, it's wonderful to see these things going on."

National Guard Provides Unprecedented Support for Inauguration

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 20, 2009 - During the nation's 56th presidential inauguration today, some 9,300 members of the National Guard will be working to provide transport, traffic control and medical and logistical support, as well as performing in the parade. It is the Guard's largest contribution of manpower to an inauguration in its 372-year history.

"The scope is incredible," said Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during an interview the day before the inauguration.

McKinley visited Guardmembers on duty around the nation's capital on the eve of the inauguration.

"My takeaways today are the professionalism, the breadth and depth of our organization, the fact that we have multiple states involved," McKinley said. "It gives me great hope and promise that [the inauguration] will be both successful and safe."

Guardsmen from Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia have joined those from the District of Columbia to form Joint Task Force-District of Columbia to support the inauguration. It is the first time the Iowa National Guard is supporting an inauguration, providing 1,000 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.

Additional Guard support is as follows:

• Members of the 257th Army National Guard Band are among 250 troops on duty from the District of Columbia. The band is providing ceremonial and inaugural ball support.

• More than 2,000 National Guardsmen and women from Maryland and Virginia are working in support of their states' lead law enforcement and transportation agencies to assist with traffic flow into and out of the District of Columbia.

• For the first time Iowa is supporting an inauguration: The Iowa National Guard is sending about 1,000 Soldiers from

• More than 200 members of the New York National Guard are helping with communications and traffic control.

• In addition to providing 400 soldiers and airmen, the West Virginia National Guard is providing specialized homeland defense and security units, fixed wing and rotary aircraft and mobile satellite communications equipment in support of federal and local agencies to help manage the large crowds expected at the event.

• Tennessee's contribution includes Airmen from the 228th Combat Communications Squadron and the 118th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and Soldiers from the 117th Military Police Battalion.

The National Guard Bureau participates in Armed Forces Inaugural Committee efforts while coordinating the support provided by the National Guard with federal and state civil authorities. A joint coordination center at the Bureau in Crystal City, Va., is being staffed around the clock through the inauguration.

The Guard has a long history of supporting presidential inaugurations. Local militia units marched with George Washington as he proceeded to his first inauguration on April 30, 1789, according to Guard historians. (Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill is a member of the National Guard.)

Guard Nerve Centers Prove Key to Inaugural, National Missions

By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 20, 2009 - When National Guard soldiers and airmen show up for the thousands of missions they perform, they know they're part of the right unit, in the right place, at the right moment. But, getting them to a mission does not happen by chance. That's partly because the joint staff at the National Guard Bureau, along with the Army and Air Guard's readiness centers work behind the scenes with the states and territories to put the Guard's best foot forward.

The National Guard's support to the current presidential inauguration is no different, but its footprint is nearly four times larger than any in previous inaugurations.

"The last 30 days have been pretty intense," said Air Force Maj. Gen. William Etter, director of Domestic Operations at the Bureau, referring to the coordination and deployment of some 9,300 Guardsmen. "The last time I checked, 33 states were involved."

Just before the Guard's Inauguration Day support, soldiers and airmen at the National Guard Bureau Joint Coordination Center, the Army Guard Readiness Center and the Air Guard Readiness Center were busy fine tuning last-minute details.

Although their work and cooperation was not as readily visible as the thousands of Guardmembers providing ceremonial and security support, Etter said JoCC Guardmembers' participation is equally vital.

The Guard Bureau JoCC
The JoCC is the Bureau's nerve center for the presidential inauguration and for all its current operations. Its members, located in Crystal City, Va., are working 24/7 operations for both missions.

The center should not be confused with the states' and territories' Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) operations centers. Each state's JFHQ provides the command and control of Guard forces for its governor.

"The Bureau and the readiness centers do not command, but we synchronize," said Etter. He explained that their missions help coordinate use of Guard assets between the Army Guard, the Air Guard and the states.

"I think that we have a very well coordinated effort for the inauguration," said Etter, who added the inaugural is one of their largest non-emergency missions to date.

As a mission comes in, the JoCC finds what assets the states' Army and Air Guards can best support it. This includes personnel and equipment.

Helping with those support requests was Army Sgt. Christopher Pyle, message center NCO, who is working his first inauguration.

"We get all the e-mails coming from the states. Then we sort through them and send them where they need to go," said Pyle. On a busy day, that can add up to nearly 200 messages.

Pyle sat before a wall of televisions and computer screens. He combed through a flurry of messages. He looked through personnel rosters.

An automated message system - called the Joint Information Exchange Environment - helps manage requests to the JoCC. The JIEE provides special codes used to push requests to officials as well as to Army and Air Guard liaisons. The liaisons help communicate those requests to their respective readiness centers.

"It's a good process," said Etter. "We have taken past procedures from events and formalized them. This is the first chance we had to slow down and capture those best procedures."

For the inauguration, the extreme volume of messages had so many JoCC members busy that some chose to sleep on cots at the Bureau. But the experience was welcome, they said.

"We see how everyone is tied together," said Pyle. "I heard that before Hurricane Katrina, no one really talked to each other, but now I see the government agencies coordinating."

Much cross-agency talk is held via video teleconferences hosted by the Multi-agency Coordination Center. The MACC coordinated a vast array of government agencies for the inauguration.

"You can't think of a single agency not represented," said Etter after Sunday's MACC VTC. He added "it's heartwarming and encouraging" to see everyone cooperating for the same goal: the protection of U.S. citizens and visitors who have arrived in Washington, D.C., to see the inauguration.

"When all is said and done for this inaugural, any success can be attributed to a combination of everyone working together and to the great leadership of Maj. Gen. [Errol] Schwartz, the commanding general of the D.C. Guard," he said.

The Army Guard Watch
Army Maj. Leafay Jones, the JoCC's Army Guard liaison officer, sat in the JoCC and monitored messages.

As the Guard's soldiers meet demands brought by the nation's domestic callouts and the war fight, thousands are supporting the inauguration with ceremonial units and military police, among many other missions. Soldiers in both Maryland and Virginia are supporting law enforcement and transportation agencies. Still others are supporting communications and traffic control. Nearly 13,000 also are prepared to support civil authorities on short notice, in case of an emergency.

Jones helped organize that record number of inaugural support Soldiers with the JoCC and Army "Watch" relationship.

The Watch is a 24-hour crisis response team located at the ARNGRC in Arlington, Va.
"Once a request is assigned to an Army asset, I will determine if we can source it through the people at the Watch," Jones said.

The Watch is made up of a battle captain, a shift officer-in-charge and several NCOs. The soldiers maintain communications with the states' JFHQs as well as with deployed Guard Soldiers and units.

"When they pass a request over to us, we look and see if there are forces available to provide the capability, and we also look at the resources necessary," said Army Col. Hank Amato, chief of the ARNGRC operations division.

Amato said the ARNGRC has increased its manning for the inauguration by bringing in soldiers from the District of Columbia National Guard to augment their Watch and Crisis Action Team.

"We're a dynamic organization that expands and contracts based on the missions," said Amato.

Amato said the Watch and CAT are just one piece of the expanding ARNGRC, where the Guard Bureau's JoCC and its staff plan to relocate to by 2011.

The Air Guard Crisis Action Center
In the Bureau's JoCC, Air Guard liaison officers sit across from their Army Guard counterparts. The entire JoCC staff surrounds both.

"We work between the Army and the Air Force right here, real time, to figure out what each service can provide [for a mission]," said Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Beckman, Air Guard branch chief for aviation planning.

Much like the Army Watch, the Air Guard Crisis Action Team at the ANGRC on Andrews Air Force Base, Md., coordinates between their liaison officers and the JFHQs to provide Air Guard assets for missions.

For the presidential inauguration, their efforts have helped bring a large amount of Air Guard support for inaugural ceremonies and security.

Among other Air Guard support, the District's entire 113th Wing is helping with transportation, security, in-processing, ceremonial marching and other missions. From other states, a large contingent of medical airlift specialists is working with federal agencies. Services personnel are providing hot meals. Still, others are helping at traffic and pedestrian stations.

Nearly 50 airmen also are manning the ANGRC CAT 24/7 for inauguration support, said Air Force Lt. Col. Allen Minick, its director.

"I consider it a major effort on the part of our CAT, the Center and the states' airmen," said Minick.

First staffed in 2005, the ANG CAT's high-security room includes television screens that relay VTCs as well as live newscasts. The CAT's technical capabilities include secure network communications and data links that receive, manage and communicate JIEE messages and other communications.

"We have functional managers here who know the status of Air Guard equipment and airmen," said Minick.

During a crisis, Minick said the CAT can have as many as 140 Airmen operating around the clock to support the states, federal agencies and civilian responders.

When all is said and done, the states and territories will have sent their modern day minutemen and women to the nation's Capital to help usher in a new President and Commander and Chief in the ultimate change of command ceremony.