JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. -- A group of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers has been practicing all week for likely the biggest march of their military career.
The route will be a straight shot of only 1.5 miles along Pennsylvania Avenue, going from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, and yet the grandiosity will come as they help usher in the 45th President of the United States and take part in an 8,000-member parade including every military branch and various organizations from around the nation.
"It's an honor to be part of this great day in America, to have a tradition of peaceful power for the military to be here and be part of that as a symbol of America's might and power across the world. I think it's a great thing," said Capt. Dean Court Garretson, headquarters company commander for the 3rd Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), which will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the parade.
The Presidential Inauguration Parade is expected to kick off at 3:00 p.m., and yet before even taking the first marching step, many of these Soldiers will likely wake up 11-12 hours earlier to get dressed, looking sharp in their Dress Blues uniforms, and go through a lengthy credentialing and transportation process before roads are closed off in the nation's capital.
"Well, we're Soldiers first," said 1st Sgt. Selena McJimson, first sergeant for 3rd TBX headquarters company, about the long day she and her Soldiers have ahead of them. "We take it as an honor to be able to represent the Army Reserve, so we do what we have to do … This is like a once in a career opportunity (for many of us), so we are looking forward to it. I'm excited. Very excited."
The Soldiers representing the U.S. Army Reserve in the 58th Presidential Inauguration are headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Their brigade specializes in watercraft transportation to bring troops, equipment and firepower to shores around the world. They are only one of two such brigades of their kind in the entire U.S. Army equipped for this job, and the only one in the Army Reserve, under the command of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command.
"It's quite an honor to be the ones marching … (Our Soldiers are) going to be quite surprised of the inner emotions they're going to feel. Lots of people along the parade route cheering. The band's going to be going. I just feel it's going to be an awestruck moment for them. I just hope they … enjoy it and march along," said Garretson.
Unlike their war-fighting function, this time their route will be on land, but they have been preparing for this historical event since October when they first got the word they had been selected. Approximately 90 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers will make up their formation.
For these Soldiers, it's been a busy week, between conducting recon of the actual route, preparing their uniforms, practicing drill and ceremony and marching several practice laps around Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, with their fellow Army formations.
Garretson gave most of the credit to his noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who helped make it all come together. From making sure uniform alterations were completed on time to working out all of the logistics, he said his NCOs were on the frontline of taking care of Soldiers. They handled all the minute, tedious details that will be in front of a national, if not global, audience.
"Not to be cliché, but it's the NCOs who are the backbone of the Army. I think we all understand that. I hope the public understands that too. It's the NCOs who differentiate us from everybody else in the world. I've had a chance to work with other armies around the world, and I can say the NCOs here, this week, and NCOs I've dealt with in the U.S. Army, are definitely the reason why we're going to be sharp tomorrow," said Garretson, who is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
In all, the U.S. Army will be represented by approximately 500 Soldiers and cadets from the Army Reserve, the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the U.S. Army Field Band, West Point and the D.C. National Guard.
The Old Guard has been the lead organization in coordinating the Army's portion of the inauguration parade.