The Twilight Tattoo season is underway, and that means hours preparing and practicing for more than 160 Old Guard Soldiers.
One of those Soldiers, Sgt. Jaymes Taylor, understands the dedication that goes into every show because he has participated in Twilight Tattoo for the past three years.
"We always practice many hours to get things perfect. Every person in the show must be synced together without a hitch," said Taylor, infantryman, Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). "This year I am getting ready a little differently than I have in previous seasons. This is the first year that I will have a speaking role."
Twilight Tattoo is an hour-long pageantry that showcases the long history of the U.S. Army. The show is free to the public and thousands of spectators that are estimated to attend this year.
No matter how many people come to the shows, Taylor said he is confident and ready in any situation.
"I just know how to act in front of large crowds," said Taylor. "That was a big reason why I was chosen."
Soldiers that were selected for speaking roles had to rehearse with a speech coach to fine-tune their lines.
"During each lesson we were critiqued on how to improve our performance and how to really connect to the audience," he explained. "Last year I was a Vietnam era Soldier actor with no speaking roles or anything, but this year I am playing a modern Soldier. It took me a week of constant practicing with the coach to get my lines just right."
Even though there are actors like Pfc. Christopher Welsh, who didn't have a speaking role, everyone has to wear uniforms that look the part.
"I have spent a lot of time after rehearsal getting these old army uniforms ready," said Welsh, A Co., 4th Bn., 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. (The Old Guard) while steaming the green fatigue top. "The only difficult part of the uniform is the time I spend polishing those jungle boots, but when I put the uniform on, I have to admit that they are really comfortable and light."
He added when he is in character it gives him a sense of what it was like in those days.
"I don't have a speaking role, but my character's job during the event is to walk in the back of our combat patrol and provide rear security for the team," said Welch. "I really put myself in the mindset that I am a Soldier from this time in our history."
One part that all Soldiers must be prepared for are the questions from the many spectators after the shows.
"We are hoping to see lots of fans come and ask about our weapons and uniforms because we are trained to answer their questions," said Taylor. "My favorite part is when we answer questions from all kids because they are just so excited to see us."
It is no easy task to conduct a show with more than 200 years of Army history in an hour, but Taylor said that this unit does a world class job at it.
"I think people should see it because it is a great learning experience not only for the children, but for the adults as well," said Taylor. "It is nice history lesson for anyone to watch, enjoy and appreciate. It is a great family event, and the preparation that we all put in will definitely show during our performances."
The show will be held every Wednesdays on Summerall Field from April 25 to June 27 and on Whipple Field from July 11 to August 29 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.