LANDOVER, Md. — Thousands of National Guard members filled the stands of FedEx Field Thursday to take an oath en masse before Friday’s presidential inauguration ceremony in the District.
About 3,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen raised their right hands, said their names and were deputized by the Metropolitan Police Department as special officers for the event.
“We get to bring people from all over the country to actually execute the inaugural activities,” said Col. Aaron Dean, chief of staff with the Joint Task Force-District of Columbia, which is leading the force of National Guard members.
“Anytime you have a peaceful transition of power and we exercise our democracy, those are exciting times.”
The thousands of servicemen and women deputized Thursday are part of a massive security force, led by the U.S. Secret Service. A total of 7,500 members of the National Guard from 44 states and D.C. will help with logistics, communications and more.
They will help local authorities during the inauguration with crowd management and traffic control around the Capitol, National Mall and White House. They will work with local and federal agencies to provide a safe and secure environment for all participants and attendees.
National Guard soldiers, airwomen and airmen performed similar functions during the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to witness an inauguration, and this year I get to be a participant in it,” said Staff Sgt. Nicole Scarpignato with the Maryland Air National Guard.
“It’s an American tradition and just being a part of it is pretty incredible.”
The National Guard also recently provided the same type of support for the papal visit, the Nuclear Security Summit, the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and other events held in the District.
As many as 800,000 people are expected to be in the District for the inauguration. Military planners have said that a total of 13,000 personnel will be working on Inauguration Day. Additional law enforcement officers will be sworn in Thursday afternoon.