Being part of the upcoming presidential inauguration is an amazing opportunity for any Airman. Being “the” part is even better. One Air Force NCO got this chance when he portrayed the president in a rehearsal for the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.
During the full scale rehearsal, Staff Sgt. Serpico Elliott stood in for President Obama to simulate the oath of office. He walked out of the Capitol building to acknowledge applause as “Hail to the Chief” played.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Elliott, who is an information technology network specialist and will also play a part during the inauguration with communication support. “It’s an amazing feeling, even if it was only for a day.”
As the 29-year-old Elliott raised his hand to simulate taking the oath of office, Army Spc. Delandra Rollins stood by his side as she played the role of first lady Michelle Obama.
Rollins and Elliott weren’t the only service members taking part in the rehearsal. Also on hand were the United States Air Force Band and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.
While the band and honor guard perform at parades and ceremonies throughout the year, the difference is the magnitude of the inauguration ceremony, said Col. Larry Lang, Air Force Band commander and conductor.
“I think we’re preparing very steadily, very focused, and by the time the inauguration gets here, we’ll be ready,” Lang said. “The band is 184 members, divided into six different flights, six different ensembles. We’re using about 100 of those for this particular parade. So we’ve been rehearsing really hard.”
The NCO in charge of the Air Force’s elite honor guard said the size and scope of the inauguration sets it apart from normal ceremonies the honor guard performs.
“One challenge will be the ‘nine by nine’ formation in which 81 Airmen will march together,” said Master Sgt. Kimberly Muhlecke. “Formations for most parades consist of only 15 to 18 Airmen.”
For Chief Master Sgt. Ed Teleky, the drum major for the band, this year’s inauguration will be his seventh. He says that while most inaugurations haven’t changed dramatically, the Air Force’s approach will be different this year.
“We always have the total force marching in the parade,” he said. “But this is the first time that active duty, Reserve and Guard members have trained together.”