This year's presidential inauguration parade route runs about 30 feet and looks to take about 20 seconds to traverse — or at least it does on the scale model laid across the floor of the D.C. Armory.
The 60-by-40-foot map, complete with icons of important landmarks such as the White House and the Capitol, is a key component of training exercises in the run-up to what military types refer to as "I-Day."
From a staging area at the Pentagon in the lower-left corner of the map to the plastic Capitol along the right edge, military personnel explained on Wednesday how they label various parade functions in multicolored tags and work though the route from Delaware and Constitution avenues in Northeast to a dispersal area near the White House.
"The military does rehearsals better than anybody," Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, who commands a joint task force for the National Capital Region, told reporters.
Branches of the active military will send about 7,500 members to the inauguration festivities Jan. 21, including about 1,500 who will march in the parade that will head west from the Capitol and up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Gen. Linnington said the inauguration "represents the strength of our nation and the strength of our democracy."
"It's why, in my opinion, it's so important for the military to participate, as we have since 1789 — and do it right," he said.
The 57th Presidential Inauguration to kick off Mr. Obama's second term is expected to draw roughly half the 1.8 million people who attended the president's historic oath in 2009. The military is preparing for its supporting roles — both ceremonial and logistical.
Early estimates from the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency projected 600,000 to 800,000 visitors for the event.
"I don't think we're going to quite get the coverage Kate and William got at their wedding, but I think it will be close," said Kelly L. Fado, a coordinator for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
The National Guard will provide about 5,500 members to assist local and federal authorities with perimeter security, crowd control and logistics during the busy day, according to its D.C. commander, Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz.
The Third Street Tunnel will be closed to all pedestrians and motorists, except emergency vehicles, he said. Officials have indicated they do not want a repeat of an unfortunate scenario in 2009 in which pedestrians missed some of the festivities because they were stuck in the tunnel as they mingled with car traffic.
Gen. Schwartz also said signs on the Mall will be posted 15 feet above the crowd, so people will know how to get around. He said roughly 700 additional guard members are tasked with making sure no aircraft enter the restricted area over the capital city — "an enduring mission that we've had since 9/11" — and manning a medical evacuation team out of Fort Belvoir.
"In 2009, it was a big celebration, if you will," Gen. Schwartz said in his office Wednesday. "We just have to make sure it continues to be a celebration, as we have a peaceful transition of power."
Brig. Gen. Arthur W. Hinaman, land component commander of the D.C. National Guard, said guard soldiers and airmen from 15 states and territories, including the District and Puerto Rico, will be on hand for the inauguration duties.
The D.C. National Guard has played a role in inaugural ceremonies since the days of President Lincoln. Gen. Schwartz said he has had a role in nine inaugurations and the men and women under his command — on average — have already participated in four.
Given his experience, the commander has some blunt advice for visitors to the city on Inauguration Day.
"It will be cold," he said. "Prepare to walk some distances and be prepared to stand for a long time."
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