Armed Forces Inaugural Committee ramping up
About 60 new servicemembers reported to AFIC Wednesday, edging the ranks over 300 with troops from all five services. By January, about 750 will be working long hours to provide ceremonial support to the inauguration, said Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Picerno, the senior enlisted advisor for AFIC.
An announcement this morning by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command called for 200 reserve-component Soldiers from selected specialties to volunteer for inaugural support. Temporary-duty pay for billeting and meals will be available, according to the HRC message, for National Guard, Army Reserve or Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers from outside the National Capital Region who volunteer for AFIC duty.
AFIC actually began forming almost a year ago as Picerno and a handful of other servicemembers dusted off reports from the last inaugural. At first, AFIC was housed in temporary quarters at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., since the organization comes under the Joint Forces Headquarters - National Capital Region.
In June, the group moved to the Mary E. Switzer Memorial Building, also in Washington. There, AFIC members set up their new headquarters.
"We had to bring troops in here to get us set up," said Picerno. "There's a whole lot of work in getting us from Fort McNair to here -- furniture, transportation, the infrastructure itself. There were no telephones, no networks. There were literally hundreds of manhours needed to set all that up."
Sgt. Richard P. Grossman volunteered for the AFIC and reported in December. He is stationed out of Fort McNair and serves as a senior supply sergeant for the Center for Military History there. At AFIC, he serves as the property-book non-commissioned officer-in-charge, accounting for all property owned or borrowed by AFIC. He helped convert the AFIC headquarters from a bare-bones facility to a fully functioning military operation.
Despite the AFIC's proximity and participation in what is a very political process, Picerno is quick to point out that AFIC itself is non-partisan.
"We are totally non-political," Picerno said. "We don't even discuss it (the election) in here. People may discuss it outside of work, but it's pretty much one of the rules we established when we came here: we are not here to influence or discuss -- we're here to support the president-elect once he is selected."
Representatives of the president-elect are expected to begin reporting to the Switzer Building as early as next week, Picerno said. The Presidential Inaugural Committee, or PIC, actually plans and funds the inaugural events, including the parade and inaugural balls. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies plans the actual swearing-in at the Capitol. AFIC supports both committees.
“We’re not here to plan their party,” Picerno said. “We’re here to support them.”
During a 10-day period, Jan. 15-24, the military will provide ceremonial support to inaugural events with musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons. As many as 5,000 servicemembers may participate in events on inauguration day. Their presence and activities are coordinated by the AFIC.
"This is like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Spc. Aaron C. Allen, a personnel clerk with AFIC.
“This is my first time working in a joint environment and that's what sold me,” Allen said.
Photo Caption: Airmen working the last inaugural parade line Constitution Avenue Jan. 20, 2005 as the 3rd U.S. Infantry's "Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps" marches past.