January 20, 2009

Virginia Guard Soldiers assist with Inauguration Parade checkpoints

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Virginia Guard Soldiers mans checkpoint at Inauguration Parade

Spc. Alvin Bogueness of Covington, Va., conducts prescreening checks at  a Secret Service security check point near Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 20. Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st  Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team are assisting Secret Service with the operation of security checkpoints entering the parade route for  the Inauguration Parade. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia  National Guard)

WASHINGTON, D.C.— As spectators attending the Inauguration Parade enter security checkpoints on Pennsylvania Avenue, the first people they see are Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard. Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team are assisting the Secret Service with the operation of security checkpoints by beginning the initial screening process and helping keep count of people as they enter the parade route area.

After waking hours before sunrise, the Soldiers were in place by 5:30 a.m. Jan. 20 in preparation for the gates opening at approximately 8 a.m. Some parade attendees had arrived as early as 2 a.m. in freezing temperatures to be first in line at the checkpoint.

“I am very pleased to have the Virginia National Guard here,” said Bill Chamberlin, the Secret Service agent serving as the supervisor for the checkpoint being staffed by the Virginia Guard. “The are very professional, and I love having uniformed personnel here working with us. The public responds to the presence of military uniformed personnel in a very positive way, so their presence alone is a great benefit to us.”

Virginia Guard Soldiers supporting Inauguration

An inauguration parade spectator jumps for joy after clearing the Secret Service checkpoint near Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 20, and Spc. Ryan Lotts of Staunton, Va. adds another to his count of people having cleared the checkpoint. Virginia Guard Soldiers were tasked with counting the number of people who came through the security checkpoint so the Secret Service so they would know when the area reached capacity and the entrance to the parade route closed. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard)

Security personnel are carefully tracking the number of people entering the security checkpoint, and Virginia Guard Soldiers are tasked with keeping the count while Secret Service personnel conduct the detailed security screenings.

Chamberlin said he reports the count from his area every 30 minutes, and those numbers will determine when the checkpoint is closed. In first 40 minutes of operation, the checkpoint let through approximately 1,000 people.

“Things are going smoothly at this point,” said Cpl. Chad Whitmer of Allegheny, Va. “People have been very understanding, we have been trying to answer any questions they have. Working with the Secret Service has been excellent.”

Virginia National Guard personnel will stay on duty as long as they are needed by the Secret Service.

Virginia Guard Soldiers supporting Inauguration

Capt. Heath Phillips (left) of Elkton, Va. and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Allen (right) of Greenville, Va., pause on Pennsylvania Avenue to communicate with theirs Soldiers assisting the Secret Service with security operations along the Inauguration Parade route. Phillips is the commander of the Lexington-based B Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat team and Allen is the company’s senior noncommissioned officer for the support mission. (Photo by Army Sgt. John Slosser, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Despite the cold weather and early start time, Soldiers from the Virginia Guard enjoyed the opportunity to assist the Secret Service.

“It is really good to be out here,” said Spc. Ryan Lotts of Staunton, Va. “This is a new experience for me, and I have met a lot of interesting new people from different units from different states.”

Lotts’ job was to count people as they came through the security checkpoint, and he said he was glad to help in any way he could.

“I think it is cool,” said Spc. Stephanie Roddy of Charlottesville, Va. “Ten years from now I will be able to look about on this historic day and say I was here.”

To see more coverage of Virginia National Guard support to the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, please click HERE.

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