Student Takes Part in Historic Presidential Inauguration

I felt like I was a part of history.

A Pennsylvania College of Technology student was among thousands deputized to join Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department for the swearing-in of President Barack Obama in January.

Edward E. Race, a civil engineering technology student from Loganton, is a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Together, the Air and Army National Guards mobilized 7,000 personnel to support the Jan. 20 inauguration – the largest-ever contingent of National Guard members to serve in Washington, D.C.

Edward E. Race. Photo by Cindy Meixel

The group, representing 31 states and territories, provided the presidential inauguration with military working dogs, consequence-management planning, and ceremonial, logistics and medical support through the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. National Guard members also assisted local authorities with crowd management, traffic control, and emergency-services operations. The Armed Forces Inaugural Committee is established every four years by the secretary of defense as a joint service organization to coordinate military ceremonial participation and support inaugural events.

“This was the first time Pennsylvania put airmen and soldiers next to each other on the same mission,” Race said.

He volunteered for the assignment and was selected only after passing a series of security clearances. His mission would be providing traffic control and augmenting the presence of the local police force.

In background, a miles-long line of buses crosses the Potomac River. Photo by Edward E. Race

“This was my first state activation,” said Race, who enlisted in the guard in 2006. Race also is part of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, offered jointly by Penn College with nearby Bucknell University.

Race and his fellow guard members spent about five days in Washington, from Jan. 17- 21, where he and an estimated 1,000 other guard members stayed in a former elementary school. After two days of briefings, he was commissioned as a District of Columbia special police officer.

At about midnight Tuesday morning, Race joined a group of about seven guard members at a station about a block south of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial – near the on-ramp to the Interstate 395 bridge over the Potomac River – for the first of two six-hour shifts. Since no parking was allowed in the city, his station’s job was to keep the road open to the bus traffic that shuttled people from outlying parking areas.

The Washington Monument shows Race's proximity to the National Mall. Photo by Edward E. Race

“This bridge was closed down to everything but bus traffic,” he said.

For hours, Race witnessed bus after bus come through his station, interspersed by the occasional speedy convoy, including one escorting Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As the sun rose, people began flocking to the area. While his station was about three blocks from the National Mall, where the ceremony took place, he was nonetheless impressed with the waves of people he witnessed – a small percentage of the day’s attendees – and the excitement that permeated the atmosphere.

“I felt like I was a part of history,” Race said. “People will be remembering that day for a long time, and it was a huge milestone for this country. Like my grandfather told me about World War II, I will be able to tell my grandchildren about that day and how I was there.”

Air National Guard Senior Airman Lee E. Hyman, ’97, general studies, also took part in the event. Hyman, who has served in the military for 15 years, is a cable-antenna technician with the 211th Engineering Installation Squadron based in Annville.