Organizers stage dress rehearsal for Obama’s second inauguration

Air Force Staff Sergeant Serpico Elliott stood in the President's shoes for a day, and enjoyed the view from the west front of the Capitol.

Elliott was chosen from a selection of service members to represent the president at a walkthrough of the inaugural ceremony and parade on Sunday, an opportunity for military logistics staff and inaugural organizers to test and tweak their schedule before the actual event.

"I got, definitely, a couple good shots," said the airman, who sat in the president's seat during the dress rehearsal.

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Wearing a large white sign around his neck that identified him as President Obama, Elliott strode towards the podium, as the president will do a week from Monday, and raised his right hand to take the oath of office.

He was nervous, as the president may very well be, when he is sworn in for his second term at the public inauguration on January 21.

"It was amazing, actually. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was good to see it from looking down on it, instead of looking from the outside in," Elliott said.

Stand-ins for first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden all participated in the inauguration rehearsal as well on Sunday. The stand-ins were chosen from military support staff working on the inauguration, based largely on their physical similarity to their subjects.

With a little over a week to go until inauguration day, the podium and stands were in various stages of completion; painters' tape still covered many structures, and a few flags were missing from the Capitol colonnades.

But the inauguration walk-through went smoothly, said Air Force Brigadier General and Deputy for Inaugural Support James Scanlan, and helped prepare the organizers for the actual day.

"It went fairly well today. There's obviously some things we need to address. We're going to have an after-action report, a little review, and we'll tweak some of the finer points," he said.

On the actual day, 10,000 people will march in the parade, 2,500 of those being members of the military, so the opportunity to test the logistics of such an event, which has been in the works for a year now, is crucial. 

However, Scanlan said the military is prepared for the event, as they're largely in the business of logistics.

"We actually have a movement control battalion that is staging the parade," he said.

Scanlan said that the military organizers may, after review, have to change their schedules slightly to accommodate the actual time required for certain aspects of the program, but he expects the overall ceremony to go well — if the weather abides.

"Our greatest enemy is the weather," he said, noting that snow or rain could force the proceedings inside. 

The forecast for the actual day, however, is cold but sunny.

That forecast, if it holds, is a much better one than the actual weather the participants in the walk-through experienced on Sunday. Under a gray sky, in light mist, stand-ins for a number of the dignitaries and celebrities all filed out to their assigned seats behind the president's podium.

Chief Musician Courtney Williams announced each of their names as they walked out to their seats, a role he's reprising after also announcing the 2008 inauguration.

Williams was chosen from a handful of applicants after an audition for the position with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. He said that while "it's always a little bit of pressure" to be the booming voice that keeps the schedule moving, he'd gladly do it again.

"My whole career I've served in the pleasure of the president, so it's an honor to announce his inauguration," he said.

With the actual president and vice president sitting in the stands on the 21st, their stand-ins will be back in their military capacities, helping to make sure the day goes according to plans.

Marine Master Sergeant Richard Bolin, who acted as Biden, said that standing in the vice president's shoes was enjoyable especially for the tour of the Capitol he received on Sunday. But he insisted he hadn't taken any liberties with the position.

"We're not here to impersonate, we're here to just stand in their place," he said.



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