The District of Columbia National Guard plays a significant and special role in Presidential Inaugurations, a tradition starting in the earliest days of our nation. The National Guard has been present at every Presidential Inauguration, starting with an honor detail, which rode with President Washington in recognition of his time as Virginia’s militia commander.
The D.C. Guard’s participation in inaugurations may be that old, but certainly takes form in 1860. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 triggered several southern states to secede from the Union. There was no secret service at the time, but Lieutenant General Winfield Scott ordered the D.C. Militia to protect the president-elect from harm. The D.C. Militia guarded the parade route, sappers preceded the president-elect, and cavalry rode alongside him, bucking their horses to make it difficult for snipers to get a lock.
The new President Lincoln gave his first salute to a D.C. Guardsman and an unbroken tradition of inaugural service was born.
The National Guard can be deputized as special police, a role that active duty military cannot. That makes the National Guard an important element in large-scale missions such as inaugurations. In 2009, the D.C. National Guard led a group of over ten thousand National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to support the largest inauguration, President Obama's, in history. The D.C. National Guard's role has evolved to include providing security, crowd management, traffic control, civil support, cyber security and ceremonial marching elements for the event. The D.C. National Guard's support of the inauguration has also incorporated the assistance of both Army and Air National Guard units from across the states and territories, with the D.C. National Guard as the lead unit. This was evident during the 58th Inauguration, which included the support of 7,800 National Guard personnel from the District of Columbia, 43 states and three territories. Additionally, the D.C. National Guard provides stand-by support for State of the Union Addresses and other events for the executive, legislative and judicial government branches.