Washburn native to participate in presidential inauguration

Thursday, October 9, 2008
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Howard Watkins stands in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29, 2008. Master Sgt. Watkins is a member of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee preparing for the 56th Presidential Inaugural on January 20, 2009. (U.S. Armed Forces photo by Senior Airman Kathrine McDowell, USAF) (RELEASED)

When the next president of the United States take office on Jan. 20, 2009, a Barry County native will be present as a member of the military group charged with providing some of the ceremony's pomp and circustance.

Master Sgt. Howard Watkins, a 1990 graduate of Southwest High School in Washburn, recently joined the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee (AFIC), which is preparing to support the 56th Presidential Inauguration.

The AFIC is a joint service committee responsibile for coordinating all military ceremonial support for the inauguration. The group includes members from all branches of the armed forces of the United States, including Reserve and National Guard components.

Master Sgt. Watkins is assigned to the logistics directorate as the training noncommissioned officer in charge. He is responsible for developing, planning and coordinating the driver's training course, developing class schedules and obtaining classrooms and training aids.

Master Sgt. Watkins is an active duty member of the United States Air Force and has served for 18 years. He joins AFIC from the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, S.D.

"It is an honor to represent the Air Force in a joint environment in support of such a fantastic event," said Master Sgt. Watkins. "Supporting our nation's demonstration to the rest of the world of a peaceful exchange of authority, as well as the change of command for the entire armed forces, is an awesome task."

The U.S. Armed Forces have participated in the inauguration of the president of the United States since April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City.

Participation by the armed forces traditionally includes musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons.

The Secretary of Defense has authorized nearly 750 service members to be assigned to AFIC by Inauguration Day to coordinate Department of Defense support in and around the District of Columbia. Historically, as many as 5,000 service members have participated in the celebration.

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