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Fort Riley's mounted color guard set to march in Inaugural Parade

Bill Armstrong

The 1st Infantry Division's mounted color guard is set to march in the inaugural parade Jan. 20 in Washington. Photo by Courtesy photo


Troopers of the Fort Riley's mounted color guard at Fort Riley will perform their duties at the ultimate change of command ceremony when they ride in the Presidential Inaugural Parade for President-elect Barack Obama Jan. 20 in Washington.

Fourteen Troopers will ride horseback down Pennsylvania Avenue on a parade route about two and a half miles long, said mounted color guard 1st Sgt. Dean Stockert. Although the route will take only 30 minutes to complete, this parade tops all others the group participates in regarding crowds and noise level, he said.

"We do lots of events and lots of crowds around Kansas. However, our crowds usually fall under the 10,000 people area," Stockert said. "This one will be in the area of about 4.5 million along the parade route. We'll have people lined on each side of the road, plus sirens, plus aircraft, and everything else, so it's going to be a lot more activity for the horses than what they're generally used to."

Noise will be a factor to deal with, but Stockert has great confidence in the troopers and their mounts.

"Our horses are pretty disciplined because they're used to cannon fire, gunfire," he said. "They're probably more disciplined than your average horse out in the community."

The color guard already is preparing for the event by getting its wardrobe of Civil War periodic uniforms ready and sabers polished. The blades will remain in their scabbards during the parade. Their horses will wear special shoes made with a layer of borium on the bottom.

"Borium's a hard metal, like tungsten steel, so it will stick to the asphalt," Stockert said. "It won't slip and slide. It will stick to the subway grates and the manhole covers, and keep the horses from sliding."

Despite the stress of the event with live television exposure and the world watching, Stockert said he looks forward to the parade.

"It's definitely an honor to be able to welcome the new president in and to show our support for the continuing democracy in this country," Stockert said. "We're glad that the inauguration committee selected us to represent Fort Riley, the United States Army and the state of Kansas."

Capt. Richard Martinson, the mounted color guard commander, echoed his first sergeant's sentiments.

"I think it's a huge personal honor for all of us who are going to be able to go out in front of our president and salute him and really celebrate his coming to office," Martinson said.

This won't be the first time the Fort Riley unit has welcomed a new president. The color guard also participated in inaugural parades in 2001 and 2005 for President George W. Bush. The Riley group will be one of more than 70 elements in the 2009 parade.

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