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Bill Armstrong , Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT RILEY, Kan. -
Troopers of the 1st Infantry Division Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard here will perform their duties at the ultimate change-of-command ceremony when they ride in the presidential inaugural parade for President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.
Fourteen troopers will ride on horseback down Pennsylvania Avenue on a parade route about two and a half miles long, Army 1st Sgt. Dean Stockert of the color guard said. Although the route will take only 30 minutes to complete, the parade tops all others the color guard 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."
But although noise will be a factor, Stocker said, he 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 is preparing for the event by getting its wardrobe of Civil War-period uniforms ready and its 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 coverage 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."
Army Capt. Richard Martinson, 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. It participated in inaugural parades in 2001 and 2005 for President George W. Bush. The color guard will be one of more than 70 participants in the 2009 parade.