Cape May native organizing inaugural ceremonies

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Katryn Tuton/
Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commanding general of Joint Task Force - National Capitol Region, gives opening remarks during a map exercise at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Katryn Tuton/ Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commanding general of Joint Task Force - National Capitol Region, gives opening remarks during a map exercise at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12.

 CAPE MAY – These are some of the busiest weeks of Major Gen. Michael Linnington’s life.

The Cape May native is commander of Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region in Washington, D.C. He is in charge of organizing all the ceremonial aspects of the 57th Presidential Inauguration, scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21 on the west steps of the Capitol.

There will be more than 10,000 civilian and military marchers in the inauguration parade, said Linnington. More than 2,000 groups have applied to participate.

It’s Linnington’s job to make sure the parade proceeds with military precision. Starting in December he began holding rehearsals at the D.C. Armory, using a 40-by-60-foot planning map of Washington, D.C. to literally walk units through the event.

“I’ve been here for the past half-year preparing,” he said. “Before we know who will even win the election, we are here getting ready. It’s the military’s way of paying respect to the Commander in Chief.”

The U.S. military has participated in inauguration ceremonies 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 at Federal Hall in New York City.

Linnington said he expects this year’s inauguration will have a somewhat smaller crowd than 2008, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s first African-American president. Around 2 million guests filled the Mall in Washington on Inauguration Day four years ago, he said.

The smaller crowd will not make the job any easier, however.

“We have to synchronize and choreograph 300 marching teams, military units, there is a horse element,” said Linnington. “There are floats and high school marching bands. We are walking them through the route on the planning map. We go through the sequence of events, moving from point A to point B.

“It’s a real dance,” he said.

The first full rehearsal was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C. The President-Elect and the Congressional Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies chooses which marching units participate, said Linnington.

“It’s a great honor to participate, a unit from each of the armed services will be in the parade,” he said. “It is a big day. They arrive in D.C. a couple days in advance, they are screened by the Secret Service, and then we have a couple more rehearsals scheduled.”

The Army’s Joint Force Headquarters partners with the Washington, D.C. National Guard and other federal agencies and law enforcement support to plan the inauguration parade route.

Linnington said there are ceremonial units involved in every other part of the inauguration as well. The day will start with a church service for the president-elect, then the swearing in ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, followed by a luncheon inside the Capitol. The president will then join the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Later that night, he is expected to attend several inaugural balls, including the Commander in Chief’s Ball.

The Commander in Chief’s Ball is members of the armed forces. Active duty and reserve service members, Medal of Honor recipients and wounded warriors will be in attendance, with troops overseas participating via video.

Linnington was born in Cape May Court House. All of his family still lives in Cape May County. His mother lives in Cape May, he said.

“I love Cape May,” he said. “I try to get back there as often as possible.”

He said his family fared well in Hurricane Sandy. His son is currently serving in the U.S. Army and is stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Linnington served in Afghanistan from September 2009 to April 2011. He was Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Projects for NATO force in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“We’ve made great strides there in the last couple years,” he said. “The Afghans are now in charge of 75 percent of the land area. They still need help from NATO for fire support and medevac.”

Linnington graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1980 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He has served at Fort Ord, California; Fort Riley, Kansas; The Berlin Brigade, Federal Republic of Germany; Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the Republic of Korea.

His wife also graduated from the U.S. Military Academy.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joel LeMaistre/
President Barack Obama and Linnington observe a moment of silence during a Veterans Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., on Nov. 11.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joel LeMaistre/ President Barack Obama and Linnington observe a moment of silence during a Veterans Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., on Nov. 11.


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