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175th Wing supports presidential inauguration

WASHINGTON -- Fifty-one members of the Maryland Air National Guard participated in Operation CAPITOL THUNDER, the inauguration of President Barack Obama, on January 20th.

Members left Warfield Air National Guard Base early Monday to go to Washington, D.C. for training and to preposition for the inauguration on Tuesday.

After training, unit personnel were deputized as special police and issued a badge. They bedded down at Francis-Stevens School, an elementary school in the District of Columbia.

The Airmen woke at 2:30 a.m. and were provided breakfast. They proceeded to their area of responsibility by 5:00 a.m. They were responsible for an area of the national mall near the Museum of American History.

The team responded to numerous civilian requests for assistance, including at least two medical emergencies, a lost child, and hundreds of requests for information.

Master Sgt. Sterling L. Johnson, 175th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant volunteered to be part of the historical event. He was responsible for the Airmen's safety, bed down, food and any medical emergencies.

Johnson recalled his biggest challenge, "The cold - it was 20 degrees with 10 mph winds." To combat the weather they were all issued hand warmers, parkas and cold weather gear. They also made sure personnel rotated in and out of the cold as much as possible.

Johnson said the size of the crowd was a danger in itself, but they were relatively behaved. "Everybody was happy until the end when they couldn't move out as fast as they wanted to move," said Johnson.

The size of the crowd impressed Johnson. "In each direction you could see people as far as possible. We all agreed we have never seen a crowd of that many people before in our life and we will never be around than many people again," said Johnson.

Wing members put in a long day of work. Johnson figured it was a 37-hour shift from when they reported Monday until being released late Tuesday night with about three hours of sleep.

All the work was worth it for Johnson. "It will be one of the top memories in my life."