By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON - Cadets and midshipmen from the service academies will converge in Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 16 to make final preparations before marching in the inaugural parade to pay tribute to the commander in chief they will serve as future officers.
The U.S. Naval Academy will host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the days leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration.
On Inauguration Day, they'll lead the military formations marching down the 1.5-mile parade route stretching from the Capitol building to the White House, pausing to render a salute to President Barack Obama as they pass the reviewing stand.
Cadet 1st Class Tim Black, who will lead the Air Force Academy's Cadet Squadron 4 down Pennsylvania Avenue, said he's overwhelmed at the chance to salute the new commander in chief.
"There he will be, looking at his future troops, and I am going to be working for him for as long as he is in office," Black said. "I can't even begin to express how much of an honor it is to be able to actually salute the guy who will be overall in charge of us."
"It's absolutely amazing to know that we'll be there, getting a chance to see very highest echelon of command face to face," agreed Midshipman 1st Class Whitney Reese, a fourth-year Naval Academy student to graduate in May. "Everyone is excited about this. It is a real opportunity."
Reese will be following a family tradition when she marches in Obama's inaugural parade. Her father, a member of the academy's Class of 1982, marched in President Ronald Reagan's inaugural parade in 1981. "He said it was really cold, and that he sat on the bus for hours," she said. "But he also said how great it was and how he will never forget it."
Members of the company-size academy marching elements said they're excited about the opportunity to be a part of history in the making.
Cadet 1st Class Johann Fladeboe, commander of the West Point Honor Guard, has led his fellow cadets in myriad high-visibility events. "But this by far the biggest thing we have ever done, and being a part of it is huge," he said.
West Point, the oldest of the military academies, will be the first military marching unit to march the parade route. Fladeboe will carry the West Point guidon, marching directly behind Sally White, the corps of cadets' deputy commander.
Cadet 1st Class Tamara Abraham of West Point's class of 2009 said she's bursting with pride at the prospect of leading the parade -- both as an African-American and as a future Army officer.
"This is a historical event, and the whole nation and the world will be watching this," she said. "West Point has done a lot for me, so it's great to have the opportunity to represent West Point in this historical event."
At the Air Force Academy, many members of Cadet Squadron 4 learned last year, when they were named the cadet wing's outstanding squadron, that they would be the academy's representatives at the inauguration.
"I am absolutely honored and thrilled to be able to represent the Air Force Academy and the United States as a whole in this," Black said. The magnitude of the honor, he said, probably won't sink in until after the inauguration.
Cadet 2nd Class Danny Puhek, a third-year student at the Air Force Academy, called the chance in the inaugural parade "the opportunity of a lifetime."
"It's something I think we will cherish for a lifetime," he said. "Down the road, we will tell our kids and grandkids that story."