A photojournalist’s perspective on the 57th Presidential Inauguration

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ian Caple
  • 189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Sometimes life throws once-in-a-lifetime experiences at you. The opportunity, as a journalist, to travel to our nation's capitol and cover the men and women of the Army and Air National Guard working the 57th Presidential Inauguration is overwhelming. Add to that participating in such a historic mission as a junior enlisted airman on your first temporary duty assignment (TDY) away from the parent unit.

Although nervous about the experience, such adventures yield the great rewards of meeting great professionals, and performing functions that few others ever get to in their careers.

A portion of the Guard contingent supporting the 57th Presidential Inauguration included over 20 public affairs professionals, some among the best in the business. And, although this was an eye-opening experience to see how a busy public affairs function operates for an event like this, each of these dynamic professionals took time to assist me - regardless of how busy they seemed to be. Ultimately, the team jelled and we put out some great media products before, during and after the actual inauguration.

As a military photojournalist working the event the assignment included exclusive and amazing access to not only the capitol region, but also many restricted functions not visible to the public. Among these were covering a cyber defense team protecting the networks established to coordinate the event, as well as capturing aerial photography from a Guard helicopter patrolling the restricted airspace over and around the inauguration event.

These men and women were passionate about what they did, and very excited to be the focal point of a story on them. The cyber realm is one that is not completely understood, and the fact that they were to be featured in an article that explained why they were so important got them very excited. That article is available to read at this link: http://bit.ly/WstRzG

On Friday, Jan. 18, the National Guard held a press conference to inform the media on the National Guard's role during the inauguration event. Photographing this press conference helped me understand how to escort the media and interact with them while they were covering the event.

Halfway through the week-long stay in the nations' capitol, over 400 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen arrived at the Washington, D.C. Armory. These Guardsmen had to be in-processed and sworn in as special police. Having captured the event with photos, seeing that the photos made their way around Facebook and many news pages, was personally satisfying and professionally rewarding.

Having the chance to take photos of special events and share them with the world is a great feeling. Being able to capture photos of a historic event is something unforgettable to have experienced, and something that will look great in my portfolio.

The day before the inauguration brought a tasking to fly in a UH-72 helicopter over Washington, D.C. The mission was to fly over the Washington, D.C. Armory and the National Mall in order to get aerial photos of both.

Being able to fly 1,000 feet above that Potomac River and National Mall was surreal. The amount of people walking around the mall staring up at us felt like a dream. It was scary flying near Reagan National Airport as jets skimmed over the choppy Potomac, but the Guard pilots were among the best.

The handful of Guardsmen working this assignment are among the less than 250 people in the world that have had the opportunity to fly in the airspace and that was truly an awesome experience.

Inauguration day proved to be the longest day of the week. The public affairs team woke up at 2 a.m. to get stories, photos and videos released as early as possible. My task for the day was photographing the Army and Air National Guardsmen working crowd control during the event, while simultaneously escorting Donna Leinwand, a crime, disaster and breaking news reporter for USA Today.

There were over 6,000 National Guardsmen placed around the city and in the Metro terminals to help with crowd and traffic control. These men and women worked from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. controlling crowds and making sure people got where they needed to be in a safe and orderly manner.

Needless to say, this trip was an experience of a lifetime, not only personally, but as a public affairs learning experience as well. The opportunity to meet, work alongside and learn from some of the best journalists, photographers and broadcasters in the National Guard - priceless.