Tag Archives: President George W. Bush

NCOs of Old Guard lead 58th Presidential Inauguration

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Being a part of the renowned 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) affords many Soldiers unparalleled opportunities on a global stage. For Sgt. 1st Class Christopher G. Taffoya, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon Honor Guard Company, it was an opportunity to perform in his second inauguration in an honor guard cordon – this time, as noncommissioned officer in charge of the ceremonial unit.

Taffoya was in charge of a six-man cordon, which serves as an official escort, for President Donald J. Trump at the Capitol before his presidential swearing-in ceremony Jan. 20.

“We are the first Soldiers that he interacts with, which is really cool,” Taffoya said. “It’s just six Soldiers and me.”

It’s a pretty big deal to the NCO from Montclair, California. His first inauguration was President George W. Bush’s second in 2005, where Taffoya served in an honor cordon for the entire day.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher G. Taffoya, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon Honor Guard Company, stands at attention during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. More than 5,000 military members from across all branches of the armed forces of the United States, including Reserve and National Guard components, provided ceremonial support and Defense Support of Civil Authorities during the inaugural period. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. William Lockwood)
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher G. Taffoya, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon Honor Guard Company, stands at attention during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. More than 5,000 military members from across all branches of the armed forces of the United States, including Reserve and National Guard components, provided ceremonial support and Defense Support of Civil Authorities during the inaugural period. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. William Lockwood)

“It’s a big deal to me, being just a kid from California coming from an extremely modest upbringing,” Taffoya said. “And then to be in two presidential inaugurations, making that history, just for my family alone, is really awesome. But to be [a part of] the representation of the free world, showing the world that this is what right looks like. This is how you change power. It’s just really cool. It’s a big thing, and it’s not something I take lightly.”

Celebrating pageantry

More than 2,000 Soldiers from the Old Guard were tapped to support the 58th Presidential Inauguration. The Old Guard’s Presidential Salute Battery, the Fife and Drum Corps, as well as Army cordons were among the performers. Service members participating in the inauguration represent a joint force, which includes Soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen.

Every Soldier from the Old Guard who has a role in the presidential inauguration has a responsibility to get every detail right.

“The magnitude of the operation was immense,” Old Guard commander Col. Jason T. Garkey, told Army publications. Garkey participated in President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997 and Bush’s second one in 2005. “In previous inaugurations, I participated in specific parts, but as the regimental commander responsible for Joint Task Force Ceremony, I had visibility on every detail involving the regiment.”

Garkey was pleased with the inauguration planning.

“The complexity and amount of detail developed into the plan was extremely impressive,” Garkey said. “The seamless integration of our ceremonial and contingency tasks capitalized on every aspect of the regiment. It validated everything we have worked toward since this past summer.”

Military tradition

The military’s contributions to the presidential inauguration have evolved into a centuries-old tradition. The U.S. military has participated in inaugurations since April 30, 1789, when members of the Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted President George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in the nation’s first capital in New York City.

Taffoya takes pride in the Old Guard’s historical role in such a momentous event like the inauguration.

“One thing in common through all 58 inaugurations is … us ─ from the start with President George Washington until now,” Taffoya said. “The Old Guard has always been a part of inauguration. We have been a part of that foundation, and America has seen us. To be part of that representation is a big deal. It’s an honor. Just being in the unit is cool, but to be able to have the president 1 foot from you, passing you by and being able to render honors to him is just surreal.”

Every NCO in the Old Guard strives for perfection in performing ceremonial duties, and discipline is necessary to serve. Soldiers in the Old Guard must pass the demanding Regimental Orientation Program, a three-week course designed to teach new arrivals the subtle distinctions of the uniforms of the Old Guard, rifle movements and marching that is unique to the elite precision unit. Maintaining ceremonial composure is critical to the unit’s Soldiers.

Members of the Joint Honor Guard stand at attention during a early morning rehearsal for the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C. The rehearsal was held on Jan. 15, 2017, the Sunday before the inauguration. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
Members of the Joint Honor Guard stand at attention during a early morning rehearsal for the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C. The rehearsal was held on Jan. 15, 2017, the Sunday before the inauguration. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“My discipline didn’t start when I showed up to the Old Guard,” Taffoya said. “It started with my first squad leader, who instilled the discipline in me as a Soldier in 2002. I do the same for my Soldiers. Whether it’s here or at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the one thing that carried through is discipline and enforcing it as an NCO.

“That’s the biggest thing because everything else is a breakaway of discipline,” he said. “You could have all of the Army Values, but if you don’t have the discipline to use them or to implement them, you don’t have any of them. We in the Old Guard take it seriously because we are representing our Army. If we don’t represent the Army right, then we are not doing Soldiers justice, whether we are deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

NCOs such as Taffoya recognize that all of the painstaking attention to detail at the Old Guard helps make for better leaders.

“You have to be on your game,” he said. “This is like our Super Bowl. It comes once every four years, so it’s all hands on deck. A lot of the whole regiment is bringing their ‘A’ game so you don’t want to be that one guy who doesn’t bring his and ends up being the sore spot. I appreciate my subordinates, my squad leaders and team leaders … [because] they know what this involves. They understand that they, too, are making history for their families and legacies.”

This Month in NCO History: April 14, 2004 — A running start on the long road back

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included an incorrect image of Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton. It has since been removed.

Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton was met by a crisp breeze and an overcast sky when he stepped outside for a run the morning of April 14, 2004. The occasional drizzle magnified the chilly conditions. But the weather was not a deterrent. This run was 15 months in the making and McNaughton wasn’t going to disappoint his running partner — President George W. Bush.

McNaughton’s run took place after a private workout with the president at the White House. The pair ran a mile around the South Lawn. Bush did it on aching knees. McNaughton did it on a prosthetic leg.

President George W. Bush runs with U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton on the South Lawn on April 14, 2004. The two met Jan. 17, 2003, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where McNaughton was recovering from wounds sustained in Afghanistan. The President wished McNaughton a speedy recovery so that they might run together in the future. (White House photo)
President George W. Bush runs with U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. McNaughton on the South Lawn on April 14, 2004. The two met Jan. 17, 2003, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where McNaughton was recovering from wounds sustained in Afghanistan. The President wished McNaughton a speedy recovery so that they might run together in the future. (White House photo)

McNaughton lost his right leg after he stepped on a land mine Jan. 9, 2003, near Bagram Air Base in the Parwan province of Afghanistan. McNaughton was part of a Louisiana National Guard mine-sweeping unit at the air base nearly 30 miles north of Kabul. That fateful morning, he learned his Soldiers would be sweeping a nearby field for trash burning. McNaughton emailed his wife before walking onto the field with a Polish officer to assess what the job would require. On the way back he triggered the explosive device and was sent hurtling into the air.

His right leg was gone and his left leg was severely injured. But McNaughton was alive. He was flown to Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, then located in Washington, D.C., where he began an arduous road to recovery. Eight days into his stay, McNaughton met Bush during a visit by the president and first lady.

“I was on morphine,” McNaughton recalled in a video for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “Once I saw him and his wife come in, it was pretty darn cool. He came over and kissed me on the forehead. Really nice, really nice to my wife. … We just started talking about what I was going to do. I just told him one day I was going to run again.”

McNaughton made the pledge despite not knowing about the extent of his injuries or how he would adjust to a prosthetic limb. Even so, he upped the ante on his bold claim.

“As a matter of fact,” McNaughton told Bush, “I’m going to outrun you.”

Bush told him he’d be glad to allow McNaughton to make good on his promise and pledged to keep in touch with the wounded Soldier until he became well enough to hit the pavement. McNaughton underwent a dozen surgeries and extensive rehabilitation throughout the following year. Ultimately he lost a piece of his left leg and two fingers as well as his right leg as a result of the blast. He had only been able to run on his newly fitted prosthetic leg for two weeks before he called the president the following spring.

After the visit, McNaughton said the president wished him well. He said it was an honor to spend time with the commander-in-chief and a moment he knew the future would be bright. Less than six months later, McNaughton ran his first 5-mile race. He ran as often as he could while he completed his Army career, leaving as a sergeant first class in 2007. He then began work with the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs. McNaughton eventually gave up running because of the discomfort, but he continued his athletic forays through cycling and parlayed that into a managerial stint with Ride 2 Recovery, a cycling-based veterans program. He resumed working with the Louisiana VA in 2011.

McNaughton is a native of Yonkers, New York. He originally enlisted in 1990, spending 10 years with the Army before deciding the toll of his absences on his family was too high. He left in December 2000 after spending time in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bosnia. He watched the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold on television from his home in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and seethed. His ties to the New York area pulled at him and he joined the Louisiana National Guard in November. When he learned the Army needed volunteers to clear mines, he asked for the assignment without hesitation — it would change his life forever. But McNaughton’s resolve has never wavered, and it all started with that visit from the president.

“He can do other stuff with his time,” McNaughton said. “He was the president, so he can do million-dollar speeches but he’s taking the time to do this. It’s really good that he gives us the opportunity to see each other. We’ve all been through hell. Now, we just want to have a good time and enjoy ourselves.”

— Compiled by Pablo Villa