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West Virginia National Guardsmen Support 2009 Gubernatorial Inauguration

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Joseph Manchin III was sworn in January 19, 2009, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on the State Capital North Portico steps as West Virginia's 34th governor. Army and Air National Guardsmen gave exponential support throughout the honored celebration.

The inaugural celebration started Sunday with an Ecumenical Mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston to honor Governor Manchin. Master Sgt. Jenny Steed, 130th Airlift Wing Finance, was part of the Color Guard team during the mass. She commented on how nice it was to have both Air and Army working together so that both uniforms could be seen joining efforts. "It was interesting working with the Army. That was my first experience working with them," she said. Other National Guard members spent the day preparing for the Gubernatorial Inauguration ceremony to take place at the State Capital. They arrived early, where they were given instruction by senior members. The Color Guard practiced posting and retrieving the Colors, in preparation for the ceremony. The Honor Cordon, lead by Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Pnakovich, marched from inside the Capital Rotunda down the North Portico steps, where they lined the red carpet.

An Inaugural Parade, lead by an Army and Air National Guard Color Guard team, took place on Kanawha Boulevard and led people to the State Capital for the ceremony. The Manchin family waved to an audience who stood by for the excitement on the snow covered streets. The National Guard soldiers and airman demonstrated their professionalism and commitment to service volunteering as Honor Guard, Honor Cordon, ushers, escorts and security during the parade, ceremony and ball. The cold weather did not prevent them from performing their important duties and services. Snow and sleet continuously fell and covered the ground during the ceremony and the frigid wind was almost unbearable. Members of the 1st Battalion 201st Field Artillery performed a 19-gun salute with three howitzers following the administered oath of Governor Manchin. The howitzers, which were fired from the opposite side of the Capital, were loud enough to be heard by a large community radius. The 249th Army Band, directed by Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Goff, gave musical support during the ceremony.

130th Airlift Wing's Mission Support Group Commander, Lt. Col. Randy C. Huffman, took part in the ceremony on the Capital steps as the newly appointed Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection. Lt. Col. Huffman brings more than 20 years experience to this top regulatory post and many years leadership experience from the 130th. He enjoyed the day's festivities with wife Sheila. On the National Guard support of the Gubernatorial Inauguration he commented, "It was impressive to see the number of people in uniform supporting the ceremony and the ball. It's a testimony to our form of government when we can have military members participating in transition of government in a peaceful way. That's something that's not always common in other parts of the world."

Following the ceremony was the Inaugural Ball at the Charleston Civic Center. National Guardsmen served as attendants in their dress uniforms. The ball was spilt up in four rooms themed after the four seasons. West Virginia Adjutant General Allen E. Tackett arrived with wife Sallie Pat, daughter Lisa and daughter-in-law Jessica Tackett to enjoy the evening, which wrapped up the day's activities. He too started out the day at the State Capital, in support of the Governor and took part in the receiving line following the ceremony welcoming guests. The inaugural theme was, "A New West Virginia". The theme seemed to appropriately reflect the hard work the state and the National Guard have made together in West Virginia. The presence of West Virginia soldiers and airman during the Gubernatorial Inauguration showcased the dedication and support from the Adjutant General and National Guard.
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