Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman rose from his dark red leather chair yesterday on the floor of the main hall of the D.C. Armory, took several strides, stopped and turned to face his audience. Beneath his feet was a 40-by-60-foot plastic map showing major sites in the District, including the Capitol and the Pentagon.
His mission on this day was to get everybody in the room on the same page.
Jackman, dressed in camouflage, is familiar to Americans as the officer in crisp dress uniform at Nancy Reagan's side in June during the state funeral of former president Ronald Reagan.
Yesterday's duty was much different. He was there to ensure coordination of the intricacies of preparing for next month's inauguration, and his audience consisted of 200 organizers and planners gathered for a minute-by-minute "map rehearsal" for the event.
"The good news," Jackman said in his commanding voice, "is, we have done quite a few major events here in the National Capital Region, whether it is the World War II Memorial dedication, the state funeral, or other events. And we are pretty doggone good at it."
Jackman is commander of the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which coordinates military support for the inauguration. The military has held three map rehearsals, but yesterday was the first time other agencies, as well as the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, met to go over details of the swearing-in and the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
A change in the marchers' starting point, which was altered because of security concerns, underscored what planners have been saying: that the Jan. 20 event will have the tightest security of any inauguration.
"The starting point is now at Fourth Street," Army Lt. Col. Jeff Smith told the group, standing on the map and using a long wooden stick as a pointer to trace the parade route. "This is a significant change for security reasons."
The parade is the largest event in the District since the Reagan funeral, from which military organizers said they learned valuable lessons. "Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse," said Navy Capt. Curtis Reilly, spokesman for the military committee.
Using slides projected on a large screen set up at the rear of the giant floor map, organizers went over some details of the parade before they began the rehearsal, which lasted most of the day. Reporters were allowed to see only the introductory portion of the program.
The parade, which organizers said will feature 10,000 marchers -- 45 marching bands and 14 floats, as well as 290 horses -- is projected to last one hour and 52 minutes, attendees were told.
If there were any holes, flaws or conflicts in the plan, this was the time to catch them, organizers emphasized. Two more joint map rehearsals are scheduled. Then, a walk-through on location will be held about 3 a.m. Jan. 16 .
"We have two major objectives here today," Jackman said in his opening remarks. "The first is to gain a shared understanding of what will occur. . . . That is why we have a big picture [map] out here as everyone watches this unfold. . . . The second objective is to ensure that in the areas where we have issues, conflicts, gaps -- something that we haven't considered or something that has not been synchronized -- that we get that out on the table and we work and refine that until we've got it smooth."
Before the rehearsal, Ed Cowling, deputy director of operations for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, sought to reassure those in uniform that civilians such as him understand the challenge.
"I just wanted to say that most of us who are in the senior positions at the inaugural committee come out of what's called the advance world," he said. "So we are folks who have been around the world with the president and during the campaign with the president to plan his events. All those events need meticulous planning.
"Schedules, logistics, et cetera, we are all familiar with that and we want to make sure that everyone understands we are as concerned about that as members of the military are."