Politics aside, blue state Maryland prepares for inauguration of Trump

JOINT BASE ANDREWS — On inauguration day next week, Air Force Airman Pearl Umberger will don her ceremonial uniform, medals, cap and white gloves and march with her honor guard unit escorting the motorcade of America's 45th president from the Capitol to the White House.

At 19, the Thurmont woman can't quite believe this is happening.


"It's really cool," Umberger said. She might want to smile during the parade on Friday, but knows she is supposed to restrain herself.

"Got to keep the bearing," she said.


Maryland didn't support President-elect Donald Trump in the election — he captured just 33.9 percent of the vote here — but the state's proximity to the District of Columbia makes it an important hub for planning and protecting a wide range of inaugural activities.

Key portions of that support originate at Joint Base Andrews, the sprawling military installation in Prince George's County that previewed its involvement for the news media Friday with patriotic songs by the U.S. Air Force Band, a drill by Umberger's unit, a demonstration of military working dogs and a test run of a robot that can climb stairs and detect and defuse bombs.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence are scheduled to take the oath of office at noon Friday before the Capitol. Trump is to deliver an address, attend a luncheon, then parade up Pennsylvania Avenue with military escort to the White House. Inaugural balls follow at night.

Marylanders will participate throughout. A baton-twirling team from Harford County, for example, is set to perform at a welcoming concert on Thursday. A unit from the Naval Academy is marching in the inaugural parade.

A building company from Hyattsville designed the parade reviewing stand in front of the White House, and the media stand across Pennsylvania Avenue.

"This is unique, of course, because of the visibility it gets on parade day. In two weeks everybody will have forgotten about it," said Michael Buck, president of Associated Builders Inc. "It's nice for now."

While more than 1,000 Air Force members will be involved with the inauguration, about 300 will be working behind the scenes — many trained to provide the sort of assistance they hope not to use.

At a hangar at Andrews on Friday, a dog handler unleashed a Belgian Malinois on a man pretending to pose a threat to inauguration attendees.


The dog raced to the "suspect," skidding on the floor before seizing him by his heavily-padded arm. Trainer Joseph Stoltz said the 7-year-old animal is trained in the "dual purpose" of detecting hard-to-find suspects — for example, those hiding in a wooded area — and subduing them.

The Air Force also showed off an explosives disposal team, including a robot with visual sensors that move up and down like a periscope, and elevating front and back wheels that allow it to climb stairs.

"Normally, when you're going up stairs, that means you have an object that is completely embedded within a building — one of the worst possible situations," flight commander Peter Lee said.

Explosives disposal teams — many local law enforcement bodies have versions — are staples at high-profile gatherings such as presidential inaugurations and meetings of the U.N. General Assembly.

Maryland appears to have a less visible presence at this year's celebrations than at the inauguration of president Barack Obama to his second term in 2013.

The 2013 parade included a Montgomery County-based historical group honoring a Civil War regiment of black solders and the University of Maryland marching band.


No non-military Marylanders are listed among the groups — including high school and university marching bands, equestrian corps, first responders, and veterans groups — in this year's inaugural parade.

A University of Maryland band leader said the group didn't apply for a place this time.

"Typically, many groups don't apply two cycles in a row in order to allow the opportunity to be equally shared," said Eli R. Osterloh, interim associate director of bands.

Gov. Larry Hogan was one of two Republican governors to say during the campaign that he would not vote for Trump. He issued a statement after the election supporting Trump and urging unity, and his office has said he will attend the inauguration.

The Naval Academy's 13th Company will march in the parade. The unit, with 91 midshipmen, was chosen because it was the brigade's color company for the fall semester, the academy said. The designation is based on members' performances in academics, athletics and other areas.

Harford County's TwirlTasTix baton-twirling team will perform at a concert near the Lincoln Memorial on the day before the inauguration.


The team wants to "be part of unifying everyone again and presenting a positive message," director Christine Zoll said.

"If everybody could look into these beautiful young people's eyes ... we need to think about what they're seeing and what they're feeling and what they're growing up into [and] just try to work together better," Zoll said.

Nicolee Ambrose, Republican national committeewoman for Maryland, said she will be attending her first inaugural parade. She invited others — Democrats included — to join her.

"The inaugural swearing-in and parade are open to the public," Ambrose said. "They celebrate our tradition of peaceful transition of power. It's a beautiful thing that we all need to recognize, whether we like the outcome or not in any given cycle."

The region is expected to feel the event's economic impact.

"The big winners are local airports, train stations — probably many people coming from New York — expensive restaurants and bars," said Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group.


Also expected to benefit are "hotels, including those in suburban and central Maryland."

Some Baltimoreans have organized buses of women to go to the Women's March on Washington, a demonstration planned for the day after the inauguration to promote inclusion and multiculturalism — values they say are under attack by Trump and his supporters.

Umberger and other many other Air Force members involved with the inauguration said they don't focus on the swirling politics.

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Politics "wasn't my thing," she said.

Umberger became hooked on the military through her father, who served in the 3rd Infantry Regiment — the Old Guard — which represents the Army at memorial events.

Umberger is in the firing party unit, which fires three volleys in salute at military funerals. But the inauguration, she said, will be "completely new."


"We've been training for the parade since the middle of December," she said. "It's so cool. There are definitely some bragging rights."

Baltimore Sun reporter John Fritze, The Aegis and the Capital-Gazette contributed to this article.