Local soldier sent to D.C.

An Iowa Army National Guard soldier from Fort Dodge remained vigilant as 935 people went by him on their way to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama for a second term in the White House.

Pvt. Johnathan Andrews knows exactly how many people went through the checkpoint he was manning on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., because keeping a count was one of his jobs on that January day.

For Andrews, two things stand out in his memories of inauguration day: what he called a ”sea of endless people” and really cold weather.

He is a member of the 1133rd Transportation Company, based in Mason City. Andrews, who works at Marco’s Pizza in Fort Dodge, has been a soldier for a year and five months. The Washington assignment was his first active duty deployment.

Andrews and about 70 other members of his unit were sent to the nation’s capital to help with the inauguration.

He said the troops reported to their readiness center in Mason City on Jan. 16 to get ready for the Jan. 21 ceremony. After about three days of training and preparations, the soldiers made a 20-hour bus trip on Jan. 19 to Andrews Air Force Base in the Maryland suburbs of Washington.

There, he said, the troops were sworn in as military police officers. They didn’t stay on the base, however. Andrews said a recently closed school in Washington was their temporary home. Cots were set up for the soldiers there, and meals, including pulled pork and pot pies, were delivered to them.

Andrews said the troops had one day for sightseeing in the capital.

On inauguration day, Jan. 21, he went on duty at 6:30 a.m. He was assigned to a security checkpoint on Pennsylvania Avenue which he estimated was 300 feet from the stage where Chief Justice John Roberts led Obama in reciting the presidential oath.

That checkpoint opened at 8:30 a.m. Andrews used a handheld clicker to count the number of people who passed through the checkpoint between then and when it closed at 10 a.m.

The soldier said the people who went through his checkpoint were upbeat and cooperative.

”We had the happy ones,” he said.

All the checkpoints closed before the ceremony started at noon.

Andrews watched part of the ceremony on some giant television screens set up outside. He also saw some of the parade.

The Iowa soldiers returned home the next day on another 20-hour bus trip.