Back in September, when Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Watson started her advance work for Monday’s inaugural parade, the guest of honor hadn’t even been determined.
Now it’s almost show time for Watson, a Coast Guard officer whose family lives in Vancouver.
Watson is commanding the street cordon — 1,500 uniformed military personnel from all branches of the service who will salute as President Barack Obama passes by on his way to the White House.
“They will be on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, facing the parade,” Watson said.
This is the second consecutive inauguration in which a military officer with Vancouver links has been part of the management team. Vancouver resident David
Seydlitz managed the 2009 inaugural parade’s assembly area; he was a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, the same rank Watson holds now in the Coast Guard.
“People think that planning for the inauguration starts after the election,” Watson said.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” Watson said. Even though she’s been part of the preparation work for about four months, “I wish we would have been brought in earlier.”
“Some of the planning starts in early May, when they dust off the after-action reports and lessons learned” from the previous inauguration, Watson said.
And some of those reports were written by Seydlitz. For two weeks after the 2009 inauguration, he was busy analyzing what could have been done better.
“We wrote recommendations for the next group, which wasn’t going to show up until 3 1/2 years later,” Seydlitz said.
“I’ve read his stuff,” Watson said. “Small world.”
The 1996 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy is the daughter of Vancouver residents Dorothy and Michael Watson Sr.; her sister, Debra Watson, also lives in Vancouver.
Inauguration duty was something she sought, Watson said.
“I volunteered to be part of the Inaugural Committee. At the time, I was working at Coast Guard headquarters in another capacity. I asked someone on the Coast Guard commandant’s staff if I could be a member,” said Watson, a reservist who has been recalled to active duty.
Her Inauguration Day will start at 2 a.m., Watson said. She can walk to the Pentagon, where the staging begins, in 10 minutes.
Watson’s long involvement in the planning process doesn’t earn her a spot in the parade, by the way.
“I won’t be marching,” she said. “I’ll be inside a command post, right at the starting point. I have several different radios, and I’ll listen to calls come in.”
She has marched in parades before, Watson said, and now, “I like being able to view the parade from behind the scenes.”
There are no parties or celebrations are on her Monday schedule, either.
“My day will probably end around 7 p.m., and right now, I have no plans do anything else,” Watson said.
And Seydlitz? He is planning to get a better look at a spectacle that he mostly missed the last time around.
In 2009, “We were too busy getting people formed up, and we saw them going around a corner,” said Seydlitz, who retired in 2010 after 20 years of combined active and reserve Navy service.
“I’ll watch it,” he said. “Absolutely.”