Air Force Academy cadets marching in Trump inaugural parade must commit to the left
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — When Air Force Academy cadets march Friday in Washington, D.C., in the inaugural parade following President-elect Donald Trump's swearing in ceremony, they'll be obeying an unfamiliar command.
Cadets have marched in the inaugural parade for every president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1957. Every time, due to the location of the presidential reviewing stand, cadets hear a command unknown on their usual marches.
"Eyes left!" barked senior cadet Alec Hubbard last week as he and 100 of his comrades practiced for their ceremonial role.
The 2-mile parade down Pennsylvania Avenue culminates in that command when cadets offer the new president their first salute.
The Air Force Academy cadets will be joined by formations from their sister schools, the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.
The Air Force cadets on the march for Trump's inauguration were selected from across the academy, in a change from tradition.
In the past, the school's top squadron, selected for academic, athletic and military prowess, got the honor. This year, top cadets were plucked from each of the school's 40 squadrons.
"I think it's a cool thing that we're allowing a wide variety of cadets to experience this," Hubbard said.
Making the march, though, means learning that left turn.
"Turn your head all the way to the left," Master Sgt. Nicole Haun told the formation of cadets during practice. "Snap it."
Haun is the school's top expert in military drills and ceremony.
"We've been practicing this whole week," she said. "I don't think anything will go wrong."
Still, a few cadets did an involuntary head shake at the left-turn order. In all the marches they've been on they've learned to respond to the command "eyes right" — the usual location for military reviewing stands where cadets turn to honor their superiors.
"Eyes left is no different from eyes right," Haun said. "It's just in reverse."
Hubbard and his classmates were too excited at the prospect of greeting the new commander in chief to fret over the neck turn.
"It's pretty cool," Hubbard said.
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