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HHS grad is part of Navy's Ceremonial Guard and historic inauguration

Corey Callies is a 2008 graduate of Hudson High School and was one of only four chosen for the elite assignment to the Navy's ceremonial guard from his boot camp training class. Photo submitted

Less than a year after graduating from Hudson High School, Corey Callies found himself a part of something historic, an experience he will never forget.

Callies, 18, joined the Navy after graduation last June, and during his boot camp training he heard about the Navy's Ceremonial Guard. He applied and was one of only four chosen from a class of 52 to train for the unit.

According to information from the Navy, the Ceremonial Guard is comprised of approximately 200 junior Navy enlisted men and women.

Guardsmen are hand selected from the Navy's Great Lakes Recruiting Command based on stringent physical and ethical standards: "Only the tallest (a minimum 6'0" for men and 5'10" for females), fittest and most motivated seamen recruits are picked to serve."

The guardsmen undergo an intensive 10-week training program designed to test their resolve, commitment and endurance. "Guardsmen are trained to maintain stoic, motionless military tightness for extended periods of time, so that they will be prepared to hold their bearing through the entirety of the longest of military ceremonies. Only the strongest willed sailors persevere."

Once training is completed, guardsmen join one of the unit's specialized platoons, the Ceremonial Drill Team, Color Guard, Firing Party and Casket Bearer Platoons. Along with participation in presidential inaugurals, they serve at full honors White House arrivals, wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, military memorials and at every Navy funeral service conducted at Arlington.

Callies is stationed at the Naval Support Facility Anacostia near Washington, D.C. He said as a member of the Ceremonial Guard, he will have extra opportunities and a better selection of jobs to choose from while he completes his service. He can serve in the guard for up to two years.

Every branch of the military has a Ceremonial Guard, and their preparations for the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Barack Obama took over two months. After their regular duty assignments, the guard reported for several more hours of drilling and training for whatever role they were to play in the ceremonies. Callies was not among the guard that marched in the parade or at the capitol but served as an usher on the west lawn for those guests who had seats for the swearing-in ceremony. He was also present at the traditional farewell ceremony for the outgoing president.

Callies said he was not prepared for the immensity of the event.

"We had been preparing for a long time but it was really something to see all the people come into D.C., all the reporters and TV news people, the helicopters and planes flying overhead. That was gearing up for a couple of days but that was nothing compared to what we saw as we came up the west ramp from the capitol on to the west lawn. It was like they say - a sea of humanity, an endless number of people that you couldn't see the end of."

And Callies said there was something different about the crowd. "I knew it was going to be a big change (from Bush to Obama) but you could really see and feel it. There were rich people and poor people all together in the crowd. I seated that actress Jessica Alba right next to some people who looked like they were right off the street. I mean, how often does that happen to her? But everybody seemed really in the spirit of it. It was about being patriotic, not political."

Before the inauguration, Callies attended an event for Medal of Honor winners, where he met Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. While there he was able to score four tickets for the Commander in Chief's Inaugural Ball, which he attended with his girlfriend, Danielle Jenkins. "It was really fun and we got to see the president and Mrs. Obama up close."

Callies said he and his fellow guards really appreciated the special effort his parents, Mark and Jamie Callies, made to provide food for them the day before the inauguration. "We all had to stay on base so they could keep track of us, so we were really stuck there. It was really great of them to do" (see link to related story).

Callies said he is enjoying his current assignment and is glad he made the choice to join the Navy. And even with all his extra, outside duties, he thinks he is probably at least warmer than his younger brother, Cody, who is a Rotary exchange student in Russia, somewhere near Siberia.

"It takes some getting used to -- living in D.C. - but I'm learning and having lots of good experiences. But this one (the inauguration) has to be right up there with the best."

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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