WASHINGTON -- WASHINGTON -- Guests entered the gates of Marine Barracks Washington, walking over freshly swept walkways toward their seats overlooking the perfectly manicured grass and Marines stationed strategically in their dress blues.
The crowds gathered to watch the brief moment when Gen. James F. Amos the 35th commandant of the Marine Corps, passed the battle colors, signifying the change of authority for America’s premiere fighting force, to Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., 36th and current commandant.
Approximately 250 Marines were on the parade deck during the ceremony, including: the parade staff, color guard, two marching companies, "The President's Own," United States Marine Band, and "The Commandant's Own," The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps.
The planning and coordination for this event took more than two months of hard work from everyone at the Barracks, from the newly minted private to the commanding officer.
"It was an honor to be a part of something historic like the passage of command between the 35th and 36th commandants, and to know you actually helped put it together," said Cpl. Vann Lantrip, the Barracks' parade deck non-commissioned officer.
Lantrip is responsible for setting up the parade deck before every ceremony ensuring all flags, markers, and support equipment are in place.
Behind the scenes, more than 100 Marines, officers and enlisted, were responsible for landscaping and grounds maintenance, parking, transportation, security, and greeting, escorting and seating guests.
Not only does the parade deck have to look good, the Marines have to ensure they are ready to perform during the event.
“We have had this ceremony in mind since mid-summer, knowing this is Gen. Amos’ retiring year,” said Sgt. Tyler Holley, a platoon sergeant for the Barracks. “With the parade season ending we made sure we practiced drill a few times a day, so we aren’t slacking off and we keep our drill looking tight.”
“Practice makes perfect.” The old saying was applied throughout the barracks for all those participating in the ceremony.
“Individually the colonel, our commanding officer, has been practicing for two months,” said Gunnery Sgt. Cedric Smith, the drillmaster for 8th & I.
The commanding officer’s staff has been a part of numerous ceremonies, but this event would place them in different positions. The staff’s adjustments were only a small part of ensuring the whole ceremony was executed precisely.
“The planning started when we locked on a solid date,” said Master Sgt. Craig Harris, the operations chief for the Barracks. “The initial planning started with the scheme of maneuvers the commandant wanted to do.”
After the planning of the sequence of events was completed the logistical requirements of the ceremony had to be accomplished.
“Everything is pretty much done in house, we don’t really have to farm out anything,” said Harris. “We have our parade deck, we have our marchers, our planners and deck crew, so everything is fairly self-contained. Not much is different for these ceremonies than our Tuesday and Friday night parades.”
With the months of planning and hours of practice behind them, the ceremonial staff executed the ceremony for all those present and the more than 40, 000 viewers on the web or TV watching the live coverage.
“An hour and a half every day for the past two months,” said Smith. “You can do the math, everyone either individually or separately put in the work.”