Sgt. First Class Jason L. Johnson, post commander of the Georgia State Patrol's Thomson post, was one of 50 Georgia troopers on a special assignment that took them to Washington, D.C. last week for the historical inauguration of the nation's first black president, Barack Obama.
"I've never seen such a massive crowd of people in one place in my life," said Sgt. Johnson, noting that crowd estimates varied between 1.5 million and 2 million people. "It was a historic occasion - one I'll never forget. The crowd was well-behaved for the most part."
Sgt. Johnson, who resides in neighboring Warren County and has served as local post commander going on four years, was not the only local trooper making the trip to Washington. Thomson resident, Ritchie Howard, who serves as a sergeant out of the GSP's Madison post, also worked the special detail.
Sgt. Johnson said that he was "very honored" to have been selected for the special assignment. "I thought of it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this."
It was a working assignment, though, with no free time to visit historical places.
"We were actually assigned to the parade route, which included some 300,000 people having to be searched before they were allowed to enter that particular area," recalled Sgt. Johnson. He and other outside law enforcement personnel from other states were sworn in as special officers of District of Columbia Metropolitan Police by U.S. marshals last Tuesday morning. He and fellow troopers departed from their hotel at 2:20 a.m. for their assignments. They didn't return until after 8 p.m. the night of the inauguration.
"We put in about 16 hours each of the days we were there," said Sgt. Johnson, explaining that the state troopers from Georgia traveled there by chartered bus. "You go where you're needed when you're needed with this job."
Prior to President Obama's inauguration, Sgt. Johnson and other troopers underwent a six-hour security briefing. They then moved out to their special assigned areas along the parade route.
"I'll never forget it," said Sgt. Johnson, who like fellow officers in law enforcement, braved 26-degree temperatures with winds briskly blowing at between 15 and 20 mph on the day of the inauguration. "It really meant a lot to me."