The Inauguration has a Dress Rehearsal. What It's Like to Sub in for Trump, Pence?

By: Maureen Groppe , USA TODAY 

WASHINGTON – The stand-in for Donald Trump had a military haircut. The Mike Pence substitute wasn’t silver haired.

But both committed to their roles in other ways during a rehearsal Sunday for Friday’s inauguration.  Army Sgt. Maj. Greg Lowery bought a red tie to get into the role of Trump. Army Master Sgt. Neil Ewachiw, who was playing Pence, donned a blue tie.

Army Spc. Sara Corry purchased a pair of heels so she would match Melania Trump’s height. Army Master Sgt. Leigh Ann Hinton, who portrayed Karen Pence, wore a pair of more sensible wedges.

“We’re just trying to look the part as much as possible,” Lowery said, “standing in the correct place at the correct time.”

That meant spending hours Sunday morning at the Capitol Building where they walked down the steps of the East Front to review the troops, stood on the West Front so the cameras could get the right angles for the swearing-in ceremony, and even marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to practice the parade.

“Our primary duty is to help the people who are responsible for the logistics and movement so they can prepare and practice,” Hinton said.

Hammers were ringing throughout the rehearsal as workmen continued to get the flag-bedecked Capitol ready. The military music and the master of ceremony's booming announcements of the arriving Trump and Pence families could be heard blocks away, possibly prompting joggers and tourists wandering by Sunday morning to wonder what they were missing.

After Lowery was "sworn in" as the 45th president, he waved to the near-empty National Mall which will be filled with people as far as the real Trump will be able to see Friday. But Lowery didn't wave as long as organizers expect the new president will, so organizers sent him back to the podium to wave some more.

The stand-ins, who went through an interview process, were chosen in part for their height and gender so adjustments could be made for cameras and microphones. Their military bearing was an advantage. As was Lowery’s and Ewachiw’s ability, as vocalists in the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” to enunciate.

“You have to be able to speak clearly,” Ewachiw said. “There’s an oath we have to take.”

Pence announced Sunday he will be taking his oath on Ronald Reagan’s family Bible. Reagan inspired Pence to leave behind the Democratic politics he grew up in through his Irish Catholic family and become a Republican. “He set out to change a nation and in doing so, he changed the world,” Pence said in a statement.

The Bible will be opened to the same page Reagan used during his inaugurations, which contains a passage Pence referenced frequently during the campaign: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Pence will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the first time an African American justice will administer the oath to either a president or vice president. Pence said he admires the conservative justice for his philosophy and “courage on the bench.”

“It will be my honor to take the oath of office to defend our Constitution from a man who has dedicated his life to the same noble pursuit,” Pence said in a statement.

Trump will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Master Sgt. Neil Ewachiw and Master Sgt. Leigh Ann Hinton, stand-ins for Vice President Elect Mike Pence and Karen Pence during dress rehearsal for the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the United States Capitol. Mandatory Credit: Andrew P. Scott- (Photo: Andrew P. Scott, Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY)

Master Sgt. Neil Ewachiw and Master Sgt. Leigh Ann Hinton, stand-ins for Vice President Elect Mike Pence and Karen Pence during dress rehearsal for the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the United States Capitol. Mandatory Credit: Andrew P. Scott- (Photo: Andrew P. Scott, Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY)

Neither of the stand-ins for the justices were chosen for their physical resemblances. The person playing Thomas was a blond woman.

But the principal proxies still felt the importance of the moment.

Ewachiw said the oaths are similar to what members of the military use so “there’s a certain resonance there.”

And there’s still nothing like being the commander-in-chief, even if it’s only pretend. “It was a very surreal experience,” Lowery said about playing Trump. “It made me feel very proud…And it’s just a real honor for all of us to be here this morning.”

The stand-ins haven’t met their counterparts though they will get to sing for them at the "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” at the Lincoln Memorial Thursday.

Friday, however, they will be watching the ceremonies along with everyone else. “My position will have been filled by then,” Ewachiw said.

Stand in for President-elect Donald Trump Army Sergeant Major Greg Lowery during the dress rehearsal for President-elect Trump's inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 15 January 2017. US President-elect Trump will take the oath of office to be the 45th President of the United States on 20 January 2017. (Photo: SHAWN THEW, EPA)

Stand in for President-elect Donald Trump Army Sergeant Major Greg Lowery during the dress rehearsal for President-elect Trump's inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 15 January 2017. US President-elect Trump will take the oath of office to be the 45th President of the United States on 20 January 2017. (Photo: SHAWN THEW, EPA)

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