Bluffton cadet promises not to take saber to inaugural parade

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  • Ashley Pittman knows the Secret Service probably would disapprove if she brought her saber to Barack Obama's inauguration.

    The 18-year-old Bluffton resident is a member of the national Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps Color Guard, which is performing Tuesday in the inaugural parade.

    Ashley, recently named the group's youngest color guard captain, is known by many cadets as a "saber girl," using finesse and balance to spin the weapon, she said. Color guard cadets also spin flags and rifles, moves they incorporate into modern dance routines.

    She's developed those skills over the past six years, particularly through the national Youth Education in the Arts cadet program. The group spends three months each summer perfecting routines and performing at national and international competitions. The group won the World Championship in 2005.

    Though the saber is Ashley's favorite instrument in color guard competitions, she will leave the thin sword at home and instead focus on working with the American flag on Inauguration Day.

    She was scheduled to arrive Sunday in Philadelphia, where cadets will travel by bus to New Jersey for two days of rehearsals at a high school gym. At 1 a.m. Tuesday, the 150 cadets will head to Washington, hoping to avoid the traffic by getting an early start.

    The festivities are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

    Dressed in maroon track suits and performing to a medley of all-American music, Ashley and her fellow cadets will march down Pennsylvania Avenue to mark the beginning of the 44th president's term.

    "Once we step on that parade route, we'll smile and put on the Disney face ... the whole thing," she said.

    Since she's worked in front of large crowds before, including the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, she isn't nervous about performing for the president. She is a little worried, however, about standing in 30-degree weather from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Because she grew up in the Lowcountry, she's not accustomed to that sort of cold.

    "It's going to be so much fun, but it's going to be freezing," she said. "Once we get off the bus, Secret Service will check the bus and our bags, and we can't get back on the bus until the parade is over."

    As for Obama, Ashley wouldn't say whether she voted for him. She did say she was excited and honored to be involved in such a historic day.

    "It will definitely be a memorable experience and something I can tell my children and grandchildren about," she said. "I'm sure there will be funny stories about Secret Service searching the bus."

    They just won't include anything about a saber.