Jason Ruffin never guessed, during his college days on Bison Hill, that he would one day shake hands with the Commander in Chief of the free world, much less bear responsibility for his safety. But in the days leading up to the historic U.S. presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, the Oklahoma Baptist University alum found himself in such a role, serving as chief of plans for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.
The committee representing the varied branches of service is composed of many directorates, including the parade division, Capitol Hill division and military assistants division.
"All these people had a piece of the pie in making the ceremony a success," Ruffin said. "They wrote their individual plans on how they were going to accomplish their specific mission. My job was to take those plans, mesh them into one giant plan using the proper format and submit it to our higher headquarters for approval."
Part of Ruffin's responsibility was to ensure a plan was constructed correctly before submitting it to the Joint Forces Headquarters - National Capitol Region, which is commanded by a two-star general who oversaw the entire operation.
"I am not a military planner by default," Ruffin said. "I am more of an operations guy. So learning what 'right' looked like in the way of such a large plan was very intimidating."
However, the plan must have worked; despite enormous challenges for personnel responsible for planning and security, it was a safe day not only for the new president, but also for a record-setting crowd. An estimated 1.5 million people packed the National Mall for the event, according to satellite analysis. As of 7 p.m. on Jan. 20, the Washington, D.C., Metro had counted 973,285 passenger trips, setting a record several hours before service ended for the day.
For Ruffin, cooperation proved to be the most fulfilling part of the assignment.
"I worked with people from all five branches of service," he said. "It was really interesting to learn the different cultures among the different services. And, of course, just being part of the event itself was so very rewarding. It has given me stories to tell my kids - and their kids."
At OBU, Ruffin was a music major on a track scholarship. But he quickly lost interest in classical arias and singing in different languages. At age 20, he decided to pursue his passion to become an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper, but was three years short of the application age requirement.
"So I thought I would enlist in the Army for a few years and then I would gain some military experience and discipline," Ruffin said. "Of course, right after I signed a three-year contract with the Army, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol dropped the age limit to 21."
While serving in the Army as an enlisted infantryman, Ruffin was selected for the Army's Green-to-Gold program, which takes young enlisted members with demonstrated leadership potential and sends them to complete their college degrees. The graduates are then commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the Army. Ruffin attended Kansas State University, graduated in December 1999, and was commissioned into the U.S. Army Military Police Corps in January 2000.
"While at Kansas State, I met the sweetest, most amazing, beautiful and compassionate woman I know," Ruffin said. "She was nice enough to marry me."
Ruffin and his wife, Alissa, were married in January 2001. The family resides in Kansas City. They have two daughters, Maryn, age 4, and Elliana, age 2. Alissa is an elementary school teacher by trade, but has worked the past few years as a children's director at the family's church, which has about 6,000 members.
Ruffin has been on active duty since being commissioned, serving as military police SWAT commander, company commander, battalion executive officer and anti-terrorism officer. He was stationed in Washington, D.C., during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon. With his recent inauguration mission successfully completed, Ruffin plans to return to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as the deputy provost marshal (assistant chief of police), and to his family as husband and father.
OBU alumnus Jason Ruffin (right) shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama during inaugural activities in January 2009. Obama stopped by Armed Forces Inaugural Committee headquarters to thank the armed forces for their work to make the inauguration a success. "He told us he and his family were very appreciative of our efforts and dedication," Ruffin said.