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The Pentagon Tours program was established on May 17, 1976 to support the nation's Bicentennial Celebration. Initially, the program was to last through the 4th of July and then be disbanded; however, internal support and public demand were so great that the program has been continued ever since.
The program, under the purview of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, hosts more than 106,000 visitors annually. In July 1996, the Pentagon celebrated its two millionth visitor and broke an all time annual record in December of that same year. A new calendar year record was set again in 1997, with almost 150,000 visitors.
The tour route is approximately one and one half miles in length and lasts for approximately 60 minutes. Each tour consists of more than 20 pages of script that cover 20 items of interest to include the mission of the Department of Defense and each of its branches of service, and numerous displays that highlight and depict significant moments in military history.
The tours program is a Joint service operation consisting of approximately 30 hand-picked, active duty personnel from the National Capital Region's military ceremonial units. Upon arrival, each tour guide must successfully complete a two-week training course and an additional two weeks of on-the-job training. Tour guides are assigned to the program for a period of one year, after which time they rotate back to their respective units.