With more than 7,000 National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., and thousands more on the way to help protect the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden during a pandemic, it was only inevitable that some would be affected by COVID-19.
As of Friday afternoon, 43 troops had tested positive for coronavirus, Air Force Capt. Tinashe T. Machona told Military Times.
“We are unaware of anyone contracting COVID while on duty here,” said Machona. “The D.C. National Guard continues to promote CDC guidelines, which includes social distancing, wearing masks and increased hygiene measures.”
Each unit commander, he said, is responsible to ensure the rules those rules are followed and that soldiers and airmen are provided personal protective equipment.
“If a National Guard member does contract COVID, mitigation measures will be taken,” said Machona.
Machona could not immediately say how many troops have been told to stand down and quarantine as a result of exposure to personnel with COVID-19, or how many Serious Incident Reports have been filed as a result of exposure.
“Incoming Guard men and women are screened upon departure from their individual states and upon arrival to the DC Armory according to CDC guidelines,” he said. “Temperature checks and screening questions are in place; masks and social distancing are required where the mission allows.”
Friday afternoon, the National Guard Bureau announced an increase of an additional 4,000 troops authorized to support the inauguration National Special Security Event federal law enforcement mission and security preparations, bringing the new total to 25,000 troops the Defense Department has agreed to provide. The Department of the Army and the National Guard Bureau are working on a sourcing solution now to support this request, according to an NGB media release.
On Thursday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy authorized up to 21,000 National Guard troops from around the country to assist law enforcement with security surrounding the inauguration, according to the NGB.
“Right now, we have approximately 7,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen on the ground in support of the lead federal agency,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau said during an inauguration security briefing with Vice President Mike Pence Thursday, according to a media release. “They are under the command and control of Maj. Gen. William Walker, the Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard, and are providing security, communications, logistics and coordination with all supported agencies.
“As always, our first priority is to protect people and property — and the safety and wellbeing of our National Guard personnel and their families,” Hokanson said. “I visit with these men and women every night and they understand the importance of this mission. They are also proven, prepared and proud to do their part to ensure a peaceful and safe inauguration of our incoming commander-in-chief.”
National Guard civil support missions are generally conducted to assist:
• Supporting civil authorities whose capabilities or capability is insufficient to meet current requirements.
• Protecting the life, property and safety of U.S. citizens.
• Protecting critical U.S. infrastructure.
• Providing humanitarian assistance during disaster response and domestic emergencies.
• Providing support to designated law enforcement activities and operations.
• Providing support to designated events, and other activities.
“As you may be aware, the forefathers of today’s National Guard were present for the inauguration of George Washington, and have been part of every inauguration since,” Hokanson said. “I would like to thank our National Guard service members, and their families and employers who make their service possible. While the last 12 months have been unprecedented, we continue to respond to every mission, both here and at home — and overseas — living true to our motto: ‘Always Ready, Always There!’”
The length of the missions may vary, but Defense Department officials were authorized to deploy the Guard for up to 30 days for the inauguration and surrounding protests.
Pentagon officials approved requests to have some Guard members armed with either long guns or handguns, particularly those Guard members assigned near the U.S. Capitol.
The announcements came a week after a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the results of the presidential election. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump an unprecedented second time on Wednesday, making him the first president to be impeached twice.
On Jan. 12, National Guardsmen were given authorization to be armed in support of the U.S. Capitol Police to protect the Capitol and individual members of Congress and their staff, according to a National Guard Bureau media release. This was requested by federal authorities and authorized by the secretary of the Army.
The Arkansas National Guard announced Thursday it is sending 500 soldiers and airmen to Washington to assist with security for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The guard said Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved the deployment, which will begin on Jan. 17. The guardsmen will return to Arkansas before the end of the month.
The FBI has warned of armed rallies in Washington and at all 50 state capitols in the days leading up to Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Hutchinson has directed additional state police at Arkansas’ capitol but has not activated the guard in response to any potential rallies there.
“We’re sending some of our very best to support Inauguration Day activities,” Maj. Gen. Kendall Penn, Arkansas National Guard’s adjutant general, said in a statement. “Priority No. 1 is to protect people and property, and our Guardsmen are trained very well to do just that.”
The Guard’s mission in Washington will include assisting with traffic control, security and crowd management at the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial and other locations. The Guard said it will work alongside several other states’ National Guard units, the D.C. Metro Police, the U.S. Park Police, Capitol Police and the Secret Service.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday he is authorizing the deployment of more than 100 members of the Connecticut National Guard to help protect the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Lamont, who made the authorization at the request of U.S. National Guard officials, said Connecticut’s contingent will include members of the military police and two patrol explosive-detection dog teams. Additionally, the state’s Air Guard placed its C-130H aircraft on alert in case personnel need to be moved throughout the country.
“The state of Connecticut stands ready to help ensure the peaceful transition of power and protect our democracy,” Lamont said in a written statement.
The Florida National Guard is sending about 600 soldiers and airmen to D.C. for the inauguration. While they are there, they will fall under the direction of the DCNG and their specific missions sets will come through them, said Lt. Col. Caitlin Brown, a spokeswoman. Brown declined to specify which units would be traveling, citing operational security concerns.
About 300 Idaho National Guard soldiers and airmen will be sent to Washington, D.C., to help with President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, the Idaho National Guard adjutant general, said the guard members will help ensure the peaceful and orderly transition of power.
The Idaho National Guard originally planned to send about 12 people to the inauguration, but dramatically increased that number to about 6 percent of the Idaho National Guard force after officials requested more help in Washington, D.C.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is sending about 200 members of the Illinois National Guard would travel to Washington in advance of Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“In the wake of the recent incident at the Capitol, ensuring a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration is of the utmost importance,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, commander of the Illinois National Guard, said in a statement that “supporting the presidential inauguration is a great opportunity for the Illinois National Guard to be part of history and represent the state of Illinois.”
About 600 Indiana National Guard soldiers are being sent to Washington, D.C., to help with security for next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
State officials said Wednesday they were also monitoring possible armed protests but didn’t yet have any threats of violence at Indiana locations.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said he had authorized 625 Guard soldiers going to Washington from Saturday until two days after Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Up to 15,000 Guard troops are expected to be on duty in coming days in Washington as authorities are concerned about threats of violence following the insurrection at the Capitol last week.
Iowa is sending 250 soldiers and airmen to Washington, D.C., in response to a call for additional support during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, the head of the Iowa National Guard said Thursday.
Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Ben Corell said initially Iowa had planned to send 15 members of the 185th Refueling Wing to Washington but because of the attack on the Capitol last week, all states and territories have been asked to help.
“They’ve asked for increased support from all National Guards, so in communication with the governor yesterday we came to the number of 250 additional Iowa National Guard that will move to the national Capitol region to support the inauguration,” Corell said.
Gov. Laura Kelly announced that she has authorized the Kansas National Guard to send up to 300 of its soldiers and air personnel to Washington for Biden’s inaugural. She said she did so at the request of the District of Columbia Guard.
Maryland is doubling the number of Maryland National Guard troops available to help protect Washington ahead of the presidential inauguration to 1,000, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.
Hogan said there are ongoing discussions about securing the nation’s capital after last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.
“We have a formal request, which we’ve agreed to, to go from 500 members of Maryland National Guard to 1,000 members of the Maryland National Guard in D.C.,” Hogan, a Republican, said at a news conference.
The governor said discussions include securing not just the area around the U.S. Capitol, but also the entire District of Columbia.
“Every federal and regional and local authority is working I think in a coordinated fashion and I think those are continuing to evolve and develop as we speak,” Hogan said.
The Minnesota National Guard said in an announcement that it would deploy a company of more than 130 soldiers to Washington in support of security for the inaugural. Col. Scott Rohweder, the Guard’s operations director, said the Guard has sent members to previous inaugurations, too.
The Mississippi National Guard is sending troops to Washington, D.C., in preparation for the presidential inauguration next week.
Guard members will work to keep the event a “safe and secure environment” to allow for “a peaceful transition of authority,” a Thursday press release read. Officials did not say how many National Guard members were being sent to D.C.
The Mississippi National Guard is part of a broad contingent of National Guard soldiers from various states that will attend the ceremony. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ press secretary, Bailey Martin, said the governor told the Mississippi National Guard to send troops if necessary “even before the riots at the Capitol last week.”
“Certainly, nothing has changed,” she said. “There is no finer security force than the Mississippi National Guard, and they are always ready to assist national security if called upon.”
Montana is sending 150 Army National Guard soldiers to the nation’s capital to help provide security for the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden next week, Gov. Greg Gianforte said Thursday.
“I’m grateful to our selfless soldiers who are answering the call of duty again today to help ensure a peaceful transfer of power, a bedrock of our republic,” said Gianforte.
As a member of the U.S. House in December, Gianforte offered his support to a failed Texas lawsuit that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the results of the presidential election in four states won by Biden. A day after insurrectionists interrupted Congress’ counting of the electoral college votes on Jan. 6, Gianforte said he was glad that the U.S. House and U.S. Senate reconvened that night and ratified the election. “It’s time to move on,” he said.
The National Guard Bureau and federal authorities requested the security help in Washington, Gianforte said Thursday.
Soldiers from several Montana cities will join more than 20,000 Guard members from dozens of other states to support the D.C. National Guard and federal law enforcement agencies, officials said.
The Nevada National Guard will send more than 200 troops to Washington, D.C., to help with security for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
The Guard said in a statement Tuesday that the decision was not prompted by last week’s deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol and that the units had already been scheduled to support law enforcement at the ceremony.
“Soldiers in the Nevada Army Guard’s 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry and 3665th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company and Airmen in the Nevada Air Guard’s 152nd Communications Flight are set to leave in the upcoming week to support the inauguration,” the Guard said in a statement.
Nearly 550 members of the of the North Carolina National Guard have been mobilized in light of concerns over security in the state and nation’s capital, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday.
Cooper, a Democrat, is sending 200 guardsmen to the nation’s capital to assist local and civil authorities before and during President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. North Carolina is one of dozens of states sending personnel to Washington, D.C.
Cooper said the other 350 other guardsmen will remain for duty in North Carolina.
Guardsmen will be deployed for about a week.
“Ongoing security concerns in Washington, D.C., and state capitals around the nation following last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol must be taken seriously, and I will deploy necessary resources to keep North Carolinians safe,” Cooper wrote.
North Dakota is sending additional soldiers to the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.
About 130 soldiers from the 816th Military Police Company will join 20 North Dakota guard members who were previously scheduled to attend before the Jan. 6 riot happened at the U.S. Capitol.
The unit is headquartered in Dickinson with a detachment in Bismarck.
The soldiers departed over the weekend via three transport aircraft from the Texas Air National Guard.
North Dakota National Guard adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, said he responded to a request from the guard in D.C. seeking assistance.
“This short-term mobilization will not affect our ability to support the COVID-19 fight or any potential security operations within our state if called upon,” Dohrmann said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced he is sending 200 National Guard troops to Washington, D.C.
The Vermont National Guard will send about 100 infantry soldiers to Washington to help provide security for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Most of the soldiers will be from the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Vermont Adj. Gen. Greg Knight, the head of the Vermont National Guard, says it is honored to help secure the presidential inauguration.
The mission was approved by Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican.
The Virginia National Guard has approximately 2,400 personnel on the ground in Washington D.C. as of Jan. 14, assisting civilian law enforcement in protecting property and providing a safe environment for citizens to exercise their right to peacefully assemble and protest leading up to the inauguration, according to a media release.
“Mobilizing a large force of National Guard soldiers and airmen on short notice is always a challenge because our personnel have loved ones, jobs and schools they have to leave to come on duty,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Our leaders activated their alert rosters, the soldiers and airmen quickly answered the call to duty, and we had a huge effort from our staff to get them in-processed and up to Washington, D.C.
Williams said that everyone was “in place by Sunday evening and ready to go as requested. It was a tremendous team effort, and we couldn’t do it without the support of our families and employers. I am incredibly proud of how quickly and safely our personnel responded, and they have effectively integrated into supporting the civilian law enforcement security plan.”
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.