National Guard Troops Surge in Washington as Capitol Is Closed to Public

January 15, 2021Joshua Skovlund
national guard

New Jersey National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, 508th Military Police Company, 108th Wing, and 177th Fighter Wing arrive near the Capitol to set up security positions in Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2021. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from several states have traveled to Washington to provide support to federal and district authorities leading up to the 59th Presidential Inauguration. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy has authorized the National Guard to surge its numbers in Washington up to 21,000 soldiers ahead of the 59th presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, according to a National Guard press release. The National Guard is assisting local, state, and federal law enforcement with preparations for the time leading up to and on Inauguration Day. 

The arrangements for Inauguration Day dwarf the preparations for civil unrest and violence that the FBI had warned about previous to the Capitol siege on Jan. 6.

“Right now, we have approximately 7,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen on the ground in support of the lead federal agency, and we are building to 21,000 for the upcoming inauguration,” 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.”

National Guard
US Army Col. Jamey Barcomb, commander of the New York Army National Guard’s 153rd Troop Command, speaks with Capitol Police in Washington Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. National Guard soldiers and airmen from several states have traveled to Washington to provide support to federal and district authorities leading up to Inauguration Day. Photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht/US Air National Guard, courtesy of the National Guard Facebook.

“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.”

The National Guard was activated time and time again in 2020 to respond to wildfires as well as widespread riots and protests, and to assist with COVID-19 pandemic relief operations. So far in 2021, that call has continued, with the Guard activated on Jan. 4 to provide support to law enforcement in the capital for the Jan. 6 certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. However, the Guard was severely limited with what they could do that day when the Capitol was attacked due to the scope of their orders. 

Notification of the troop surge came the same day the US Capitol Police announced that the entire US Capitol Complex is now closed to the public. Public access to the Capitol grounds will be barred on Inauguration Day, according to a USCP press release. The USCP warned, “Anyone attempting to unlawfully gain access to the Capitol Grounds by climbing a fence or any other unlawful means will be subject to an appropriate use of force and arrest.” 

national guard
US Army soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard’s 508th Military Police Company form up for a security detail near the US Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. National Guard soldiers and airmen from several states have traveled to Washington to provide support to federal and district authorities leading up to the 59th presidential inauguration. Photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht/US Air National Guard, courtesy of the National Guard Facebook.

The restrictions surrounding the Capitol building and grounds are part of the “enhanced security measures” established to prevent a repeat of the failures in defending the Capitol Jan. 6 as rioters overran law enforcement and delayed Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election. In addition, the USCP said it has set up “global fencing,” and multiple streets are closed surrounding the Capitol building area. 

“The Department appreciates the support and coordination of the U.S. National Guard as well as all of its law enforcement partners throughout the National Capital Region, in securing the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies,” said Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, according to the press release.

Several states have sent their National Guard soldiers to Washington to bolster the defenses there and help maintain peace throughout the week leading up to Inauguration Day. According to the National Guard Bureau press release, 200 soldiers from the Maryland National Guard were rapidly deployed to assist the DC National Guard and law enforcement. And Stars and Stripes reported that 500 New Jersey National Guard soldiers have deployed to the nation’s capital to join forces with guardsmen from other states, including New York and Virginia.

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

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