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Always Ready, Always There: D.C. National Guard Provides Assistance for Peaceful Transition of Power

DC National Guard members stand in front of a monument in Washington, D.C on January 5, 2021. The District of Columbia National Guard activated several hundred personnel to support the city government during expected demonstrations. (D.C. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Small)

DC National Guard members stand in front of a monument in Washington, D.C on January 5, 2021. The District of Columbia National Guard activated several hundred personnel to support the city government during expected demonstrations ahead of the 59th presidential inauguration. (D.C. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Small)

WASHINGTON --

In past presidential inaugurations, the District of Columbia National Guard has escorted presidents, marched in ceremonial parades, conducted crowd management and ensured the safety of participants of the event. While the D.C. National Guard plays no less pivotal a role, this year is turning out to be a bit different.
 
The reality of life during a pandemic already brought anticipated changes to the 59th presidential inauguration: a limited in-person footprint, social distancing guidelines and other precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
 
At the beginning of January, approximately 340 National Guardsmen were assigned to manage traffic and provide logistical support to law enforcement. “First amendment demonstrations” were planned for January 5 and 6. Then, protests devolved into riots at the Capitol on January 6. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested additional assistance, and, in response, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller mobilized 6,200 Guardsmen from six states – Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania to include 1,100 members of the D.C. National Guard.
 
The National Guard members of each state remain under their respective governor’s control and adhere to D.C. law.

To meet current and future inauguration support requirements, the National Guard received support requests from the Secret Service, Capitol Police, and Park Police and have been authorized to provide up to 15,000 Guard members.

Bringing in additional servicemembers is not unprecedented. More than 7,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen from 44 states, two territories and the District supported the 58th presidential inauguration in 2017.
 
“The District of Columbia National Guard is in a support role to the local authorities, which will enable them to provide a safe environment for our fellow citizens to exercise their first amendment right to demonstrate,” said Maj. Gen. Walker, Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard.
 
Every member of the National Guard – military and civilian – swears an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.
 
Miller said in a written release from the Pentagon, “I, and the people I lead in the Department of Defense, continue to perform our duties in accordance with our oath of office, and will execute the time-honored peaceful transition of power to President-elect Biden on January 20.”