WASHINGTON – Thousands of National Guard troops continued to stream into the nation's capital to support law enforcement during the presidential inauguration, building to a force of up to 25,000 members. Many of the Soldiers and Airmen are getting there via the Air National Guard in a historic airlift.
Some 125 Air National Guard aircraft flew 134 sorties into Washington Jan. 12-15, bringing more than 7,060 National Guard troops and 2.3 million pounds of cargo from around the nation. The flurry of flights into Joint Base Andrews in Maryland continued Saturday, handled by the 89th Airlift Wing.
“The type of mission that we are involved in right now just demonstrates the nature of the Air National Guard," said Lt. Gen. Mike Loh, director, Air National Guard. "We pride ourselves in being the first to the fight, whether it be responding to natural disasters, COVID-19, civil unrest, or providing support to our local, state, and federal partners for the inauguration.”
"The volume of aircraft, personnel, and equipment that is processing through Andrews is pretty much unprecedented," said Lt. Col. Devin T. Robinson, director, Air National Guard public affairs. "Our Guard Airmen are turning a massive number of aircraft in a very short period of time - it really is amazing!”
On Sunday, the Alaska Air National Guard's 168th Wing will fly about 80 Guardsmen aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker from Eielson Air Force Base on a seven-hour flight to Joint Base Andrews.
Activating volunteers and scheduling aircraft to deploy to the East Coast from Alaska requires extensive planning and coordination. This request to support D.C. was expedited in only two days.
“Our Soldiers and Airmen are ready to come to the state’s or nation’s call,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.
In Puerto Rico, a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane from the 145th Airlift Wing arrived at Muñiz Air National Guard Base to carry Soldiers with the Puerto Rico National Guard's 92nd Military Police Brigade to Washington. Airmen with the 156th Wing ensured the aircraft was fueled and ready to go on time.
“We’re excited to be here and be able to provide this support to the Soldiers that are heading out for the important mission of defending our nation’s capital,” said Col. Pete Boone, 156th Wing commander.
As of Saturday morning, there were about 9,500 Guard members on the ground in Washington from 46 states, three territories and D.C.
Up to 25,000 National Guard men and women have been approved by the Defense Department to support federal and D.C. agencies for the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration. The Secret Service is in charge.
“Our first priority is to protect people and property – and the safety and well-being of our National Guard personnel,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
In addition, more than 4,000 Guard members are protecting state capitols and other key infrastructure in states. At the same time, 21,671 Guardsmen and women are supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response in every state and territory. With overseas missions, there are nearly 71,000 National Guard members engaged in homeland and overseas missions.
“While the last 12 months have been unprecedented, we continue to respond to every mission, both here at home, and overseas – living true to our motto: “Always Ready, Always There!” Hokanson said.
About half of the Guard Soldiers and Airmen will conduct security-related missions to include crowd control, traffic control, and assisting with entry and exit points. State and local law enforcement agencies remain responsible for security. The D.C. National Guard will also perform ceremonial duties.
Military involvement in presidential inaugurations dates back to April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militias (the modern-day National Guard), and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to New York City – the seat of government for his inauguration ceremony.
“I want to convey the gratitude the entire administration and the American people have for the Citizen-Soldiers (and -Airmen) who are here in our nation’s capital, and to their families," said Vice President Michael R. Pence. "We’re very proud and grateful for work they have done, and will do, in the historic days ahead.”
Lt. Col Candis Olmstead and Master Sgt. Caycee Watson contributed to this story.