RICHMOND, Va. — More than 2,000 members of the Virginia National Guard are on the ground in Washington to assist law enforcement with security, joining a total National Guard force expected to top 7,000.
The Soldiers and Airmen will help protect property and provide a safe environment for people to exercise their right to assemble and protest peacefully. The Virginia Guard members will be in the nation's capital through President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.
"Once again, our Soldiers and Airmen left their full-time jobs and loved ones to answer the call of duty to help keep their fellow citizens safe," said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia. "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. We owe a special thanks to our families and employers because we couldn't conduct our mission without their support."
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam authorized the VNG support after a request from the mayor of Washington. Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau officials asked multiple states to identify units able to support law enforcement and the District of Columbia National Guard. In addition to Virginia, National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York are providing support.
VNG personnel began mustering the evening of Jan. 6, and the first groups of Soldiers and Airmen began supporting the security effort on Jan. 7. Additional troops arrived Jan. 8-10. They will remain under the control of the Virginia governor under Title 32, 502 (f) orders for up to 31 days. Civilian law enforcement officers are responsible for the safety and security of all personnel, and the National Guard will provide assistance as requested.
"We greatly appreciate the support from the entire National Guard team across the region to respond to law enforcement officers who needed help, and we are proud of our Guard members who supported the lead agencies in this mission," said Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy in a news release Jan. 8.
The news release explained the Department of Defense system is structured to require permission from the defense secretary for out-of-state National Guard units to enter the National Capital Region.
As VNG members support security in the nation's capital, additional Soldiers and Airmen continue to assist with COVID-19 testing across Virginia and help the Virginia Department of Health plan for administering COVID-19 vaccines.