JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Airmen and Soldiers of the Alaska National Guard departed for Washington Tuesday to assist the District of Columbia National Guard and federal civilian authorities with the 59th presidential inauguration.
After an unprecedented four hours between the official request for volunteers and a complete volunteer list – with two days to equip, process and validate training requirements – 70 Alaska National Guardsmen joined 25,000 Guard members from every state and three territories to assist with the historic event. They managed traffic and crowds in and around the Capitol, National Mall and White House, and provided communications, logistical, medical and public affairs support.
“What you’re doing is historic,” Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, told troops at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. “This is a moment for the state, this is a moment for the nation, but this is a moment for you, as well, because you are doing what others are asking of you. You’re standing up to help.”
About 20 Alaska Guard Airmen arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland Jan. 17, and the other 50 arrived Jan. 19 after they were delayed by a maintenance issue with the KC-135 Stratotanker from the Alaska Air Guard’s 168th Wing that transported the group. They were rescheduled to depart Jan. 18 but were delayed 24 hours due to inclement weather. They departed despite wind, rain and snow over an icy runway that required additional plowing just before takeoff.
“Despite the fact that we were delayed, the entire team is in good spirits and is motivated to get to D.C and conduct the mission as we have been asked to do,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Grunst, noncommissioned officer in charge.
Military involvement in the presidential inauguration dates back 232 years to 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. The National Guard and other military units have continued this tradition of inaugural support ever since.
“Every night I’m on social media and see all of these things happening,” said Staff Sgt. Kirielle Sjoblum, an intelligence analyst for the 168th Operations Support Squadron. “It’s cool to have a chance to help instead of looking at it from afar.”
Volunteer Guard members were part of an event that supports the peaceful transition of power and ensures the safety and well-being of their fellow Americans.
“You’re ready, you’re trained, let’s get to it,” said Saxe in his final comment to the troops.