WASHINGTON - As many as 700 members of the National Guard will be available to help local law enforcement during First Amendment demonstrations expected in the nation’s capital.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III approved requests from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Capitol Police for District of Columbia National Guard assistance with traffic control.
“The people who live, work and visit the District are part of our community, and their safety is our first mission priority,” said Maj. Gen. Sherrie L. McCandless, District of Columbia National Guard commanding general. “Our MPD and USCP partners have asked for our help in ensuring people can demonstrate peacefully and safely, and we stand ready to assist.”
The DOD approval allows for approximately 400 DCNG personnel and 50 large tactical vehicles to provide support at designated traffic posts around the clock no later than Feb. 26. Guard members will also provide command and control and cover sustainment requirements.
The mission is approved through March 7.
Austin also approved a Capitol Police request for assistance that allows up to 300 National Guard personnel from outside the District of Columbia to assist at designated traffic posts and select Capitol entry points starting no later than Feb. 26.
There has been talk about a possible truck convoy coming to the Washington area to tie up traffic in protest of vaccine and mask mandates. President Joe Biden plans to give his State of the Union address on March 1.
Approximately 100 Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers, 100 New Jersey National Guard troops, and about 80 West Virginia National Guard members will support security operations in Washington beginning later this week.
Vermont Soldiers from Headquarters Company, 572nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), will lead Vermont’s contribution to the Physical Security Task Force.
Vermont Soldiers from 186th Brigade Support Battalion; Headquarters, 86th IBCT (MTN), and the 172nd Public Affairs Detachment will also deploy as part of the Task Force.
Personnel from various units in the West Virginia National Guard will depart this week to Washington to support security operations for the U.S. Capitol Police.
Guard members will not carry firearms or take part in law enforcement or domestic-surveillance activities. The Defense Department approval does not allow the use of helicopters or other aircraft by the National Guard or the sharing of equipment with law enforcement agencies.
The DCNG will provide command and control, though units from outside the District will remain under operational and administrative control of their respective governors.
“Our Vermont National Guard Service members continue to step up and serve when called upon,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “Their sense of service is admirable, and I know they will represent Vermont well, just as they did last year when they helped ensure the peaceful transfer of power during the Presidential Inauguration.”
Added West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice: “Our National Guard is just phenomenal, and we owe them everything for what they do to help our state and nation during times of need.”
Contributing to this story: Maj. J. Scott Detweiler, Joint Force Headquarters, Vermont National Guard Public Affairs; and Maj. Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard.