National Guard troops who were sent to Washington to protect Congress against threats, real or imagined, and ensure the safe inauguration of President Joe Biden were shunted to a parking garage when officials higher up the chain of command decided they could no longer take rest breaks inside the U.S. Capitol.
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” one Guardsman said, according to Politico. It did not name the soldier.
The official explanation from Capt. Edwin Nieves Jr., a D.C. National Guard spokesman, was that there was not enough space at the Capitol for those assigned to protect it.
“As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, U.S. Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area outside of the Capitol. They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage …” one Guardsman said https://t.co/2QneUNtBDe pic.twitter.com/Q8lZzP7hHV
— POLITICO (@politico) January 22, 2021
National Guard soldiers mobilized for inauguration security have been moved from the Capitol to sleep in a nearby parking garage, which is still in use by vehicles. It’s cold, full of car exhaust, and has one bathroom https://t.co/FzboPgZTvy
— John Ismay (@johnismay) January 22, 2021
Here’s a video from the parking garage where 5,000 members of the National Guard who were guarding the Capitol are being forced to stay. pic.twitter.com/bREUxt1tRi
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) January 22, 2021
Although the soldiers have hotel rooms, The Post noted that those rooms were often in Virginia or Maryland, requiring extensive travel time for troops in between shifts.
The Post quoted two soldiers from the Maryland National Guard as saying the move meant troops were inhaling exhaust fumes, had inadequate toilet facilities and lived at increased risk of getting infected with the coronavirus. Neither soldier was named.
“I’ve never in my entire career felt like I’ve been booted onto the curb and told, ‘Figure it out on your own,'” said a Guardsman who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is absurd,” said the other soldier, who added that a fellow Guard member was almost hit by a car.
“Zero guidance on mission, length of mission, nothing,” one soldier told The New York Times. The individual, who estimated 1,000 troops were sharing a portable toilet, was not named.
After saying there was an outbreak of the coronavirus among the troops guarding the Capitol, one soldier was asked about virus protection protocols.
“There’s none,” he said, according to The Post. “We are on top of each other all day, every day. We’ve given up.”
One Guard member said it was the transition from being lionized to disposable that stung.
“Now I feel like a wet paper towel,” he said. “You wiped me down and threw me away.”
As media accounts of the treatment of the troops emerged, political figures called for action.
I just visited the solders who have been abandoned & insulted by our leaders. I brought them pizza and told them that they can sleep in my office.
No soldier will ever, ever sleep on a garage floor in the US Capitol while I work in Congress
Our Troops deserve better. pic.twitter.com/4attFqhRRJ
— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) January 22, 2021
This is absolutely unacceptable and despicable treatment of our brave and dedicated National Guard who answered the call to serve.
We need to demand answers now and this needs to be fixed immediately. https://t.co/FyNUpFYJyX
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) January 22, 2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said enough was enough and called for his troops to return home rather than be treated this way.
I have instructed General Norris to order the return of the Texas National Guard to our state. @TexasGuard
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 22, 2021
Another Republican, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, did the same.
Last night, I ordered our Adjutant General to bring Florida National Guard soldiers home from the National Capital Region.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 22, 2021
Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, the Guard’s Inauguration Task Force commander, said early Friday that troops are no longer forced into the garage but will take rest breaks near Emancipation Hall.
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