Angered at reports that their National Guard troops were shunted off to a Washington, D.C., parking garage after having come to protect Congress, three governors have said they will bring their troops home.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a terse tweet Thursday after initial reports surfaced that the Guard was booted from the Capitol when not on duty.
“I have instructed General Norris to order the return of the Texas National Guard to our state. @TexasGuard,” the Republican governor tweeted.
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
On Friday, Abbott was joined by two fellow Republican governors — Ron DeSantis of Florida and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire.
“They’re soldiers, they’re not Nancy Pelosi’s servants,” DeSantis said Friday morning on Fox & Friends. “This is a half-cocked mission at this point, and I think the appropriate thing is to bring them home.”
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
Sununu tweeted his displeasure with the reports that soldiers from his state were sent to a parking garage to rest when not on patrol duty.
“They did an outstanding job serving our nation’s capital in a time of strife and should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions,” he tweeted.
I’ve ordered the immediate return of all New Hampshire National Guard from Washington DC. They did an outstanding job serving our nation’s capital in a time of strife and should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions. @NHNationalGuard
— Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) January 22, 2021
On Thursday, troops who were embraced by lawmakers as heroes when they arrived in Washington were told that when not on duty, they had to confine themselves to a parking garage instead of spending off-duty time indoors at the Capitol, according to The New York Times.
“Captain Nieves said that the Guard troops had been temporarily moved out of the Capitol on Thursday afternoon at request of the Capitol Police because of “increased foot traffic” as Congress came back into session,” The Times reported. “He did not specify how many soldiers had been moved.”
Photos like this show our National Guard having to shelter in a parking garage in absolutely unacceptable conditions. They have done so much to protect us and our democracy. Capitol admin need to fix this right now. 📸 @TaskandPurpose pic.twitter.com/XO0lnkp0FV
— RepAndyKim (@RepAndyKimNJ) January 22, 2021
“We were told we had 25 minutes to get everything out of the basement,” one National Guard soldier told Military Times. “We had to move everything. That included all the gear, computers, riot gear. Everything had to be figured out immediately. A lot of soldiers were resting in there, catching a nap between shifts.”
Concerns voiced included a large number of soldiers in a small space sharing inadequate sanitation and the potential of spreading the coronavirus.
“Some troops were able to get the first round of vaccine, but not everyone,” the soldier said. “We have had a couple of soldiers in our company quarantined, and were told there are already 50 to 100 positive cases of COVID. Knowing we have all shared the same room several hours a day, of course we are worried about COVID and being an extremely soft target for someone taking a cheap shot at soldiers.”
The soldier noted that in June, his unit had been called to D.C. and received poor treatment.
“The next time D.C. calls, we will let it go to voice mail,” he said.
Another Guardsman who spoke to Military Times noted how quickly the soldiers were in the way of the politicians once lawmakers believed they had nothing to fear.
“So the politicians are definitely not grateful for us at all,” the soldier said. “The day after the inauguration we are no longer allowed inside the Senate building but we are still guarding them. So when we are ‘on break’ we will … have to either sit outside or in the bus. “
“I just want people to know how the senators have been treating us,” the second soldier said. “They keep increasing the Guard force and decreasing the space we are allowed to rest in.”
On Friday, officials relented and allowed the Guard members remaining in D.C. to return to their former quarters after news of their sleeping arrangements spread. Nieves said future breaks would be taken “near Emancipation Hall,” according to The New York Times.
“As of this morning, all Guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex,” acting chief of the Capitol Police Yogananda Pittman said. “The Department is also working with the Guard to reduce the need for sleeping accommodations by establishing shorter shifts, and will ensure they have access to the comfortable accommodations they absolutely deserve when the need arises.”
However, many will be leaving within the next few days, as the deployment of about 26,000 troops will be reduced to about 7,000 troops until the end of the month, according to a news release from the Guard.
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