On the day after Joe Biden’s inauguration, the National Guard announced that the 26,000 troops who were deployed to Washington, D.C., didn’t face any security threats.
“There were no security incidents reported involving the National Guard,” a news release from the National Guard Bureau read.
“Our ability to move 26,000 Soldiers and Airmen to DC from every state and territory in less than two weeks would not have been possible without the support of our governors and their adjutants general,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard.
“It speaks volumes about America’s investment in the National Guard; and most importantly, the support our service members get from their family and their employers.”
There may have been no security incidents reported. After all, we moved more National Guardsmen into the 68 square miles of our nation’s capital than troops that we have in the whole of Afghanistan. One would hope that would be the outcome.
However, to say there weren’t any threats at all would be inaccurate, and to say the exercise spoke volumes about our country’s investment in the National Guard may be problematic, at least when you factor in that almost 200 of the men and women who deployed to the District of Columbia have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a report in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, defense officials say the cramped quarters the troops were housed in may have played a role in transmission.
This comes after pictures and videos which showed Guardsmen forced to rest in an underground parking garage in Washington because they’d gotten kicked out of the Capitol — already not an ideal situation, particularly if you want to stop transmission of COVID-19 — began circulating the day after the inauguration.
“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
A series of miscommunications around an unprecedented security situation left National Guard troops searching for an adequate rest area Thursday night when they were moved from the Capitol into a nearby parking garage https://t.co/XuojX0XE6D
— CNN (@CNN) 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
One defense official told The Wall Street Journal that this “raised concerns COVID-19 protocols can’t be maintained,” the newspaper reported.
Furthermore, the outlet reported that not every Guardsman was tested for COVID-19 before they were deployed to Washington, D.C. While they were screened, unless the test was part of the screening process, it wasn’t necessarily carried out.
Days before the inauguration, The Associated Press reported the FBI was vetting the troops being sent to the inauguration because of fears there might be extremists within the Guard who would carry out the kind of attack the Guard was supposed to prevent. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said troops in D.C. were also receiving training to identify against threats within the ranks.
The FBI and the military were willing to go through these steps, but the troops being deployed weren’t necessarily tested for COVID-19 first, nor did anyone at the federal level ensure they were at least housed in situations where COVID protocols could be properly followed.
Let that sink in.
Furthermore, 5,000 of these Guardsmen are expected to stay on in the nation’s capital through March. While we’re not necessarily going to see cases like them sleeping in garages ever again, why are we to believe the situation is now under control? This isn’t a stellar track record so far.
Officials may say hindsight is 20/20, but this wasn’t being criticized in hindsight. As an overreaction to the Capitol incursion — an attack at which there was no National Guard presence until it was too late — we stuffed the nation’s capital with troops.
People said this was for optics when it was being done. It turned out to be optics.
And it’s optics that could have ended up with those troops getting infected with COVID-19. They may have faced a threat, but it wasn’t from extremists.
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