National Guard asking 7,000 troops to voluntarily stay behind in DC until late March

The National Guard Bureau is looking for thousands of volunteers to remain in Washington, D.C., until the end of March, even as thousands more have either left the nation’s capital or are preparing to do so following President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Some 25,000 Guard and active-duty troops were deployed in and around the city ahead of Biden’s inaugural as officials claimed they were concerned about riots like the one involving mostly supporters of former President Donald Trump.

But the anticipated violence did not materialize, so it’s not clear why the National Guard is looking for roughly 7,000 troops to volunteer to remain in the nation’s capital unless federal officials believe the threat of new violence remains.

Military.com, which first reported the deployment extension request, noted that Guard troops have remained in Washington, D.C., to support requests from the U.S. Secret Service and other federal law enforcement. Officials said that around 7,000 troops would remain deployed in the city through the end of January.

But a Guard Bureau official told the outlet that planning for at least that many troops to stay in D.C. for another two months is currently ongoing.

Guard Bureau spokesperson Nahaku McFadden said that Guard members who remain past the initial 31-day mobilization order will be on a volunteer basis.

“We are not going to make anybody stay,” McFadden said.

National Guard officials also noted that no troops deployed in Washington or across the country on Inauguration Day faced any threats, Military.com reported.

“We not only had 26,000 here in D.C., but there were also 7,000 supporting 30 state capitals around the country,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven Nordhaus, director of Domestic Operations and Force Development for the National Guard Bureau, told the outlet.

“There were no incidents that I know of. … It was really remarkable with our states working with their local law enforcement. It was very peaceful, thanks to all the great efforts from the states and the National Guard in each of those states,” he added.

That said, the number of potential volunteers is likely to be less than the initial group of soldiers deployed to the capital after what appears to be the first scandal of the Biden administration.

On Friday, lawmakers from both parties were outraged after Capitol Police reportedly instructed troops to vacate the Capitol Building and redeploy into a nearby parking garage as temperatures in the city dipped into the 30s. The move created a significant political backlash in D.C. as well as from state governors who responded by ordering their contingents back home.

“Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer—why are American troops who are tasked with keeping security at the Capitol being forced to sleep in a parking lot? They deserve to be treated with respect, and we deserve answers,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted.

“If this is true, it’s outrageous,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded. “I will get to the bottom of this.”

Fox News went on to add: “Also condemning the situation were Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; and Maggie, Hassan, D-N.H., among other senators, and a litany of House members.”

In addition, the decision to deploy thousands of troops in such close quarters also has contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among the ranks, Politico reported Friday, as hundreds have tested positive for the virus since being deployed.

“Ideally, these guys should all be in hotels. When they’re taking rest time, they should be taking it outside the campus with an ability to be separated and socially distanced,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the outlet. “Ultimately we’ve got to make sure that they’re not taking their extended rest time on campus, that they’re in hotel rooms.”

The outlet noted the problem was compounded after troops were ordered to mass in parking garages.

Murphy also hinted that military deployments in the Capitol Complex were likely to be ongoing.

“I think we’ve got to figure out what went wrong because I think there’s going to be a National Guard presence on campus for the foreseeable future,” he said.

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Jon Dougherty

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