Airmen and soldiers in the Alaska National Guard are on their way home over the next few days after assisting the District of Columbia National Guard and federal and civilian authorities with the 59th Presidential Inauguration last week.
About 70 Alaska National Guard Airmen and soldiers joined nearly 26,000 Guard members from every state, territory, and the District of Columbia to assist with the historic event, according to the Alaska National Guard, which released a statement, allaying concerns about how guardsmen were treated in D.C.
Alaska’s airmen and soldiers were not part of the group that was banished to sleep in a cold parking garage by the House and Senate Democrat leadership of Congress, which led to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Greg Abbott calling their troops back to their states.
All Alaska Guard members were assigned individual lodging in hotels, according to the Alaska National Guard press release. They were in the garages only for short periods of time, and the conditions were tolerable, according to one of them quoted by the Guard’s press office.
“During our duty periods, we have opportunities to take breaks while others swap out with us,” said Capt. Jennifer Ward, the medical readiness officer for the 176th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard. “The day before the inauguration, we were staged in a heated parking garage for about five hours, which was great because it was only 38-degrees outside.”
“It was clean, had porta potties, and we were able to rest and relax before going back out,” she said. “It’s important to take breaks in areas that are in close proximity to the zone we’ve been assigned so that we can respond quickly if needed, but so far that hasn’t been necessary.”
Alaska’s airmen and soldiers assisted with security, logistics, and transportation operations around the Capitol, National Mall, and White House. They conducted up to 24-hour operations and implemented rest-work cycles in staging areas for safety reasons.
Alaska guardsmen also staged at FedExField, a football stadium in Landover, Maryland, five miles east of Washington, D.C.; and in the Library of Congress.
“The library is spacious, beautiful and historic,” said Maj. Nathan Pooler, the troop commander for Alaska guardsmen in D.C. “It takes a long time to load up and be transported back to the hotel, so it’s not feasible to leave the area during our breaks,” he said.
Military involvement in the Presidential Inauguration dates back 232 years to when members of the U.S. Army, local militias (the modern-day National Guard), and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to New York City—the seat of government for his inauguration ceremony. The National Guard and other military units have continued this tradition of inaugural support ever since.
Photo credit: U.S. Airmen and Soldiers with the Alaska National Guard climb the stairs inside the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Mike Risinger)