Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 26, 2021
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard soldiers and airmen are back home after a week of securing the Nation’s Capital in the days before and after the presidential inauguration.
Capt. Joe Trovato, the Guard’s deputy director of public affairs, said the approximately 550 Guard members that deployed on Jan. 16 arrived home last weekend.
Their brief tour of duty was marked by some ill-treatment, according to media accounts, but Trovato says it wasn’t all that bad.
The Washington Post reported last week that hundreds of National Guard members were forced from the U.S. Capitol and into a parking garage, but were eventually allowed to return indoors to rest.
“The abrupt transfer came Thursday afternoon with no explanation, two soldiers told The Washington Post. The troops were using space at the Capitol to relax in between guard shifts, but relocating to the parking garage put them in close quarters with moving cars, exhaust fumes, few toilets and troops potentially infected with the coronavirus, the soldiers said,” according to the Post.
Just who was responsible for the Guard’s eviction remained a point of debate, with Capitol Police attempting to counter claims that they were responsible for moving the soldiers off the grounds as foot traffic from lawmakers and bureaucrats picked up.
“All our troops slept in hotels for the entirety of the operation in Washington, D.C.,” Trovato told Empower Wisconsin, adding that they received hot meals ever day. He did say that while on duty, the soldiers and airmen took their breaks in parking structures, as well as in the Capitol Library and in the halls of congress.
U.S. National Guard officials said they had no knowledge of their ordered removal being requested by lawmakers.
“Our understanding is that the unfortunate request for the National Guard to be relocated was made without the knowledge of the Congressional members,” Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, “said in a statement on Friday.
The Guard was called up to maintain order following the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
Hundreds of Guard members who served in D.C. over the last few weeks reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Right after the holidays they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this,” a Guard member told Politico last week.
Trovato told Empower Wisconsin that, as of Monday, there were no known COVID-19 positives in the Wisconsin task force.
Badger State Guard members integrated into the much larger task force of approximately 25,000 citizen soldiers and airmen from all 50 U.S. states and its territories, Trovato said. Wisconsin troops came from the U.S. Army National Guard’s 32nd Infantry Brigade combat team as well as from the state’s three air bases.
“We were directly involved with security operations in a ring in the vicinity of the national Capitol,” Trovato said.