Arkansas and Missouri National Guard troops preparing to head to DC for presidential inauguration
WASHINGTON (KY3) - Both Arkansas and Missouri are preparing to deploy National Guard troops to Washington, D.C. throughout the next few days as the presidential inauguration approaches.
Arkansas is sending 500 soldiers to the Capitol. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also announced the state would be sending some of its troops as well, but officials have not disclosed how many.
All of this comes after the FBI has warned of plans for armed protests by violent supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
“Well we take every piece of intelligence very seriously, we look at it, we evaluate it,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at his Tuesday news conference.
Arkansas soldiers will be flown out to Washington D.C. early Sunday morning.
“We’re sending our state’s best representatives,” Arkansas National Guard Lt. Colonel Brian Mason said Saturday. “Our soldiers will be likely assisting with security, logistics and safety support.”
The deployment came with fairly short notice, Mason said. He said preparations were underway almost immediately.
“So within 24 hours, a little more than 500 soldiers converged here at Fort Smith,” Mason said. ”We go through soldier readiness, processing, issuing them the appropriate gear. We’ve done weapons qualification with their new weapons to get them qualified.”
The Arkansas guardsmen were also tested for COVID-19, Lt. Colonel Mason said.
Troops from all over the country are headed to the nation’s Capitol, bringing totals well past 20,000, officials say.
”Arkansas guardsmen are going to be working alongside several other state’s National Guard units, also U.S D.C. metro police, U.S. park police, U.S. Capitol police and then of course the Secret Service, which again is the lead agency,” Mason said.
The last few days have also required an abundance of communication with those already in the Capitol.
”When we do arrive there in D.C., we will be greeted by the D.C. National Guard,” Mason said. “They’re going to provide us with some additional information on exactly what our soldiers are going to be doing and where they’re going to be doing it.”
He said the requested missions include assistance with Traffic Control and Access Control Points, Traffic Management, Metro Station Security, Crowd Management, Patrol and Watch Stander on outside Fencing, facility security at City Hall and the National Mall, and the Lincoln Memorial among others.
“Being in the Guard is about service,” said Maj. Gen. Kendall Penn, Arkansas National Guard’s Adjutant General. “Service to one’s state and their nation. We’re sending some of our very best to support Inauguration Day activities. Priority number one is to protect people and property, and our Guardsmen are trained very well to do just that.”
Troops will work closely with several other agencies within the Capitol.
”We’re hoping for a pretty safe and secure inauguration process,” Lt. Colonel Mason said. “And we’re pretty sure with around 25,000 to 26,000 guard members in the D.C area, it should be a pretty safe and secure inauguration event.”
While troops from an entire Arkansas unit have not been sent to an inauguration since President Bill Clinton’s, Mason said it is not an unusual assignment.
“The 59th Presidential Inauguration, like all presidential inaugurations, is considered a National Special Security Event,” he said. “We send soldiers on a voluntary basis to nearly every inauguration.”
Mason said a whole unit was sent to President Clinton’s first inauguration, which included the 106th Army Band.
Lieutenant Colonel Mason said the troops will hopefully be back home by the end of the month.
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