While National Guard leaders are reminding their troops to run problems up their chains of command before going public, they don’t plan to investigate who sent photos to media outlets last week showing dozens of troops resting on the floor of a parking garage, Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the District of Columbia National Guard, said on Monday.
Those photos resulted in a flurry of news reports and outcry from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who demanded that Guard members be allowed to return to the U.S. Capitol for their breaks.
“Three- or four-star generals and command sergeant majors have been out walking and talking to guardsmen,” Walker said. “… If you had a problem with the break area, let someone in command know and we’ll fix it. But there is no investigation.”
Photos were sent to Politico and Task and Purpose the day after President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Nearly 26,000 Guard members from every state were sent into Washington, D.C. in recent weeks due to a breach of the Capitol by a violent mob Jan. 6.
Guard members told the outlets they felt betrayed after they were forced to leave the U.S. Capitol during their breaks. Instead, they were “forced to take shelter in the congressional garage,” Politico reported on Thursday.
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service,” one Guard member told the news outlet. “Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage.”
Another told Task & Purpose the situation showed how politicians “really feel about the National Guard.”
“Leaving our families for the last two weeks to come down here … it’s certainly important and historic, but the day after inauguration you kick us literally to the curb? Come on, man,” a Guard member said.
The stories and photos promoted lawmakers to demand investigations into the matter, and some offered up their offices as a break area for Guard members, so they didn’t have to rest in a parking garage.
Walker stressed on Monday that all the Guard members based at the Capitol had hotel rooms.
“Nobody slept there,” he said. “Nobody spent the night there.”
The U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard last week issued a joint statement on Friday that said “appropriate spaces” within congressional buildings — including the U.S. Capitol — have been identified for on-duty breaks.
Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau called the situation that left troops resting in a parking garage “an unfortunate incident,” but said the problem was quickly fixed. Guard members now have warming stations where troops guarding the Capitol can take their breaks.
“Once the chain of command was notified, they established the procedures and got everybody back in,” he said. “… It’s one of those things — we find an issue and we resolve it as quickly as we can.”
Biden called Hokanson last week to apologize about the troops, who’d been brought in to protect his inauguration, being told to rest in the parking garage, according to The New York Times.
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