By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, NGBDecember 19, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va., (Army News Service, Dec. 18, 2008) - More than 4,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen from at least eight states will provide security, medical and other support during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, a National Guard official said Thursday.
"We will be there to fill the gaps and help out the first responders," said Maj. Kenneth Napier, deputy director of the Deliberate Operations Branch for the National Guard Bureau.
About half of the 4,000 will be dedicated to security, including crowd control, civil disturbance missions, manning traffic control points and assisting with the screening process.
"The states are planning and ready to support," Napier said. "Making sure that everyone is safe is the priority."
Gen. Gene Renuart, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Dec. 17 that another contingent on alert would be able to respond to a chemical attack.
In addition to marching units, bands and other ceremonial support, the National Guard will provide communication, medical evacuation and explosive ordinance disposal assets.
National Guard members and re-enactors from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, which represents the all-black regiment that fought in the Civil War and was memorialized in the movie "Glory," has been invited to march in the parade.
President-elect Barack Obama said in a statement Dec. 8: "These organizations embody the best of our nation's history, diversity and commitment to service. Vice President-elect Biden and I are proud to have them join us in the parade."
The D.C. National Guard's efforts will be larger this time because of the expected crowds.
"We will be involved in almost every facet of the operation," said Officer Candidate Robert Albrecht, a spokesman for the D.C. Guard.
In addition to the missions already mentioned, the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., will lead the air sovereignty effort through North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD.
The D.C. Guard participated in a media event Thursday with the Military District of Washington as well as the U.S. Park Police and other D.C. area agencies involved in planning for the inauguration.
Renuart told reporters that it is "prudent" for the military to plan for the possibility of someone trying to interrupt the inauguration.
"And how well we respond will be defined by how well we trained," Napier said.
Earlier this year, the National Guard provided similar support to the Democratic and Republican national conventions, but only about 1,500 troops were involved in each of those missions.
The size and scope of this mission is much bigger.
"I can't think of anything that we've done other than natural disasters that would be comparable to this operation," Napier said.
(Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves with the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office.)