WASHINGTON – Approximately 800 members of the Maryland National Guard are on duty in Washington to support the 59th presidential inauguration, with a Maryland general officer taking a critical role in the effort.
Army Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, assistant adjutant general for Maryland, assumed command in D.C. as the Task Force Capitol commander. Birckhead took charge of more than 3,500 troops in D.C., providing support to law enforcement through the presidential inauguration Wednesday.
"The troops under my command are from many different states' National Guard," said Birckhead. "We're a conglomerate, diverse force that's well-trained, equipped, and prepared to provide the best available military support to the civil authorities and the District of Columbia."
Initially, Gov. Larry Hogan and Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Gowen, adjutant general for Maryland, mobilized about 500 Maryland Guard troops on very short notice to D.C., arriving on Jan. 7.
Up to 25,000 National Guard men and women from across the nation have been authorized to conduct security, communication and logistical missions in support of federal and D.C. authorities through the inauguration.
"It's always difficult activating a sizable number of Soldiers and Airmen who have to leave their civilian lives very quickly with such short notice. However, this is why many of our troops joined the National Guard," said Gowen. "These troops are from our Maryland communities, and in some cases D.C., so there's that immediate urge to don the uniform and go serve their neighbors, friends, and family. This is a tough job, but our troops have never let us down in times of need."
The MDNG has a long history of supporting presidential inaugurations. For the swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden, they will join National Guard troops from all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.
Maryland National Guard troops are also preparing to support law enforcement at the state capital in Annapolis if needed.
"At the governor's order, the MDNG has activated a standby force to support the civilian authorities responsible for maintaining peace and order in the state capital," said Gowen. "To be clear, no troops are being deployed at this time, but are standing ready to respond in the event they are needed. The Maryland National Guard respects every American's right to protest peacefully. Our first priority is to protect people and property."
In addition to supporting law enforcement, MDNG members continue to support the COVID-19 response efforts by providing mobile vaccination support teams to local health departments.
"This is without a doubt an unprecedented and historic year for the MDNG," Gowen said. "We're balancing the various missions we asked to do and making sure our troops remain resilient and ready."