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Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., 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 today.
“We will be there to fill the gaps and help out the first responders,” Army Maj. Kenneth Napier, deputy director of the Deliberate Operations branch for the National Guard Bureau, said.
About half of the 4,000 personnel 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.”
Air Force Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters yesterday 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 ordnance disposal assets.
National Guard members and re-enactors from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment have been invited to march in the parade. The 54th represents the all-black regiment that fought in the Civil War and was memorialized in the movie "Glory.”
"These organizations embody the best of our nation's history, diversity and commitment to service,” President-elect Barack Obama said in a Dec. 8 statement. “Vice President-elect Biden and I are proud to have them join us in the parade."
The District of Columbia 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,” Officer Candidate Robert Albrecht, a spokesman for the D.C. Guard, said.
In addition to the Guard’s on-the-ground missions, the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., will lead the air-sovereignty effort through North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The D.C. Guard participated in a media event today 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 added.
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.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves in the National Guard Bureau.)