CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia National Guard have been in Washington, D.C. previously to assist with the security of presidential inaugurations and State of the Union addresses, but this month’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has changed the overall effort.
Around 25,000 National Guard troops will be in the nation’s capital in the wake of the Jan. 6 violence, in which supporters of President Donald Trump led a riot at the legislative building, halting the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died in the incident.
“Obviously, it’s unprecedented times,” said Capt. Dwight Siemiaczko, a member of the 35th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package.
“Anyone who is up here will tell you there is a lot of security in the district area. There’s very little foot traffic and vehicle traffic. It’s locked down pretty tight.”
The 35th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package provides medical treatment, mass casualty decontamination and communication services to the Capitol and district. The unit has been going to Washington, D.C. to assist with security efforts since 2004, yet Siemiaczko noted this is the first time the 179 members have been pre-positioned at the U.S. Capitol since 2014.
“You can tell there is a heightened sense of security, obviously by looking at the physical barriers they have up,” he said. “We train for it. We prepare for it. If anything, you’re a little more alert now.”
The FBI is vetting troops because of concerns about a possible insider attack or threat from a service member. Military officials have received warnings to be alert of any issues involving members.
Siemiaczko said members have been subject to security screenings in the past when assisting the Capitol Police.
“For us, it’s been no difference as far as security goes,” he said. “The background checks for us is normal procedure.”
Because the inauguration is a national security event, Siemiaczko said troops will be in Washington, D.C. until the order is lifted. The outdoor inauguration ceremony will take place Wednesday on the west side of the Capitol.