WASHINGTON, DC — The Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team took a lead role in the security of the 59th Presidential Inauguration, commanding a task force of more than 7,400 Soldiers and Airmen from 12 different states.
The coalition, named Team Capitol, was responsible for maintaining the physical security of the Capitol grounds. On inauguration day, the 116th headquarters served as the operations center to coordinate thousands of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen supporting civilian law enforcement to help keep people safe and protect property.
“This was a historic day for all of us,” said Col. Chris Samulski, commander of the 116th IBCT. “This mission has demonstrated the capabilities of the National Guard and how we are an adaptable organization that can take control of any situation and respond appropriately. The officer and NCO leaders for the other states serving with the 116th are some of the most professional I have ever worked with, and we couldn’t ask for better partners on this mission.”
Along the wide avenues surrounding the Capitol on Inauguration Day, Soldiers and Airmen from those states stood at their posts as motorcades and dignitaries arrived. Many of the Guardsmen had traveled hundreds of miles to Washington on short notice, answering the call to help protect the nation’s capitol.
“A lot of our Soldiers have never been to D.C. before, so this is a great opportunity,” said Capt. Jason Pomeroy, commander of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery Brigade out of Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of the units reporting to Team Capitol. “We’re glad to help provide security, but it’s also incredible to be here working next to some the most historic monuments and buildings in the country. It’s been a huge honor to get to lead my Soldiers on a mission like this.”
For weeks, the Soldiers and Airmen rotated through shifts guarding the Capitol grounds and congressional buildings. Staff Sgt. Allen Bugg, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th IBCT, said that his Soldiers, especially junior leaders, had “stepped up big time” for the tough mission.
“There is a real sense of purpose,” Bugg said. “The Soldiers are driven, they know how important this is. This situation could turn serious at any point. Our guys are squared away and professional at all times, and we’re ready for anything.”
During the inauguration ceremony, the Guardsmen continued to patrol the perimeter of the Capitol. When the national anthem rang out, troops from dozens of states halted and rendered salutes all along the line.
“This is something that will be in the history books,” said Spc. Annalisa Keown assigned to the 2138th Forward Support Company out of Louisville, Kentucky, another unit reporting to Team Capitol. “I know that I’m going to be able to look back on this and say that I was able to contribute to something that helped out the greater good.”
The 116th IBCT-led Team Capitol for nearly three weeks, overseeing the operations and logistics of a force that peaked at 9,750 Guardsmen before beginning to draw down on January 23. Although the Virginia unit had not expected to command a coalition of a dozen other states, the brigade’s leadership was glad to have taken on the responsibility.
“I’m incredibly proud of what our Soldiers and Airmen have done,” Samulski said. “We moved very rapidly to support our civilian law enforcement partners, and the security of the inauguration was a success. We also owe a special thanks to our families, communities and employers back home for their tremendous support.”
While most Virginia Guardsmen will return home in the coming weeks, the 116th headquarters will remain on duty with 1,000 additional troops from the commonwealth to help ensure continued security in the nation’s capitol.