WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Virginia National Guard’s Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division assisted federal agencies in securing the nation’s capital during the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
The 29th ID Soldiers were among more than 26,000 National Guard members from 50 states and three territories who were activated to support the inauguration by augmenting the Capitol Police, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Park Police and D.C. Metro Police Department.
“I am extremely proud of the immediate response of so many Soldiers from Virginia and Maryland in support of an unprecedented set of events over the last two weeks,” said Col. Joseph A. DiNonno, the 29th ID deputy commanding general for operations. “These patriots seamlessly integrated into the D.C. National Guard’s historic operations to ensure a peaceful transfer of power during the inauguration with virtually no notice and with complete professionalism.”
DiNonno led a task force of more than 9,000 personnel from 24 states that was responsible for securing property at the U.S. Capitol, protecting government employees, providing logistical support, staffing traffic control points and providing crowd management.
The Staunton, Virginia- based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team served as the mission command headquarters for the Virginia Army and Air National Guard personnel on the ground, as well as Soldiers and Airmen from 23 other state National Guard units. At the peak of the response, the 116th IBCT was responsible for more than 7,400 National Guard personnel.
“If you look at our history, from hurricane responses to COVID-19 to last summer’s civil disturbances, the National Guard is an adaptable organization that can assume control of any situation and respond appropriately,” said Col. Chris Samulski, the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander. “I am very proud of what the Soldiers have done. We moved very rapidly to ensure that we had the flexibility to support our elected leaders.”
Virginia National Guard personnel made the transition from citizen to Soldier in a 24-hour period, some with a mere 12-hour warning before they were packing their gear, leaving family, school and jobs behind as they boarded busses. Shortly after arriving in D.C., Soldiers and Airmen started a rotating 12-hour shift schedule to provide 24-hour security details to assist civilian law enforcement in protecting property and providing a safe environment as multiple states started to fill the ranks.
“The responsiveness of Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to deploy in less than 24 hours and begin conducting missions speaks volumes to their professionalism and patriotism,” said Lt. Col. Beau Mason, commander of the Fredericksburg-based 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “I visited with Soldiers and Airmen on their posts and I couldn’t be more proud of their steadfast discipline and high morale.”
As Virginia National Guard personnel support the security effort in the nation’s capital, additional Soldiers and Airmen continue to support COVID-19 testing across the state and assisting the Virginia Department of Health with planning for administering COVID-19 vaccines.