The entire D.C. National Guard will remain activated through March 31 due to worries of renewed civil disturbances, and thousands more troops will remain on duty in the nation’s capital until at least mid-March, according to documents obtained by Military Times and statements from National Guard officials.
Military Times obtained a Jan. 25 orders memorandum by Maj. Gen. William Walker, commander of the D.C. Guard, stating that the D.C. Guard’s troops will remain “encamped” through March 31 due to “anticipated First Amendment demonstrations and Civil Disturbance response in the District of Columbia.” Politico first obtained the memorandum.
Guard officials declined to specify whether the extension was connected to the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, as Politico reported.
The deployment, which began in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection attempting to disrupt the Electoral College certification process, peaked at almost 26,000 troops for the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Jan. 20. Around 7,000 Guard troops are currently on duty in Washington, according to Wayne Hall, a spokesperson for the National Guard Bureau.
By mid-March, the number of activated troops will draw down to about 5,000, said Hall in an email to Military Times. The Guard will “continue supporting federal law enforcement agencies.”
The support will include “assistance such as security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety support to state, district and federal agencies,” Hall explained.
One of the security assistance missions includes the establishment of a Quick Reaction Force of National Guard troops able to rapidly respond from the D.C. Armory to any crisis within the city, according to a source with direct knowledge of the mission. The approximately 500 troops will be on standby on a rotating basis in case local law enforcement requests immediate support. Politico first reported the QRF mission.
A large portion of the dwindling force consists of D.C. National Guard troops who have orders to remain through the end of March, according to a memo obtained by Military Times and statements from Guard officials. Politico first reported the orders extension for D.C. Guard troops.
“The D.C. National Guard will remain on orders until March 31, 2020,” said Capt. Melissa Heintz, a spokesperson for the D.C. Guard’s 113th Air Wing.
The New York National Guard activated nearly 550 troops to remain in the nation’s capital “as part of the National Guard Bureau’s continuation of security assistance” through mid-March, said Col. Richard Goldenberg, a New York Guard spokesperson, in a phone interview Tuesday evening. A Monday statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo clarified that the newly mobilized soldiers will replace the 1,300 already there.
Other states are bringing home their troops next month or sooner as part of the ongoing reduction in forces.
Virginia’s 1,000-strong contingent of guardsmen will be among those leaving Washington between now and mid-March, according to an email to Military Times from a Virginia Guard spokesperson. They will depart “in early to mid-February,” said Alfred “Cotton” Puryear. He declined to release the exact date of their return, citing operational security concerns.
Maryland is withdrawing its National Guard troops from Washington “by the end of the week,” said Gov. Larry Hogan in a press conference Tuesday. The troops will be “immediately reassigned” to COVID-19 vaccination-related duties, Hogan said. Maryland contributed “approximately 800 members” to the inaugural response, said Maryland National Guard spokesperson Maj. Kurt Rauschenberg in an email to Military Times.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.