- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A retired Army sergeant major who ran the nation’s enlisted National Guard association says “it’s paranoia” and a “serious distrust of our nation’s military” for FBI vetting of inaugural security troops on suspicion of extremist ties.

“I think it’s paranoia basically to vet members of the National Guard,” Frank Yoakum told The Washington Times. “National Guardsmen have already been vetted. They may hold views that are contrary to the incoming administration. But they nonetheless own security clearances, are trusted by this nation to do the nation’s bidding, both domestically and in times of war, and they don’t vet them before they send them to Afghanistan and Iraq or Somalia or Kosovo or any other place.”

A Democratic congressman suggested this week that Guardsmen might commit an act of sedition at Wednesday’s inaugural of President-elect Joseph R. Biden. 

Mr. Yoakum is a 30-year Army/Guard soldier who was executive director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States for four years. He is a lifetime member of an organization that lobbies Congress, has 35,000 active members and works for the betterment of more than one million military personnel, retirees and their families. 

The Pentagon acceded to an FBI precautionary screening of some 25,000 National Guard troops, following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters, some suspected of having extremist ties.

Some pro-military people have bristled at the screening, wondering if this is the first move by Biden loyalists to try to control or influence the military members’ political beliefs. 

On CNN, Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, said the National Guard detail in and around the National Mall are a “suspect” for some type of anti-Biden action. He brought up the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards.

He noted that the Guard is 90% male. “There are probably not more than 25% of the people there protecting us that voted for Biden,” he said. He called the Guard “predominantly more conservative” than the population. 

Said Mr. Yoakum, “They don’t vet them for their political beliefs before they send them overseas. They call up the Guard and the Guard responds every time without regard to what an individual Guardsman’s personal political beliefs happen to be. So now vetting them because of the incoming administration to me is a serious distrust of our nation’s military.” 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he finds the FBI/Pentagon vetting “offensive.”

“This is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard,” he tweeted. “No one should ever question the loyalty or professionalism of the Texas National Guard. I authorized more than 1,000 to go to DC. I’ll never do it again if they are disrespected like this.”

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller issued this statement on Monday:

“As is normal for military support to large security events, the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C. While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital. This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events. However, in this case the scope of military participation is unique. The D.C. National Guard is also providing additional training to service members as they arrive in D.C. that if they see or hear something that is not appropriate, they should report it to their chain of command. We appreciate the support of the FBI in assisting with this task and for each of the more than 25,000 Guardsmen who answered their Nation’s call and rapidly deployed to the NCR.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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