Questions persist about how quickly the National Guard arrived at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to help quell the mob of pro-Trump supporters who had forced their way into the building.
The head of Maryland’s National Guard said Friday that he finally got the OK from the Pentagon about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday to move troops into the District of Columbia. That was more than 90 minutes after Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, Maryland’s adjutant general, told Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, that Gov. Larry Hogan had signed off on deploying a 100-member response force.
Although National Guard troops are under the command of their state governors in most situations, D.C.’s unique status means that out-of-state Guard units need permission from the secretary of defense to enter the Washington area, also known as the National Capital Region.
“By [11 p.m.] I had all my soldiers in the armory ready to go,” Maj. Gen. Gowen said during an interview with Pentagon reporters. “They were standing by for D.C. to accept them.”
The decision was made to keep the Maryland troops in the armory until Thursday morning because of safety concerns. The National Guard soldiers had been working at their regular civilian jobs when they were told to report to their units, Maj. Gen. Gowen said.
“It’s a tiered response,” he said. “We’ve got to accept the notion that the National Guard is not a first responder force.”
Police cleared the Capitol of protesters by Wednesday evening, and Congress reconvened around 8:30 p.m.
The first Maryland National Guard soldiers arrived in D.C. about 10 a.m. on Thursday and were followed about two hours later by a contingent of troops from Virginia.
“We were ready to go within eight hours and we’re pretty proud of that,” Maj. Gen. Gowen said. “In terms of a National Guard response, that’s lightning fast.”
National Guard soldiers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey also were sent to help keep the peace in the nation’s capital through the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden. They are expected to be on duty for at least a month, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Gowen said his troops are prepared for any situation that might erupt.
“My guys are pretty well experienced. We started out Gov. Hogan’s tenure with the civil unrest in Baltimore,” he said. “We’ve been pretty well on top of that mission set ever since.”