- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2021

As their five-month mission finally came to a close, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Monday saluted the National Guard troops who were deployed to stand watch over the U.S. Capitol grounds during a tumultuous period in American history.

About 1,600 troops currently remain out of more than 25,000 guard personnel who left their civilian jobs and family to flood into Washington, D.C. following the Jan. 6 riots when a mob of pro-Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol building. On the day of the rally, a small contingent of some 340 unarmed National Guard was in the city, tasked with helping local police with crowd and traffic control.

“Many of them volunteered for this duty and most of them did so on little notice,” Secretary Austin said in a statement released Monday. “In good weather and bad, sometimes cold and wet and tired, they provided critical capability to the Capitol Police and local authorities.”

The price tag for the controversial mission was steep, at more than $500 million. 

“They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution,” Mr. Austin, a retired U.S. Army general, said.

The D.C. mission would have ended much sooner. In March, Mr. Austin approved a last-minute request from the Capitol Police to keep at least 2,000 soldiers at their posts until further notice. National Guard troops also took a lead role during the pandemic in supporting the mission to test for COVID-19 and help distribute the vaccine.

“It would be all too easy to take their service — and that of their incredible families — for granted,” Mr. Austin said. “We won’t do that, of course, because we know we will continue to call on them in times of need.” 

“I hope they know how very proud we are of them,” he said.

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