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'Not people who typically serve on front lines': Troops guarding Capitol include cooks, mechanics

"Carrying old weapons, under-trained soldiers whose primary missions include cooking and supply are now standing around ammo-less for some show of force," said retired Army Major John Wagner.

Updated: March 10, 2021 - 2:58pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

National Guard troops who are assigned to protect the nation's capital include a large contingent of soldiers whose military jobs are to cook, drive, or change tires for their units, according to social media posts from officials. 

Approximately 5,000 National Guard troops remain in Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol, wherein local officials sought help from the National Guard. The mobilized troops are from around the country, and belong to units that have been placed under federal control. 

The National Guard Bureau, which administers operations of the individual state guards, did not respond to a request for information on the types of troops that have been mobilized to D.C. Photographs and social media posts from the D.C. National Guard, however, show that while some soldiers are military police or infantry, a large number are non-police, non-combat troops.

Photographs show that the troops now guarding the Capitol include cooks and truck drivers from Illinois; water purification specialists and mechanics from California; petroleum supply specialists from Michigan; and carpenters from Georgia. The soldiers are depicted carrying older, unloaded M-16 rifles.

The images drew notice among active duty and retired military.

''This is not a prime mission for the troops selected for 'protecting' D.C.," said retired Army Major John Wagner, who has served in National Guard, Reserve, and active duty capacities at home and at war. "They have turned the troops we depend on for local emergencies and fighting terrorism into some sort of Praetorian Guard."

Unlike the bodyguards from ancient Rome, though, the cooks and the supply personnel are not a vanguard fighting force.

"These are not people who typically serve on the front lines," one active duty Army officer told Just the News. 

Nor are they equipped to quell riots or repel attacks, noted the retired major, Wagner.

"Carrying old weapons, under-trained soldiers whose primary missions include cooking and supply are now standing around ammo-less for some show of force," he said.

The troops are on hand to support federal law enforcement agencies "with security, communications, medical evacuation, logistics, and safety support to district, state, and federal agencies through mid-March," the D.C. National Guard wrote in a Facebook post.

Their presence may continue for several more months. Citing concerns about ongoing security threats, Capitol Police asked that the National Guard remain in the city past an agreed Mar. 12 deadline.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed off on the request on Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on March 9 told reporters that the National Guard is on hand to "help bolster and support Capitol Police."

Officials have not specified the nature of a threat that would require thousands of soldiers to remain on hand to buttress local police — leading some to question whether the threat actually exists.

"The continued use of the National Guard in D.C. appears to be based more on politics than on security concerns," said Jim Hanson, president of Security Studies Group. "The event on January 6th was an anomaly, and there is no current threat that requires turning the Capitol into an armed camp."

Noted Wagner: "It's a sad use of our military."

A review commissioned by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recommended last week that the National Guard maintain a permanent presence in Washington, D.C., as part of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The review, led by retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore, on Friday issued a report that offered various scenarios on how to enact the recommendation.

"This could be done by mobilizing military police from Guard elements across the U.S. on rotations of three to six months," Honore's team wrote. "Another option would be to create a QRF that permanently resides within the D.C. Guard by reestablishing a military police battalion and staffing it with Active Guard Reserve troops who live in or near the city year-round, perpetually on active duty."

Some military police units currently are part of the contingent guarding the Capitol, according to social media posts from the Washington, D.C. National Guard. In some photographs, military police from Ohio are depicted on duty. They are not carrying rifles.