WASHINGTON — Hundreds of Oklahomans did not expect to witness history at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, but the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol shifted their plans.
The Oklahoma National Guard planned to send three Guardsmen to Biden’s inauguration prior to Jan. 6, but security concerns raised that number to 394 Guard members. In 2016, the Oklahoma National Guard sent about 40 personnel to support the inauguration.
“We have never sent large numbers of soldiers or airmen to a federal inauguration” Oklahoma National Guard Brigadier General Thomas Mancino said.
“Without those incidents [on Jan. 6] we would not be sending these numbers of young men and women to Washington,” said Mancino referring to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Donald Trump supporters that left five dead.
The Oklahoma National Guard will be providing support for the 59th Presidential Inauguration by way of traffic and crowd control, creating security checkpoints, and holding an armed presence around the U.S. Capitol. Before the Oklahoma National Guard’s arrival into Washington, their assignments were unclear, requiring flexibility of the Oklahoma Guardsmen.
While many Americans fear what could happen throughout the week of the inauguration, the Oklahoma National Guard said they are focused on completing their mission.
“I think people are a little more nervous than they normally would be, but the nation has faced hairy incidences before,” Lieutenant Tomas Meget, of Oklahoma City, said describing the nervous tension surrounding the inauguration. “There’s been moments in US history where people were uncertain about the future, uncertain what might come next, but it’s one of those things where you do your duty and trust that the rest will fall into place.”
Specialist Rainey Jackson told her employer — Oklahoma City Gynecology and Obstetrics — a week after the riots at the Capitol that she was traveling to Washington. Jackson said her job as a medical assistant has not interfered with her six years of service in the National Guard.
“[OKC Gynecology and Obstetrics] are always really understanding,” Jackson said. “I can say the day of, in five minutes I need to leave, and they’re always super understanding.”
That flexibility of communication allows troops like Jackson to thrive in the Guard, she said. While the anticipation grows as the country nears Biden’s inauguration, the Oklahoma National Guards’ state pride grows too.
“Part of the job as the Guard is to support your state in any kind of disaster, and to be able to do that on a national level, that’s what we’re here for,” said Captain Brendon Galvin.
In addition to the 394 Oklahoma National Guardsmen and women in D.C., there are around 80 soldiers on duty at the state capitol in Oklahoma City.
Twelve guardsmen from other states were removed from the inauguration security mission on Monday following vetting and background checks led by the FBI and Secret Service. Two Guardsmen were removed for extremist links. Although prompted, the Oklahoma National Guard declined to answer any of Gaylord News’ questions on vetting or background checks.
Gaylord News is a Washington-based reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.