The Hawaii National Guard clarified today that some of its soldiers sent to Washington D.C. for inauguration duty had to take breaks Thursday in a parking garage after troops from around the country were removed from Capitol Complex buildings.
Photos of National Guard troops jammed into a parking garage outraged lawmakers Thursday. President Joe Biden today apologized for the Guard removal.
About 200 Hawaii Guard soldiers who are preparing to depart the nation’s capital were part of a more than 26,000-strong force mobilized from Guard units across the country to provide security for the presidential inauguration.
CNN was among news outlets reporting that areas including the cafeteria of a Senate office building used as rest areas were made off-limits to citizen soldiers.
One Guard member told CNN his unit and others had been “banished to a corner of a parking garage” with one bathroom and one electrical outlet.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono tweeted Thursday that “Guardsmen are arriving back at the Capitol tonight, but they never should have been forced to leave in the first place. We will get to the bottom of what happened here and hold those responsible accountable.”
UPDATE: Guardsmen are arriving back at the Capitol tonight, but they never should have been forced to leave in the first place.
We will get to the bottom of what happened here and hold those responsible accountable. https://t.co/LMbz4QwcsC
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) January 22, 2021
Jeff Hickman, a Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said today that for local troops who “were in the garage, it was all the breaks were taken in the garage for a couple of hours before they got moved back to the Capitol or the hotel. They were in the garage during breaks during their shift.”
Hickman said all the Hawaii troops had hotel rooms which they returned to at night.
“They conveyed to me that it was no big deal,” he said of the flap.
Hawaii Guard troops who were part of a small headquarters element were moved out of a basement room and to another room, but not the parking garage, Hickman said.
Hickman said “all of the conference rooms (at the Capitol) — everything was cleared out. And then there were also rest areas for people who were on a 12-hour shift, where they would go in and warm up for maybe 15 to 20 minutes every two hours — that was taken away. So they were told they needed to take their breaks at the garage.”
Law enforcement initially said the troops had been moved out of Capitol spaces Thursday afternoon at the request of Capitol Police due to “increased foot traffic” with Congress heading back into session, The New York Times reported.
Hickman said the Hawaii National Guard mission shifted from working with Virginia State Police at traffic control points on bridges leading into the D.C. area to one of helping protect Capitol grounds. That mission now has ended.
Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran and former Hawaii resident who graduated from McKinley High and the University of Hawaii, tweeted late Thursday night Washington time: “Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight.”
Just after midnight she added: “Troops are now all out of the garage. Now I can go to bed.”