Montana Guard troops returning home from D.C.

Members of the Montana National Guard arrived in Helena on Jan. 26 after spending just over a week in Washington, D.C., supporting security operations for the inauguration.

“Our Montana National Guard soldiers deployed rapidly to Washington, D.C. to help ensure a peaceful transition of power, and accomplished that mission with success. On behalf of Montanans, I thank them for selflessly answering the call of duty to support our nation,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a release.

All of the soldiers returned Jan. 26 and the final aircraft with remaining gear returned Jan. 27, as it had a maintenance issue, according to Maj. Dan Bushnell, Montana Guard spokesman.

The soldiers returned because the governor had requested them and “there was no longer a need for our soldiers; there was no follow-on mission for them based upon the federal law enforcement agencies and the Capitol Police plan,” Bushnell told The Electric.

On Jan, 22, Gianforte said that he had instructed Adjutant General Pete Hronek to bring the Montana troops home.

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He had activated 165 troops on Jan. 14 that flew to D.C. on four C-130s from the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls.

Earlier this week, Acting Army Secretary John E. Whitely, Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; and Army Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, held a Pentagon news briefing regarding the role of the Guard in D.C.

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Whitely said during the briefing that the Guard had been requested to continue supporting federal law enforcement with about 7,000 personnel for several weeks and that would draw down to about 5,000 by mid-March. The requests had come from the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington D.C. and all had been approved, Whitely said during the briefing.

On Monday, Hokanson said there were about 13,000 National Guard troops in D.C., primarily conducting security missions in support of district and federal partners.

Earlier this month, Gianforte activated Montana troops in response to a request from the National Guard Bureau and federal authorities.

Soldiers from the 484th Military Police Company, located in Billings, Malta and Glasgow; 143rd Military Police Company, located in Lewistown; and Headquarters, Headquarters Company of the 1-163rd Combined Arms Battalion, located in Belgrade are being combined and tasked with the mission of supporting the Washington D.C. National Guard and federal law enforcement agencies in our nation’s capital, according to the release.

The troops served under Title 32 status as Gianforte has signed a memorandum of understanding delegating authority to the D.C. National Guard and civil authorities, according to Maj. Dan Bushnell, Montana Guard spokesman. That means the federal government will reimburse the state for the cost of Guard support.

As of Jan. 14, there were 148 Montana Guard members on COVID-19 response duty, Bushnell said. The federal government is reimbursing the state for that response as well.