Members of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from the Utah Army National Guard have been on duty in the nation’s capital. Elements of the 19th SFGA have been moved there in response to the civil unrest in Washington D.C. The death of an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis while being detained by police has ignited protests and riots across the country.
The turmoil in Washington has made the headlines due to the burning of a church by protesters, riots in the street, numerous fires, automobiles vandalized, and looting of businesses across the city. Dozens of police have been injured. In addition, an ill-advised photo op by President Trump has prompted outrage and consternation among active and retired senior military officers.
Over 1,200 National Guard members from the D.C. National Guard have been activated. In addition, there are about 3,300 Guard members in D.C. from about ten different states across the country. About 200 of them are from the Utah National Guard. Across the country over 32,000 Guard troops have been activated in more than 30 states.
19th Group Soldiers Were Postured for Deployment. The members of the 19th Special Forces Group were already readied for an overseas deployment and were quickly reassigned to provide additional security for the District of Colombia. They flew from Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base in Salt Lake City to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. They have been deployed to the District of Colombia in a support role for federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Guard officials explained that the members of the Special Forces unit were selected because of their immediate availability; not their specific skill set. Most of the members of the SF guard unit appeared to be staff and support personal; not the Green Berets found on the operational detachments. There were a few ‘tabbed’ soldiers but that is not uncommon with support units of an SF group. Soldiers assigned to a an SF group tend to be more seasoned and experienced. As mature soldiers they are sure to perform quite well in D.C. – showing restraint when called for but using the appropriate level of control options if and when needed.
At night they were tasked to provide security for federal buildings in the District of Colombia. During the day they were cleaning up debris, fixing damaged facilities, and painting over profanity on buildings in the parks and on federal property.
Hotel Drama. The District of Colombia had a contract to provide lodging for the guardsmen in hotels in the capital. However, in what many observers regard as a political move, the mayor of the District of Colombia is evicting the out-of-state National Guard members from the hotels where they are staying when not on duty. Guardsmen returned early on Thursday morning after a long, late night of security duties and told to pack up and leave. Apparently the rooms were reserved for out-of-state guardsmen responding to the COVID-19 crisis. So, it seems we have two classes of out-of-state guardsmen.
The Utah National Guard provided an official statement on the lodging drama for its guardsmen:
“It has been heartbreaking for our Utah National Guard service members to witness the pain, suffering, and frustration in our communities across this nation. Responding to civil unrest in Utah and in our nation’s capital is the hardest mission we face, but one that we are trained and prepared to do.
The Utah National Guard activated approximately 200 service members June 1, 2020, in response to a request for support from our national command authority. The Utah National Guard has been supporting civil authorities with our top priority of protecting lives as well as preserving property and critical infrastructure in our nation’s capital. Last night, we were informed that our service members would be relocated from their hotel rooms. At this time, their housing situation has not been resolved. The District of Columbia’s National Guard is working diligently to resolve the matter.
The Utah National Guard is in the area to help. We are committed to supporting our partners and serving our fellow Americans for as long as we are needed.”Utah National Guard’s official statement on the relocation of UTNG soldiers in Washington D.C., Friday, June 5, 2020
In an update to the hotel drama, the Utah National Guard has been informed that a different hotel has been identified and the issue has been resolved. The soldiers are locating to a new hotel as of Friday, June 5, 2020. National Guard based appropriations are paying for all out-of-state Guardsmen, including Utah.
How Long a Stay in D.C. – Big Question Mark. There is no official word on how long the 19th Group soldiers will be in D.C. There are a lot of factors involved for sure – politics, scale of the demonstrations, amount of destruction caused by rioters, level of violence, and other factors.
Update: The unit was postured for a deployment, for which, they were no longer needed. They were sent to D.C. as they were already on active status and able to rapidly respond to the request from the national command authority to support the nation’s capital.
The Soldiers of 19th SFG(A) are scheduled to return to Utah on Sunday, June 7, 2020. It was determined that the Guardsmen were not required in D.C. as the situation with protesters and rioters had settled down.
Other news articles:
“Standing Guard, Picking Up Trash and Getting Booted From a Hotel. Inside a Special Forces Unit’s Controversial Deployment to D.C.”, Time.com, June 12, 2020.
“Utah Army National Guard’s “Monument’s Men” return to Salt Lake City following D.C. civil unrest”, DVIDS 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, June 11, 2020.
“Utah National Guard troops deployed to D.C. evicted from hotel”, Sen. Mike Lee says”, Salt Lake Tribune, June 5, 2020.
“Utah Guard Sends Green Berets to DC to Assist in Civil Unrest Response”, Yahoo! News, June 4, 2020.
“What it’s like for Utah National Guard troops deployed in D.C.”, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 4, 2020.
Photo: Utah National Guard.