Commanders felt confident the 500 soldiers would do a ‘professional’ job at the inauguration in D.C. after intense FBI scrutiny.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas National Guard commanders felt confident the 500 soldiers and airmen deployed to Washington D.C. for Inauguration Day would easily pass intensified scrutiny brought on by the fallout from the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
Concerns grew that right-wing extremists may be lurking within the ranks of the 25,000 “citizen soldiers” sent to Washington. The F.B.I. reportedly added extra “vetting” of the troops this week.
“Extremism of any kind isn’t tolerated in our ranks,” said Lt. Col. Brian Mason, commander of the Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs Office. “This is just a routine thing, to be honest. There’s no real reaction from us to apply to it.”
Several military veterans are prominent among the hundreds under arrest. The secretary of the Army said security coordinators openly questioned how many militia members may have infiltrated America’s original militia, the National Guard.
The idea angered some, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who tweeted this week that questioning the Guardsmen and women was “offensive.”
Lt. Col. Mason couldn’t comment on political reactions to the scrutiny. Instead, he pointed to procedures already in place that help to root out radicals before they get on a plane to a parade.
“Our commanders and leaders are empowered by various things: Army regulations and our own National Guard policies to ensure that our soldiers and our airmen are abiding by those policies,” he said.
The colonel listed options troop leaders have whenever a Guard member appears to espouse extremist beliefs, including counseling all the way up to dishonorable discharge and the involvement of local law enforcement.
But the colonel said those extreme measures are rare, and no members of the Arkansas soldiers raised any red flags to investigators. So far, a small number of people have been sent home from other states. The scrutiny may be an annoyance for some outside the service, but Lt. Col. Mason says it’s not something they’re dwelling on.
“There’s a lot of people that may get upset over that. I wouldn’t be. We aren’t. We’re there to do a professional job and we’re a bunch of professional soldiers and airmen,” he said.