Updated January 14, 2021 - 7:59 pm
As Thursday afternoon reached its golden hour, nearly 200 members of the Nevada Army National Guard stood in formation outside the Clark County Armory as they were briefed before their mission to Washington, D.C.
“This is historic,” said Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, their adjutant general. “You get a chance to be a part of something that’s never been done before in this country.”
The guardsmen, who will travel to the nation’s capital Friday morning to provide support before and during the Wednesday inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, erupted in applause.
Nevada is joining a total of 22,000 troops from 54 U.S. states and territories who will be in Washington, D.C., by Sunday — more than double the typical number of forces present on Inauguration Day.
“There’s more guardsmen that are going to be in the national capital region than we’ve got in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq altogether,” Berry said.
Those going to Washington are soldiers in the Nevada Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry and 3665th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company and airmen in the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Communications Flight.
Officials say the mission was set up before the violent siege Jan. 6 on the Capitol. The insurrection was spurred by supporters of President Donald Trump who believed the November presidential election was fraudulent.
The U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Parks and Recreation police had made the request for additional support before and during Biden’s inauguration, National Guard Gen. Daniel Hokanson said in a statement.
The Nevada Guardsmen will provide military personnel and equipment for the inauguration ceremony.
They also will provide law enforcement with security, logistics and communications support and have undergone extensive riot training to prepare for the mission.
After Jan. 6, additional guardsmen and resources were added to the effort, Berry said. He reminded the guardsmen on Thursday that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed in the riot at the Capitol, was in the New Jersey National Guard.
“This was one of own, and so that’s something that should be taken to heart,” he said. “This is a no-fail mission. We cannot fail this mission. We will not fail this mission. And I told them on the phone today that the Nevada National Guard will ensure this will be a great mission.”
For young Sgt. Jalyn Todd, it would be her first time at an inauguration, and she said she acknowledged the historical nature of what was to come.
She also said she expects that there will be some conflict, but her job is to be on guard to keep everybody as safe as possible.
“It’s the best thing yet. I feel like it’s going to be a life-changing event, for myself and the American people to see,” she said. “It’s going to be exciting. So, I’m ready.”
At the briefing Thursday, Berry read aloud a letter from the National Guard Joint Chiefs of Staff that called Jan. 6 a “direct assault on the United States Congress, the Capitol building and the Constitutional process.”
“We’re battle born, battle ready, committed, dedicated, passionate, driven warriors ready to lead the fight,” Berry said.
Officers also encouraged the guardsmen and their families to stay off social media while on their mission. They told them the sole goal is to protect the Constitution.
Maj. Scott Katerman, the Nevada Guard’s judge advocate, instructed the soldiers Thursday to analyze the facts and circumstances of the situations they find themselves in and to document them.
“You being there is force in and of itself,” he said. “Use that gray matter. That’s more valuable and more potent than any weapons we will use.”
After federal warnings of potential activity at state capitols, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office announced Thursday that he has ordered the Nevada National Guard to assemble a “quick response unit” within the state to support law enforcement efforts.
The Nevada Department of Public Safety also is working in coordination with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to preserve the safety of all Nevadans in case any demonstrations turn violent, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“The exact dates of the missions and more details are not set to be released due to operational security,” the statement said.