National Guard Sleeping in a Garage!

What we have here is failure to communicate.

Big kerfuffle overnight about the National Guardsmen who had been guarding the Capitol suddenly needing to find a new place to sleep.

POLITICO (“‘We feel incredibly betrayed’: Thousands of Guardsmen forced to vacate Capitol“):

Thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities, sending them outdoors or to nearby parking garages after two weeks pulling security duty after the deadly riot on Jan. 6.

One unit, which had been resting in the Dirksen Senate Office building, was abruptly told to vacate the facility on Thursday, according to one Guardsman. The group was forced to rest in a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, the person said. Temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall.

“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” the Guardsman said.

[…]

Top lawmakers from both parties took to Twitter to decry the decision and call for answers after POLITICO first reported the news Thursday night, with some even offering their offices to be used as rest areas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.” And Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) noted that the Capitol complex remains closed to members of the public, “so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them.”

By 10 p.m., Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said the situation was “being resolved” and that the Guardsmen would be able to return indoors later in the night.

“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,” added Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both of her legs in combat. “I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”

WaPo (“‘This is absurd’: Scores of National Guard members banished to Senate parking garage, soldiers say“) adds:

The soldiers said they were not given a reason for the initial transfer. But defense officials said Capitol police moved the Guard members off the grounds as foot traffic from lawmakers and other officials increased in the area.

The Guard members have hotel rooms to sleep in, officials said. But soldiers are on duty for a day or two, working shifts a few hours at a time and cannot easily return to their hotels, many of which are in Virginia and Maryland. So they nap wherever they can — on concrete, indoor tennis courts or on carpet floors.

NYT (“National Guard troops who protected the Capitol for Biden’s Inauguration were told to sleep in a parking garage.“) adds:

On Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire demanded that state’s troops be sent home.

“I’ve ordered the immediate return of all New Hampshire National Guard from Washington D.C.,” Mr. Sununu, a moderate Republican, said on Twitter. “They did an outstanding job serving our nation’s capital in a time of strife and should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions.”

The optics of this are obviously terrible. That this has been seriously mismanaged is beyond question. At the same time, there’s way too much whining to the media by Guardsmen and too much grandstanding by politicians here.

The deployment of a huge, multi-state Guard force on extremely short notice after the events of 6 January was necessarily going to be messy. Images of Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of the Capitol were shocking to people who have never served in the military, especially the ground forces. (Sleeping where one can find it in often austere conditions is the nature of the business.) And, while stories of local restaurants showing up to provide gourmet meals for the troops might be heartwarming, one hopes that Guard and Pentagon leadership had made a plan for feeding them.

Suddenly ousting the troops without explanation is a bad look. But Congress is now back in session and there’s zero reason to have Guardsman inside the Capitol at this point.

To the extent Guardsmen are sleeping in parking garages in chilly weather, it’s a function of their own leadership failing to plan. They’ve had two weeks now to figure out how to shuttle folks to their hotel rooms. But, to the extent some trooper has to sleep on a non-dirt floor in the nation’s capital for one evening the Republic will survive.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mister Bluster says:

    …hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities,..

    The same Capitol Police that were unprepared for Trump’s insurrectionist terrorists to storm the United States Capitol even though there was ample warning.
    What’s going on here?

    10
  2. Jen says:

    Bad optics, but the grandstanding is perhaps necessary. Several Republican members of Congress are blaming House/Senate “leadership” for this mess, when it’s clearly a problem brought about by the Capitol Police and the Pentagon not thinking things through.

    I’m inclined to give the Capitol Police the tiniest bit of a pass on this, as they probably still have injured officers not back on duty and are likely still reeling from the deaths of two of their members. Decisions made under stress are not always well-considered.

    Daily kerfuffle, gotta get those news clicks.

    2
  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Tammy Duckworth intervened and they will be back in the complex now. I’m a big fan of that woman.
    That said, I bet the parking garages are damn nice compared to some bivouacs.
    Also…let’s not forget that they wouldn’t be there, in the first place, had Trump and Cruz and Josh Hawley not staged a murderous coup attempt.

    15
  4. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Yes to all of the above but wow – that’s an amazingly clean parking garage!

    3
  5. steve says:

    In the Riyadh area bring Desert Storm we had troops sleeping in parking garages. Grungy ones where lots of people got sick.

    Steve

    3
  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The horror.

    On a scale of 1-10 this rates 0.2.

    9
  7. Fortunato says:

    For Christ’s sake, this is the dumbest ‘outrage’ on the planet.
    This is Benghazii!!-Benghazii!! level lunacy.

    4000+ Americans are dying every day; 50+ million Americans remain frothy in their delusion that the sitting president “stole” the election; guns and ammunition are all but unattainable due the unprecedented, fevered demand of a treasonous rube nation; in their rush ever-rightward the grifting winger media has only intensified their nurturing of hate and division while continuing to provide yet more platforms to promote insurrectionism; 1.4 Million Americans were newly unemployed last week; 1 in 5 Americans goes to bed hungry at night; millions of Americans have/are newly acquiring often debilitating Covid related pre-existing conditions; 10’s of millions of families are still staring at imminent eviction; our trade relationships have been destroyed, leaving millions of farm families around the nation reliant on record levels of government welfare;
    …you folks are well versed in the myriad of onerous challenges left in the wake of Trump’s American Carnage Tour.
    The United States has been knocked to its knees and we’re hoping that beyond the polish and pizazz of Biden’s highly skilled campaign team that an ‘inconstant’ 78 year old politician with a less than stellar 40+ year record in government has the wherewithal to save us.

    So, sorry, but f–k the momentary inconvenience of those who signed up and are paid for their service in the National Guard being required to nap in a pristine, squeaky clean, heated, cooled and plumbed garage as they gnosh on free pizza and sodas and exchange fart jokes.
    Thousands of roady grunts like me spend a least a few nights every year snuggling up to their briefcase on a skanky airport bench with loudspeakers blaring at you all night long. There’s no hazard pay for us, no one is bringing us free pizza and the bathrooms no doubt pale in comparison to those in the Senate garage.

    Let’s now forget – when those folks were all kids they used to cherish such opportunities, they were called ‘sleepovers’.

    9
  8. Michael says:

    There is a saying in the Navy that a sailor can sleep anywhere, any time. When you’re tired, a steel deck is just fine.

    5
  9. CSK says:

    According to OANN, Donald Trump has offered the NG the use of The Trump International Hotel.

    They won’t like getting the bill.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    There are Democrats in the White House and the supposedly liberal MSM have column inches to fill. And they prefer to fill them with scandal. With Biden they may have to make do with troops in a parking garage and tan suits.

    2
  11. Andy says:

    As a vet who spent many nights sleeping in unusual places that didn’t have beds, the fact that this was a parking garage is – by itself- not a big deal assuming the troops have what they need to do so safely.

    But the obvious problem I noticed in one article on this is that there was a lack of adequate latrine facilities – supposedly only a single porta-potty. Troops can sleep anywhere (assuming they have appropriate cold-weather gear) to include a parking garage, but they still have to take a dump somewhere every day. The fact that this most basic planning element was missing suggests the move to the parking garage was an ad hoc affair.

    2
  12. dazedandconfused says:

    @Fortunato:
    Nah, Duckworth was right. The capital police should have communicated with the officer in charge about their departure. If they needed a day to get them someplace with heat and heads the police should have let them spend another night on the floors of the complex. There was no compelling reason to kick them out immediately, if there had been Duckworth would have been unable to get them back in. Somebody screwed up.

    The grandstanding is indeed over-wrought and cringe-worthy, nonetheless. The unwritten rule in DC: “An outrage is a terrible thing to waste.”

    3
  13. Mu Yixiao says:

    A garage?! They got a garage?

    Why…. back in MY day….

    (up hill–both ways)

    2
  14. JohnMcC says:

    When a hurricane seemed likely to flood Tampa Bay I retreated to a 5level parking garage in my pickup and the Mrs and I slept there overnight. It was connected to a hospital and we used the facilities there. The only problem was that the ‘floor’ was tilted because the parking spots are at 90degrees to the grade of the slab. Would have been more comfortable to put pad & sleeping bag on the concrete and sleep with head elevated.

    Agree with ‘not much of a problem’, with ‘bad leadership planning’ and too much grandstanding.

    1
  15. Mikey says:

    @Andy:

    Troops can sleep anywhere (assuming they have appropriate cold-weather gear) to include a parking garage, but they still have to take a dump somewhere every day.

    Future archaeologists will be able to trace the path of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division across southern Iraq in 1991 by graphing the locations of my poop.

    2
  16. Andy says:

    @Mikey:

    Future archaeologists will be able to trace the path of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division across southern Iraq in 1991 by graphing the locations of my poop.

    Ah, you’re one of the lucky ones! I was stuck in Kandahar where the stench from the “poo pond” wafted over us practically every day and was unavoidable. Any whiff I get from a porta-potty today brings me right back there.

    1
  17. Jen says:

    @Mikey: Were you at Medina Ridge? A friend from college was a tank commander in the 1st Armored Division, what he talked most about was the g*dd#mn sand…said it was everywhere and had the consistency of talcum powder so you could never, ever get rid of it.

    2
  18. Mikey says:

    @Jen: I was at Medina Ridge. Mostly as a spectator, since there wasn’t much need for close air support. It is hard to believe that was 30 years ago.

    Your friend is 100% correct about the sand. That shit got everywhere. We tried to clean everything up before we went back to Germany, but I was still shaking it out of things weeks later.

    2
  19. Mikey says:

    @Jen: Also I think you’re the first person who’s ever asked me that outside the military. Medina Ridge was one of the single largest armor engagements in American military history and almost nobody knows about it.

    4
  20. Kathy says:

    There are worse things than sleeping in a garage, like getting infected with SARS-CoV-2.

    I hope they all recover.

    1
  21. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mikey:

    Sahara sand is even worse. Unlike talc no matter how fine it maintains the ability to irritate…and no crevice is beyond it’s reach.