A Utah National Guard contingent headed to Washington, D.C., on Friday to assist with the inauguration Wednesday, part of the broader response to expected protests.
The task is to “protect lives, preserve property, protect critical infrastructure, and the right to peacefully assemble,” according to a news release.
The National Guard sent about 350 service members at the request of national command authorities. They headed out early Friday on the Utah Air National Guard’s KC-135 military plane and will adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols during their trip.
An additional 14 airmen from the Utah Air National Guard’s 130th Engineering Installation Squadron will provide communication support for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“The Utah National Guard has responded to domestic emergencies on an unprecedented level this past year. We are proud to support our partners and serve our fellow Americans once again,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, the adjutant general. “Every member of the Utah National Guard is committed to our national and military values and our oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The U.S. Capitol might not be the only place that will have a Utah National Guard presence over the coming week.
Gov. Spencer Cox said the National Guard will be ready to assist police officers at a protest planned for Sunday at the Utah Capitol. There have been concerns of violence at protests planned around the country, but so far, the only rally planned in Salt Lake City for this weekend is a right-wing rally that organizers say will be peaceful. But Cox said that “it’s not going to take much at all” to bring in the National Guard.
The Guard has also helped with the state’s coronavirus response, working to track infections and oversee protective gear. The Guard will also assist in the vaccination effort.