RI, Mass. National Guard members depart for US Capitol

South County

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — This past year, we’ve seen the many roles the R.I. National Guard has played here and abroad.

Of the 3,000 who serve, there are about 500 working on COVID-19 responses, either at testing sites or vaccination clinics, 165 members recently returned from overseas deployment in November and on Saturday morning, 100 members left to help keep the peace at the U.S. Capitol.

The troops boarded buses, bound for Washington, D.C., where they’ll be placed strategically to maintain order in the days surrounding the Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden Wednesday.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve gone down to support the Inauguration. Of course, this is the first time that we’ve gone down with the level of publicity, concern and certainly the atmospherics of the last week or so, but it’s not unprecedented by any stretch,” said Adjt. Gen. Christopher Callahan of the R.I. National Guard.

The troops are from the 143rd Security Force Squadron and the Alpha Company 182 Infantry and are highly trained in handling civil disturbance and crowd control.

Lt. Col. Dennis Pineault explained their exact orders are still unclear, but they’re joining as many as 20,000 troops from across the country, including more than 100 from Connecticut and some 500 troops from Massachusetts.

About 80 members from Melrose, Mass. also headed down to D.C. Saturday morning.

“Their job is going to be to secure and protect the House of Representatives,” said Major General Gary Keefe of the Mass. National Guard. “So that’s going to be their job to protect both the structure and protect the congressmen and women.”

Governor Charlie Baker called up an additional 500 troops to guard the State House at home.

The same could be seen at the R.I. State House, though state police say they haven’t heard of any credible threats locally, but are on high alert through the week.

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