Vt. Guardsmen Look Back on Inauguration Duty

  • Published
  • By TSgt Ryan Campbell
  • 158th Fighter Wing

WASHINGTON (March 1, 2021) – More than 100 Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers who recently returned to the state after providing security in Washington in the days before and after the 59th Presidential Inauguration, looked back on the experience.

The 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry was activated as part of the 25,000 member joint task force made up of National Guard units from across the country. More than 100 members of the 172nd arrived on January 17th and conducted security missions around downtown D.C. until departing on February 21.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Robert McDonald, a platoon leader assigned to the squadrons Alpha Troop explained they were excited as they don’t often get to train as an entire unit other than their year annual training periods. Adding to the excitement he continued, was the unknown aspect of what they were going to be experiencing.

The 172nd Cavalry, headquartered in St. Albans, Vermont, was part of Task Force Freedom which conducted missions near the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and Naval Observatory. Together with the Massachusetts Army National Guard, the task force numbered over 670 Soldiers.

“The reception from the D.C. area has actually been very good,” said McDonald, at the start of the mission. “Having the proper training done before we got here helped a lot to just jump right into each mission.”

McDonald said his unit continued training once on the ground in Washington as well. One of the main things they continued training on was responding to civil disturbances. Since they are cavalry Soldiers, that training isn’t part of their regular skill set.
“We’re prepared for it but it’s not something we train on year round,” said McDonald. “It wasn’t hard to learn, but different to get used to.”

The training also allowed them to identify strengths and weaknesses within the unit and adjust accordingly, said McDonald, adding that having strong leadership from the top of the chain of command on down and the various agencies they worked with was beneficial.

Others agreed.

“The people and the agencies that we’re working with have been extremely helpful and friendly,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Chad Paustian, a dismounted team leader assigned to Alpha Troop, 1/172nd Cav. Regt. “I haven’t run into a single person that didn’t say thank you.”

For Paustian, who has been in the Army National Guard for 21 years and is from Bennington, Vermont, he said the mission in Washington was both straight forward and rewarding. 

“The tempo is very sustainable. From what I’ve seen with our guys it’s not stressful,” said Paustian. “There’s plenty to do and we have had ample downtime.”

However, the short-notice announcement that the 172nd Cavalry was being sent to the nation’s capitol caught some of the Soldiers off guard. 

“Being sent here hadn’t really crossed my mind,” said Paustian, “but to hear that so many states gave some [troops] I think that’s pretty cool. We’ve seen a lot of other units that we normally don’t get to work with.”

“To hear that so many states gave some [troops], I think that’s pretty cool,” said Paustian. “We’ve seen a lot of other units that we normally don’t get to work with.”

As a team leader, one of Paustian’s responsibilities was to make sure his Soldiers were taken care of and had everything they needed. He also stressed the significance of their presence in Washington.

“It’s not the first time the military has been called to the capital, it’s happened [before],” said Paustian. “It’s a privilege, the active duty doesn’t get to do it in the capacity that we do so it’s definitely humbling.”

McDonald agreed. 
“The National Guard is giving me some of the best experiences and I couldn’t be more thankful for what I’ve done,” he said.

Paustian said he was glad to have been a part of the Washington mission.

“Honestly, I’d do it again if I could,” he said.