Pentagon chief thanks Guard as Capitol mission closes

Pentagon chief thanks Guard as Capitol mission closes
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Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it China moves quickly to replace America in Afghanistan Harris to travel to Vietnam, Singapore in August MORE on Monday thanked the National Guard as it ended its nearly five-month deployment in Washington, D.C.

About 2,149 Guardsmen will return home this week after being called to the district following the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The mission ended Sunday after the Defense Department did not receive a request to extend it. 

“They came here from all 54 states and territories, leaving behind jobs, homes and families, to bolster security at the Capitol in the wake of the dramatic events on January 6th,” Austin said in a statement. “Many of them volunteered for this duty, and most of them did so on little notice. In good weather and bad — sometimes cold and wet and tired — they provided critical capability to the Capitol Police and local authorities.”

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Thousands of Guardsmen had been bolstering security at the Capitol since supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE stormed the building while lawmakers were certifying President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE’s victory in the November election. 

At its height, nearly 26,000 Guardsmen were in the capital region to help shore up the Capitol Police before eventually dropping down to roughly 2,300 troops in March.

But the extended deployment garnered bipartisan criticism as unjustified and expensive, with an expected $521 million price tag. 

Austin’s statement praised the deployment for protecting “not only the [Capitol] grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people’s business could continue unabated. They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the Constitution.” 

He also noted that it’s been a trying year for the National Guard as the military arm has had to contend with the usual natural disasters on top of civil unrest and an ongoing pandemic.

“As these troops depart for home and a much-deserved reunion with loved ones, I hope they do so knowing how much the nation appreciates their service and sacrifice — and that of their families and employers.  I hope they know how very proud we are of them,” he said.