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Vt. National Guard Members In DC: 'We're Making Sure It's A Peaceful Transition Of Power'

Vermont National Guard soldiers, identified by the state coat of arms on their unit patch over the left shoulders, participate in crowd control training at Fedex Stadium in Landover, Maryland ahead of the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.
Sgt. Jason Alvarez
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Vermont National Guard
Vermont National Guard soldiers, identified by the state coat of arms on their unit patch over the left shoulders, participate in crowd control training at Fedex Stadium in Landover, Maryland ahead of the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.

There are more than 25,000 National Guard soldiers in Washington, DC from multiple states to help with security for Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, which is tighter after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Roughly 100 soliders are from Vermont, and according to task force commander Capt. Erik Lahr, they're there to respond if needed.

VPR's Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Vermont National Guard Capt. Erik Lahr. Their conversation below has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Mitch Wertlieb: How many Guard members are there right now from Vermont? And if you could tell us a little bit about your role, your mission, for today's inauguration?

Capt. Erik Lahr: We've got about 100 personnel down here from Vermont. And our mission is basically a response force. We're staged in a key location, ready to provide security and support to local law enforcement down here.

Can you tell us a little bit about that key location about where you guys are going to be exactly?

Yeah, it's in the DC area. We can't really go into any more detail than that.

OK. How long will you be in the nation's capital before returning to Vermont?

We got down here Saturday, and we're slated to be down here for about a week. It's flexible at this point, kind of end date of when we'll wrap up our mission here and head home.

Capt. Lahr, can you give us an idea of like, what it kind of looks like there in Washington, DC? Is the city itself on lockdown? What's the feel of it there?

Yeah, there's still civilian traffic and folks moving about their day. But you do notice a bigger law enforcement presence, you know, on roads and closing down certain key traffic intersections and roads around the around the Capitol region.

More From VPR: Dartmouth Researcher Warns Of 'Splits Among The Population' If American Extremism Persists

"People down here are really happy to have us. I think it makes people feel really safe, and makes them feel good that, you know, we're down here, making sure it's a peaceful transition of power, and we're supporting the democratic process." — Capt. Erik Lahr

Is there a feeling of tension or is it sort of, everybody's going about their business hoping for the best, kind of thing?

As we've been around, I think there's a feeling of welcoming in the community. People down here are really happy to have us. I think it makes people feel really safe and makes them feel good that, you know, we're down here, making sure it's a peaceful transition of power, and we're supporting the democratic process.

Capt. Lahr, it's been reported that federal agents have removed 12 Army National Guard members from various states for inauguration duty due to either comments or behavior that agents described as “inappropriate” or “questionable.” Now, officials are saying this doesn't mean that any of these individuals necessarily have ties to any extremist groups. I am wondering, though, are any Vermont Guard members among those 12 that have been removed from their security detail today?

No, they haven't. You know, I've heard the same thing you have in the news about those removals, but it hasn't been any Vermont Guard members.

How does that make you feel that there are any Guard members at all, not from Vermont, which I'm sure is a relief to you, but just knowing that there have been 12 Guard members who have needed to be removed? How does that make you feel?

I guess it's a microcosm of society, you know, who makes up the National Guard. So, you know, we are reflection of the society we come from.

I know that as a Guard soldier, as a captain, you are laser-focused on carrying out your mission, keeping order. I do have to ask, though, what were you feeling when you saw the events that occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6?

You know, it's just tough. It's hard, because those are American citizens. It's a tough situation to see. And it really, again, it just motivates me even more to come down here and keep the peace as an American.

Do you expect a calm, uneventful day today when Joe Biden is inaugurated?

I hope so. And, you know, in talking with law enforcement officials down here, they have a great plan to make sure it's a safe day.

I mean, the guard presence of around 25,000 Guard members, it would seem the height of foolishness for any bad actors to attempt any kind of attack like the one we saw on Jan. 6. Wouldn't that be an accurate statement?

There's a lot of folks down here, and the civilian law enforcement, too, has really amped up their presence. So, you know, I think we're ready to respond to basically anything that could happen down here.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb @mwertlieb.

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