Reynolds: Guard treatment at U.S. Capitol ‘unconscionable’

By: - January 22, 2021 11:34 am

Members of the Iowa National Guard were deployed to Washington, D.C. to help with preparations and operations at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. (Photo courtesy of Iowa National Guard)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday called the U.S. Capitol Police’s treatment of Iowa National Guard soldiers sent to a parking garage to rest “unconscionable.”

Reynolds called Iowa’s adjutant general Friday morning to confirm the Guard members would be leaving for home immediately after a dust-up over the U.S. Capitol Police ordering soldiers to take their breaks outside or in a parking garage nearby. They had been resting inside the Capitol complex, sometimes on hard floors.

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference Dec. 3, 2020, at Iowa PBS. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS)

After a national outcry on social media, the soldiers were allowed to return to the U.S. Capitol late Thursday. Soldiers from across the country were called in after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and during the ramp-up to Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden.

“I spoke to (Maj.) Gen. (Benjamin) Corell first thing this morning after learning what was taking place, and wanted to just verify that our men and women would be heading home,” Reynolds said on a WHO Radio program. Corell is adjutant general.

“He confirmed that our National Guard member soldiers that were stationed in Washington, D.C., are returning home today,” Reynolds added. 

The Iowa units were wrapping up their eight-day deployment, which included training and travel time, when the controversy erupted. Prior to that, they had been helping with response to the pandemic, and derecho recovery.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Corell, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, addresses a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on Jan. 14, 2021. (Screenshot via Iowa PBS)

“The level of expertise and just helping us meet the need in crisis is phenomenal and we are so grateful and they don’t deserve in any way to be treated like this,” Reynolds told WHO. “And it is just unconscionable.”

Social media exploded Thursday and Friday with messages after Politico and others reported that U.S. Capitol Police ordered National Guard units stationed at the Capitol to leave the complex. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.”

 

Corell told the governor the Iowa Guard would look for alternate transportation if the unit that was scheduled to transport the troops could not respond immediately.

The parking-garage flap is the latest of several involving National Guard soldiers. Photos of soldiers sleeping on the Capitol floor also brought complaints, after which congressional staffers arranged cots for the Guard members.

On Thursday, members of the Guard insisted U.S. Capitol Police ordered them to leave the Capitol complex, Politico reported. They were allowed to return Thursday night after social media featured steady complaints from the public and lawmakers. 

Capitol Police issued a statement saying that Guard members’ shifts had been shortened to give them more time to rest away from the Capitol. “The Department is grateful for their service and our strong partnership during this time,” the agency said.

The parking garage where many of the soldiers took their break had no Wi-Fi and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, Politico reported. Temperatures outside were in the 40s. 

The Associated Press reported that 10,600 of the 26,000 soldiers from around the country were still in the capital city Thursday. All were expected to return home over the next five to 10 days.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.

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