The Wisconsin National Guard says 500 of its members are now in the Washington, D.C. area. They're part of roughly 25,000 Guard troops from around the U.S. scheduled to provide safety at this week's inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Some members of Congress have raised questions about whether Guard members in D.C. should be screened for their political beliefs, when the nation is so divided just two weeks after pro-Trump extremists attacked the U.S. Capitol.
Wisconsin National Guard spokesman, Maj. Joe Trovato, says the state does no such screening.
"Our National Guard troops have come from all walks of life, all backgrounds. We're all different races, creeds, origins and ultimately, we are a cross-section of the population — just like any other organization,” Trovato tells WUWM.
But the Associated Press reported Sunday night that the FBI is looking into the background of all the U.S. Guard members assigned to Washington this week. Even so, Trovato says Wisconsin commanders have not given their troops any extra reminders about politics.
"We always stress that we're an apolitical organization. We don't take sides in any political matter,” Trovato says.
Still, Trovato says not all the Wisconsin troops sent to D.C. went because they wanted to be there.
"We've had a heavy workload over the last year. So, it's a combination of volunteers, certainly, and troops that are just mobilized,” hesays.
Trovato says the Wisconsin National Guard has about 10,000 members, so the public should not be concerned about 500 being sent to the nation's Capital. He says the Guard met every request it received last year.
Trovato says all the activity — even though the soldiers were not universally welcomed in every community —actually helped the Guard recruit a slightly igher than average number of new soldiers in 2020. About 950 came into the service.
Trovato says the Guard is prepared to meet all its requests this year. Besides having to help protect a new presidential administration this week, some members will remain on watch for potential election related protests at the State Capitol in Madison. Still others will start helping with new state mobilization teams for the COVID-19 vaccine.