WA Air Guard mobilized quickly for inauguration mission
Story by Capt. Hans Zeiger
CAMP MURRAY, Wash.— When members of the Washington Air National Guard’s 194th Wing were activated to support the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January, most faced a short turnaround time. Their mission was to take part in the nationwide Guard effort to provide security and other support to civilian agencies throughout the inaugural events. Eighty-six members of the wing were among more than 400 Washington National Guard members who took part in supporting the inauguration.
Airmen of the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron and the 194th Security Forces Flight responded and mobilized for the mission known as Operation CAPITOL RESPONSE within 72 hours.
“The responsiveness of our airmen was amazing, from the people in the units to the people in support agencies,” said Lt. Col. Jason Kramer, 194th Wing inspector general plans and exercises officer. “We’re seeing the community come together to support and defend the constitution.”
2nd Lt. Katrina Guerra, operations section commander of the 194th Security Forces Flight, said that airmen “were able to come on short notice and we have really good senior NCOs who were able to work all the logistics and all the personnel stuff.”
2nd Lt. Heidi Hapstonstall, installation deployment officer in the 194th Logistics Readiness Squadron, described the planning that had to be done within her squadron in order to mobilize airmen to Washington, DC.
“We have to coordinate a schedule of events so everyone knows where they’re supposed to be and can leave on time,” said Haptonstall.
The Washington National Guard’s Joint Operations Center secured KC-135 airlift from the Washington Air Guard’s 141st Air Refueling Wing, “so once we had that piece, we knew what their pick-up time was and when we needed to have this ready by.” Logistics planners had to coordinate with supply personnel, organize deployment-style lines, arrange ground transportation, and channel information the National Guard Bureau, said Haptonstall. “All of our sections were engaged."
In addition to the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron and the 194th Security Forces Flight, a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability team from the 242nd Combat Communications Squadron took part in support to the inauguration, though its role had been coordinated further in advance. Members of the 194th Communications Flight and the 256th Intelligence Squadron also provided support.
Guard members who hold civilian jobs at prominent Pacific Northwest companies were among those who departed on short notice to take part in Operation CAPITOL RESPONSE, according to Lt. Col. Tyrone Clark, commander of the 194th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
“That really is the strength of what the National Guard brings to the table, that ability at a moment’s notice to just go,” said Clark. “When you take all of that, and you take the dedication to our work, even though it is a herculean effort, it is made all the easier when you know that everybody at every point in the game is doing their best to make it work. Even when there are steps that don’t quite go right, [when you see] the flexibility and how hard folks are working the job to get it done, it makes it seem a lot easier than it really is. Because the reality is, there are a lot of moving parts. We also have to be ready to flex to make a lot of different changes.”
Before Air and Army Guardsmen boarded a KC-135 at McChord Field on January 17, Gov. Jay Inslee stopped by to make remarks and thank the troops. “You are helping to secure our democracy,” Inslee said.
“Everyone did an amazing job as usual, from the operational elements to the folks who supported the deployment,” said Col. Kenneth Borchers, commander of the 194th Wing. “My hat is once again off to our phenomenal airmen.”