By Maj. Margaret Ziffer
105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Kansas Army National Guard
TOPEKA, Kan. – More than 270 Kansas National Guard Soldiers and Airmen travelled to Washington, D.C., ahead of the 59th U.S. presidential inauguration Jan. 17 to assist civilian law enforcement agencies in providing security to the capital region.
Lt. Col. Tom Warth of Valley Falls, deputy officer in charge of the contingent, said the timeline for supporting the mission was compressed, demonstrating the flexibility of the individuals and the organization.
“Things like this (mobilization) usually take a year or two to plan out; we were able to do in in a couple days,” Warth said. “The speed and agility we were able to show, I thought was pretty impressive.”
Coming from different units all over the state, the Guardsmen had a lot to accomplish before departing for D.C. to ensure they were prepared. “We built our teams over the course of those two days,” Warth said. “We also did our periodic health assessments and physicals, as well as qualified on our weapons to make sure we were up-to-date on our qualifications.”
Upon arrival to the capital region, Kansas personnel organized under Task Force Response, a multi-state quick reaction force staged at nearby locations and designed to be able to get to the capitol on short notice in the case of an incident.
Following the Jan. 20 inauguration, Kansas personnel were assigned as additional security for the Supreme Court of the United States and several buildings in the Library of Congress.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Runyon of Topeka, noncommissioned officer in charge, said the sheer number of security personnel was astonishing. In additional to local law enforcement agencies, the National Guard surged over 25,000 additional people to support.
“It was jaw-dropping,” Runyon said. “Just being there to see it. There were so many different agencies and different law enforcement personnel we worked with, who were all very supportive and accommodating.”
Warth said morale remained high among Kansas Guardsmen throughout the mission, which he attributes to the fact that every person on the team volunteered for the duty.
“The team did a great job,” Warth said. “Everyone was very respectful. Everyone did the job they were asked and they did it very professionally.” Runyon, who supported COVID-19 missions in the state of Kansas in 2020 and has deployed to Africa and the Middle East, said in some ways, this mission was more difficult because it hit closer to home.
“Overseas, you’re fighting for something that might not necessarily impact you directly,” Runyon said. “Here, this impacts us all directly. But when it comes down to it, I’m not here to defend one person’s win or loss. I have to stay neutral on the whole thing. We’re here for a reason and I’m here to do a job.”
Ultimately, Runyon decided not only to volunteer for the initial mission, but also to stay behind with the remaining contingent until March 15, a decision he said was difficult to make taking into consideration his two children at home.
“I’m looking forward to being here for my team,” Runyon said. “I’m excited to see how they grow and become more mature Soldiers. And I’m definitely looking forward to growing into the job too, to working through the challenges and getting things done.”