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SALT LAKE CITY — With possible civil unrest facing the nation's capital on the eve of the presidential inauguration, a group of Utah citizen soldiers will be among those providing protection against potential threats for the next several days.
Approximately 350 members of the Utah National Guard began mobilizing Friday on deployment to Washington, D.C., to support civil authorities for the presidential swearing-in ceremony scheduled for Wednesday.
"It's an exciting opportunity to be there in the national capital to see the inauguration," said Maj. Mangum, who asked that his and others' first names be withheld for security reasons. "So more than anything, it's an honor and it's a real opportunity to be able to go out."
As part of their mission, the local service members will be there to protect lives, preserve property, protect critical infrastructure and the right to peacefully assemble, he said.
An 18-year military serviceman with previous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mangum said this assignment presents some unique challenges from others he has undertaken during his career.
"(This) may be one of the most difficult deployments that we have because we're dealing with fellow citizens. You go overseas and you can tell who's American and who's not. These are our fellow citizens, so it is different in that aspect," he explained. "The most important thing that we could probably say is that we take an oath to the Constitution of the United States, to support its legal authorities and the legal orders of those authorities appointed over us."
Asked how he feels about the possibility of potentially engaging against fellow Americans, he mentioned a previous assignment last year that was also in the national capital.
"I had the opportunity to be out there in D.C. in June when they had the riots. I saw how National Guard soldiers interacted with people that were angry and you find common ground, you find opportunities to deescalate the situation," Mangum said. "I saw a lot of the soldiers on those lines offering water, talking about things that they have in common as U.S. citizens, sharing certain life experiences and that's the first tool that we have in our toolkit is to find that common ground."
Utah National Guardsmen were deployed at the request of national command authorities. Service members are traveling from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C., by the Utah Air National Guard's KC-135 military aircraft. While on assignment, all personnel will be medically ready and adhere to COVID-19 risk mitigation protocols.
"A task force, comprised of service members from throughout the state will assist the Washington D.C. National Guard," said Lt. Col. Clayton Anderson, commander of Utah National Guard element. "We are honored to assist local and federal partners and appreciate the support from our family, friends and employers."
In addition to security support, the Utah Air National Guard's 130th Engineering Installation Squadron will provide communications support of the inauguration. The communication-support package requested for presidential inaugurations is comprised of approximately 14 airmen and communication equipment that will provide interoperability for communication systems used by supporting agencies throughout Washington, according to a news release.
"The Utah National Guard has responded to domestic emergencies on an unprecedented level this past year. We are proud to support our partners and serve our fellow Americans once again," said Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. "Every member of the Utah National Guard is committed to our national and military values and our oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States."
For another Utah guardsman, Spc. MacArthur, this will be his first deployment. He said this is an opportunity to use his training and work to ensure safety and security around the inauguration.
"I took an oath when I joined the military to protect against enemies, foreign and domestic," he said. "I have confidence in my training and in my leaders and I don't feel afraid for me or for anyone. I do have a good feeling about everything and I'm happy to go down there and do what's asked to be done."
The son of a U.S. Navy veteran, MacArthur, 25, said he is proud of the military tradition he's inherited from his family and looks forward to serving in whatever capacity is asked of him on this assignment.
"We're here for this country, we're all Americans. As National Guard members, we put on the uniform to serve and to keep this country safe and keep everyone safe," he said. "I'm feeling confident that everything is gonna be good, and everything's gonna work out and just keep that American way of life."