400 Mississippi National Guardsmen return home from D.C. mission
Photo by A. Danielle Thomas – Courtesy of Mississippi National Guard

The 400 Mississippi National Guard Service Members deployed to D.C. have returned home. 

After being mobilized to the nation’s capital last week to assist local law enforcement in the midst of ongoing protests – some peaceful & some violent – the members of ‘Task Force Magnolia’ have returned safely to Mississippi. According to the Mississippi National Guard, the task force’s mission was to  provide military and strategic support to law enforcement ensuring a safe and secure environment in the District of Columbia.

“It has been an honor for the MSNG to be a part of this historic mission.  MSNG has played an important role to keep our communities safe, offered help to heal divisions, and move our nation forward.  MSNG Soldiers executed their mission with honor, integrity and compassion as they served in a supporting role to civil authorities to safeguard our national monuments and protect the First Amendment Right for American citizens,” the MSNG said in a statement. 

“Mississippi is a fortunate state,” said Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, the adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard.  “We have young men and women who are diversely qualified in their professions.  We are putting the right skillsets to assist with identified needs from COVID-19 testing, support to civil authorities during civil unrest and support to MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency) during natural disaster weather response. We are a trained and ready force and we are responding to missions in our communities, throughout our state and in missions overseas in the Middle East region,” said Boyles.

In total, 5,000 National Guardsmen from 11 different states were called to assist in Washington D.C. 

Upon their return to Mississippi, Senator Roger Wicker penned this special commentary on the service of the Guardsmen. 

“During this time of great pain and unrest for our country, a group of dedicated young Mississippi troops is bringing peace and stability to our nation’s capital. They are volunteers from our very own Mississippi National Guard who, at the request of the Pentagon, left their families and homes to guard the streets of Washington. These men and women are coordinating with law enforcement to protect peaceful protesters, local residents, private property, and our most cherished monuments from the riots and vandalism that have marked recent days.

Modern-Day Minute Men

These volunteers deserve high praise for their swift response. At noon on Monday, they received word from Mississippi’s Adjutant General Durr Boyles. By 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 400 guardsmen had packed their bags, suited up, and were busing into Jackson from all over the state. They converged at Thompson Field in Flowood, where Mississippi’s 172nd Airlift Wing flew them on C-17s to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. Senior leaders then worked late into the night planning Wednesday’s objectives. By Wednesday afternoon, our guardsmen were carrying out missions, bringing calm to a city on edge.

In the evening, the guardsmen began a rotation. Two hundred deployed to posts in downtown Washington to support riot control, and at midnight, the remaining 200 took their place. It may be surprising to learn these troops are unarmed. They are equipped only with riot shields, face covers, body armor, and masks. And they are joined by hundreds of fellow guardsmen from across America.

Hearts of Service

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and I were able to meet with a number of these volunteers, including Lieutenant Colonel Charles Moss, the deputy commanding officer. On our way, in the center of town, we had to pass through checkpoints and drive down deserted streets with boarded up storefronts and restaurants. One of the young guardsmen I spoke with is an Army specialist and graduate of Jim Hill High School in Jackson, where he participated in the JROTC program. He shared with me the joy he takes in going back to meet with young cadets who are finding JROTC to be a profound source of direction and stability in life. I can only hope they follow in his footsteps and model his heart of service.

Many of these soldiers are already seasoned veterans. They lead civilian lives, including several current and former congressional staffers. Most were stationed last year in Kuwait, where they were part of the campaign against ISIS in nearby Iraq and Syria. Some of them also served in Jordan, Oman, and Qatar before returning home.

Heroes, Now at Home

The dedication these troops showed during overseas deployments is now being displayed on the streets of Washington. Each of them volunteered to leave their families and jobs at a moment’s notice to serve this country they love. I am sure many of them never expected to be guarding our nation’s capital, but they are doing so with distinction that ought to make every Mississippian proud.

At a time of national crisis, when some might be tempted to doubt this country’s future, our National Guardsmen remind us of the spirit of service that makes America truly great. They are not only protecting our capital. They are showing that character, sacrifice, and love of country will outlast the pain and suffering that our nation has recently endured.”