Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday she will not agree to an extension of the Michigan National Guard’s deployment at the U.S. Capitol after she recently had to raise concerns about the quality of the food the troops were receiving.
Whitmer said 1,000 Guard members were sent to Washington, D.C. to help with security shortly after the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
She said that deployment, requested by the U.S. Capitol Police, ends March 12.
“I do not have any intention of agreeing to an extension of this deployment,” Whitmer said at a news conference about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor did not directly link her refusal to grant an extension to reports about the troops being served poor quality food. But she said the reports she heard were inexcusable and caused her to telephone John Whitley, acting secretary of the U.S. Army, and to dispatch to Washington Major Gen. Paul Rogers, the adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, “to check on the soldiers.”
Whitmer reportedly sent Rogers to the U.S. Capitol Feb. 18. Republican activist Tori Sachs, executive director of Michigan Rising Action, issued a news release about the food issue Feb. 19.
“Every one of us owe a debt of gratitude to the incredible men and women that serve in the Michigan National Guard, as well as all of our military branches,” Whitmer said.
“When the call comes and people ask for help from our Guard we … jump in and we help,” Whitmer said.
“We granted that request, but I made very clear at the time that my expectation was that our Guard women and men would have appropriate, proper, hotel accommodations and a per diem to ensure adequate meals and ensure that they were respected and their service was treated with respect.”
There have been media reports about inadequate and undercooked food served to Guard member over the last two weeks.
Since Whitmer first responded to reports about the food, “it is my understanding that the quality of the food has dramatically improved,” she said. However, “it doesn’t mean that it’s excusable that we had to take these actions to get to this point.”
In saying she would not extend the deployment, Whitmer cited the work members of the Michigan National Guard, who she called “consummate professionals” who have made great sacrifices, have already done in the last year.
“I think that our brave men and women who serve in the Guard have been called on in unprecedented ways over the last 12 months, whether it is evacuating people in Midland in a 500-year flooding event, or testing for COVID for people across the state in all sorts of places like our nursing homes and in our prisons, to going to Washington, D.C. when our nation’s security is a concern with a lot of civil unrest.”
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