A National Guard member deployed in Washington D.C. in support of security operations around the U.S. capital has died from not yet revealed causes, military officials announced Thursday.
In a statement provided to Military Times, Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a spokesman for the Joint Task Force for the District of Columbia, said, “The individual was not on duty at the time, and the incident is under investigation.”
The Guardsman’s death was described as the result of a personal medical emergency.
No further details about the incident have been made available and the Guardsman’s name and unit information have been withheld, pending next-of-kin notifications.
The Guardsman was one of about 5,000 National Guard troops still deployed in Washington D.C. following a large-scale, short-notice mobilization of around 26,000 National Guard troops from around the country to provide added security for President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
The roughly 26,000 troops were called up just weeks after demonstrators entered the U.S. Capitol, clashed with police, and forced lawmakers to shut down a joint legislative session to certify the 2020 election results for Biden.
Since Biden’s inauguration, troop levels in D.C. have gradually dropped. The Guard deployment was set to end on Friday, March 12, but this week was extended by an additional two months. Around 2,300 Guard troops are set to remain in D.C. until May 23.
While the circumstances of the Guardsman’s death remain unclear, troops in D.C. previously complained about being forced to shelter in a parking garage and about being fed inedible food, such as raw meat and food contaminated with mold, metal shavings and worms. Last week, at least 50 troops in D.C. were reportedly sickened with gastrointestinal issues following the complaints about the food.
Republican lawmakers have questioned the continued need for the Guard deployment in D.C.
Sen. Tom Cotton, (R-AR) has said, since Jan 27, that the mission of the initial troop deployment is complete and the guard should be sent home.
Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI), whose home-states troops were among those served contaminated food, said “it’s past time to get our National Guard troops back home to Michigan.”
Last week, a Capitol security review panel, led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, recommended the formation of a quick reaction force (QRF) comprised of either federal agents, or National Guard troops, to serve as a permanent security feature for the Capitol and throughout D.C.
This week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby faced questions about whether the Guard mission in D.C. would extend beyond May and potentially become an “enduring” mission. Kirby replied, “I don’t think anybody can answer that question right now. Right now, we’re really dealing with a specific request for assistance for an additional couple of months extension at a reduced number from what we’re seeing now,” adding, “I’m in no position to speculate beyond that.”