OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The U.S. National Guard is threatening to cancel their training and exercises if they are not reimbursed roughly $521 million.
National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson said the Guard has been protecting the U.S. Capitol for more than five months following the Jan. 6 mayhem, and it’s gutted their finances and readiness.
The peak deployment in the nation’s capital required 26,000 service members and it was a hefty price tag.
The National Guard footed the bill upfront, but Hokanson said if they are not fully reimbursed, the Guard will be forced to cancel planned training and exercises in August and September.
“It’s critical for us to get it this year because the funding will be required for us to complete not only our drills but all operations and training we have scheduled,” Hokanson told Pentagon reporters. “It will have a very significant impact on National Guard readiness.”
“When we look at the future, however, we’re not really sure what it’s going to look like,” he said, noting advance training where gaps are predicted. “What we have to do is be prepared to meet whatever that demand signal is.”
Hokanson said he spent many nights walking the Capitol grounds and speaking to Guard members about the strains of the mission and how many had no idea when they would be able to go home to their jobs and families.
Back in April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said thousands of National Guard troops at the U.S. Capitol will remain “as long as they are needed.”
“We have to have what we need when we need it, and in the numbers that we need,” the California Democrat told reporters. “But that’s a security decision.”
It’s unclear to many why the Guard troops were forced to stay at the Capitol so long.
Earlier this year, a bombshell report reveals that more than a dozen Michigan National Guard troops deployed to Washington, D.C., have been sickened, with some hospitalized, after repeatedly being served raw, undercooked meat and meals.
A whistleblower told WXYZ-TV reporter Brian Abel that nearly 75 meals were thrown out Sunday after metal shavings were found, other meals showed up undercooked making soldiers sick.
A staff sergeant with the Michigan National Guard, whose identity 7 Action News is protecting, says the problem is not isolated.
“Yesterday, for instance, there were 74 different meals found with raw beef in them,” the sergeant said. “Just yesterday, the lunches were, soldiers had found metal shavings in their food.”
The food concerns going beyond quality – quantity is an issue as well. Breakfast is an example.
“You were getting maybe a Danish and some sort of juice,” the sergeant said. “And then we had certain days where it was clearly a dinner role and Sunny D.”
“They said alright, we’re going to make sure we spot check them. And we’re also going to start having them add temperatures to it,” the whistleblower said.
“At 140, you cook that chicken, undercook it to 140, and now you’re telling… you’re telling us that it’s… a 30-minute drive. This is what they say on the little placard that’s (inaudible) good for four hours. No, it’s not. It wasn’t good from the start and now it’s had hours to become even more dangerous,” he told WXYZ-TV.
Abel posted an interview to his Twitter account, where he detailed the report:
Soldiers from the Michigan National Guard who are protecting the US Capitol in DC have been fed undercooked, and underwhelming meals.
One Staff Sgt. tells me that metal fragments were found in meals on Sunday.
Our first @wxyzdetroit report: pic.twitter.com/YFSK6sSo8m
— Brian Abel (@BrianAbelTV) March 2, 2021
Abel also provided a statement from the Michigan National Guard on the horrendous situation in D.C.:
The @MINationalGuard provided this statement today:
"The firsthand accounts and pictures of undercooked food being served clearly shows that what is being given to Michigan’s service members is unacceptable."@GovWhitmer spoke with the Acting Sec. of Army about the situation pic.twitter.com/QEaa7G2fRB
— Brian Abel (@BrianAbelTV) March 2, 2021
But wait, it gets even worse.
WXYZ-TV also reported that the anonymous sergeant said the troops are being forced to pay for their own food until officials get the situation under control.
The sergeant told the news outlet: “Now after the raw meat yesterday for dinner they have told us not to eat the meals for the next two days and are giving us MRE’s instead. Soldiers are now paying for all their meals for the next two days in order to get real food.”