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SC National Guard deploys 650 soldiers to Washington, DC, for Joe Biden's inauguration

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Soldiers with the S.C. National Guard receive a briefing from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, the adjutant general for South Carolina, at the guard readiness center in Mount Pleasant. The briefing came ahead of traveling to the District of Columbia in support of the 59th Presidential Inauguration. Sgt. Brian Calhoun, South Carolina National Guard/Provided

An estimated 650 soldiers from the S.C. Army National Guard are deploying to Washington, D.C., as part of the protective presence in the Nation's Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The guardsmen from the Palmetto State are joining around 20,000 other soldiers in the District of Columbia. Their orders follow the violent Capitol Hill protests that left five dead earlier this month. 

The unit's duties will include manning traffic control points, parking coordination and managing the flow of crowds to ensure spectators are able to move around as part of the inauguration events.

While tensions and fears of more riots ahead of Biden's oath-taking are growing, S.C. National Guard spokeswoman Jessica Donnelly said the mission is "no different than the support we have done for past inaugurations."

Donnelly declined to say where the guardsmen were being housed or staying over the coming days. Photos of soldiers resting in the Capitol rotunda went viral this week ahead of more military assets traveling to Washington ahead of Wednesday's ceremony. 

The spokeswoman also did not disclose when they would be leaving or when they'd return, citing "operational security" concerns.

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When asked if they would be arriving coming armed, Donnelly said "civilian law enforcement is responsible for safety and security of all personnel during the inaugural events."

Last year was hectic for the S.C. National Guard. In addition to numerous flood events, hurricanes and a global pandemic, guardsmen were deployed to Washington, D.C., this summer amid racial justice protests and civil unrest. 

Two members of the guard were struck by lightning in June while providing security outside the White House during the protest deployment, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ended up pushing them out of the city several days after their arrival.

"This past year was historically busy for the National Guard and we are prepared to continue meeting the demands of 2021," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. R. Van McCarty, the adjutant general for South Carolina.

"Our soldiers and airmen have been actively supporting the COVID-19 response efforts in the state for more than 300 days and now we will also be joining other states and territories in our nation's capital in support of the Presidential Inauguration," his message continued.

Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly is a political reporter based in Charleston. He also covers the military community and veterans throughout South Carolina. Previously, he wrote for the Courier Journal in Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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