Guard Members Who Deployed for the Inauguration Are Getting a Brand-New Award

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Virginia National Guard soldiers salute during the National Anthem.
Virginia National Guard soldiers render a salute during the National Anthem at the 59th Presidential Inauguration Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C (U.S. Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Lisa M. Sadler)

Tens of thousands of National Guard troops who deployed to Washington, D.C., ahead of a 2021 inauguration under threat of violence are eligible for a brand-new award in recognition of their service, Military.com has learned.

The D.C. National Guard has created a new "Presidential Inauguration Support Ribbon" in recognition of a deeply unusual security mission earlier this year, an official confirmed to Military.com.

"In recognition of their service as part of the security mission at the U.S. Capitol and other facilities in Washington, D.C., before, during and after the 59th Presidential Inauguration, the District of Columbia National Guard plans to present all Soldiers and Airmen who took part in the mission one or both of the following decorations: the District of Columbia National Guard Presidential Inauguration Support Ribbon and/or the District of Columbia Emergency Service Ribbon," Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Carver, spokesman for the Virginia Air National Guard and director of Joint Task Force-DC Joint Information Center, said in a statement. "Both ribbons are District-level decorations. Plans for their presentation are not yet final. Other federal decorations are also being considered."

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While the Emergency Service Ribbon previously existed to honor Guard members who serve in support of a non-war emergency or crisis, the Presidential Inauguration Support Ribbon is new, designed specially for troops from D.C. and the other 53 states and territories who participated in the 2021 deployment.

Inside bands of blue, white and red, the new ribbon features a miniature of the D.C. flag, with three red stars on a bed of white.

The design for the new D.C. Inauguration Support Ribbon.
The new D.C. Inauguration Support Ribbon features blue, white and red bands and a miniature of the Washington, D.C. flag in the center (Photo courtesy D.C. National Guard)

It's not clear yet what federal awards might be considered in addition to these state-level ribbons from the D.C. Guard.

Unlike troops in the active-duty ranks who have a standardized set of awards, the Guard maintains a roster of state-specific ribbons and medals. Some commemorate state-level response operations; others honor heroism or mark the completion of a specific duty or achievement.

This creates an added level of complexity for Guard members, who sometimes must maintain two ribbon racks: one for federal-level awards, and another for state-level ones. When activated on Title 10 federal orders, used for combat deployments and other missions in active-duty status, the former rack is authorized; when on Title 32 orders, used for state-level missions, the latter is.

Members can wear ribbons authorized by other states' Guards. When wearing them, Guard troops are supposed to position their home state's awards first; then any presented by the District of Columbia; then any given by other states, in the order that those states joined the union.

In all, some 26,000 National Guard troops deployed to Washington, D.C., to support President Joe Biden's inauguration, representing every state and territory. The mass deployment came in the wake of a Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump protesters. During the siege, Capitol Police were quickly overwhelmed, and lawmakers were forced to shelter in place for hours.

By comparison, some 7,800 Guard personnel supported President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2016.

The 59th presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 was uneventful, with Guard troops positioned at fencing around the entire perimeter of the Capitol complex and throughout Washington, D.C.

While thousands of Guard members returned home immediately following the event, more than 5,000 remain on duty in D.C. and are expected to remain there at least through mid-March. On March 4, Capitol Police called for a further 60-day extension of the National Guard presence amid threats including another "possible plot" to invade the Capitol building again.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

Related: Military Reviewing Request to Keep Guard Troops in DC Another 2 Months

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