BANGOR – More than 200 Maine soldiers were sent to Washington, D.C. to provide security in the days leading up to and during the inauguration.
“In my 20 years being in the National Guard, you know, you take an oath saying you’ll defend the Constitution of the United States, [against] both enemies foreign and domestic,” said First Sergeant Heath Bouffard of Poland, who serves with the 136th Engineer Company. “I just never thought we’d be here on the domestic side.”
The 136th Engineer Company of the Maine National Guard is normally tasked with building roads and electrical grids, or responding to snowstorms and other natural disasters.
That’s why when members got the call that they would be securing the U.S. Capitol for Joe Biden’s Inauguration after the January 6 insurrection, it came as sort of a shock.
“I was asked if we would ever go down to protect the Capitol, and I said, ‘No, not us, we’re engineers. Probably the military police or somebody else would,'” said 1st Sgt. Bouffard. “Then a day later, we get called to go down to the Capitol.”
The soldiers were given about 24 hours notice before heading to Washington, D.C.
“A lot was going through everybody’s mind I’m sure,” said Capt. Russ Boynton of Portland, who also serves with the 136th Engineer Company, “especially that they’re having to leave their families and unexpectedly leave work.”
Their mission was to provide additional support for the U.S. Capitol Police, serving alongside thousands of other soldiers from all over the country.
“Having the overwhelming number of supports and having all that security had a large impact on ensuring there wasn’t any disruption or any chaos that came during this time,” Capt. Boynton said.
1st Sgt. Bouffard said their conditions were good, despite working 24 hour shifts. He said his troops would split into groups and switch off during those shifts as a way to prevent burnout. He even said local companies gave them plenty of pizza while they were there.
Both called the mission a success.
“The soldiers responded outstandingly,” Capt. Boynton said. “They were asked to show up on extremely short notice… They responded well. They had a great attitude. They were happy to be a part of this process to ensure the safety and security of the Capitol.”
“Everybody knew that they were down there for basically a historic time and we all wanted to see the same outcome, the peaceful transition of power, and we definitely made that happen,” said 1st Sgt. Bouffard.
Capt. Boynton and 1st Sgt. Bouffard returned to Maine with their many of their troops Wednesday. About a dozen volunteered to remain in the Capitol, as part of the 75 troops providing additional support to the D.C. National Guard for the next several weeks.