Georgia National Guard playing big safety role as preparations under way for Biden inauguration

WASHINGTON — Channel 2 Action News got an up-close look at the security preparations underway at the U.S. Capitol as Joe Biden gets set to become the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne is embedded with the Georgia National Guard as they prepare to keep attendees safe during the inauguration ceremony.

Georgia guard members gave Winne a brief tour Wednesday as they stood guard around the temporary barrier created to keep onlookers a good distance away from the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

We have a team in Washington covering every aspect of the inauguration. Watch continuous coverage throughout the day on Channel 2 and the WSB Now app on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV.

“It really is a great honor to be a part of this in a way that I would never have imagined possible,” said 1st Lt. Jamie Dukes. “To be here as a Georgia Army National Guard soldier, getting to watch this up close and personal and help provide that extra safety for this to happen, to let one of the most important parts of our democracy take place, that smooth transition — you can’t beat it.”

Winne got to step over concrete barriers and received perspective on the flesh and blood barrier formed by Georgia soldiers.

“l love being here. I love knowing that this is what’s taking place, and that we’re taking the proper measures and everything to protect our home. This is essentially our home,” said Spc. Manuel Garcia.

“I feel honored. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and I moved to this country at a young age. I was a naturalized citizen and this is what I’m here for. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2018-19. I deployed for the freedoms that people in my country don’t get to enjoy on a daily basis,” said Sgt. Renato Hernandez.

TRENDING STORIES:

Hernandez and Garcia told Winne they both were born in countries without the freedoms that the U.S. Capitol behind them represents.

Now, both are naturalized U.S. citizens and soldiers in the Georgia Army National Guard, protecting a presidential inauguration and freedom.

“The point of the Capitol is [that] this is where we debate, this is where we talk, this is where we come together on different sides of issues and have a conversation. We don’t fight. We don’t hurt each other the way that sometimes it happens in my country. We talk. We talk about the rule of law, and I’m here to defend that,” Hernandez said.

“Coming here, you have an opportunity for anything and everything,” Garcia said.

“And now, in a way, you’re helping to protect the American dream?” Winne asked Garcia.

“Yes sir,” Garcia said.

Reportedly, a dozen members of the National Guard have been removed from the duty of helping to secure the inauguration, following a vetting. It’s unclear which state or states they hail from.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden Jr., Georgia’s adjutant general, told Winne that none of those twelve were from the Georgia Guard. If they were, he’d want them in the Peach Pass lane out of the organization if the allegations were substantiated.

Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation say they want to see a peaceful transition of power.

DeKalb County Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson said it’s sad to see the overwhelming security presence.

“I’m really saddened that this inauguration will be unlike any other, with 25,000 armed National Guard troops [needed] to have a peaceful transfer of power,” Johnson said.

North Georgia Republican Rep. Buddy Carter told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that he’s looking forward to moving past the difficulties of the past few months.

“I accept Joe Biden as our next president. I accept Kamala Harris as the next vice president. I’m going to be at the inauguration, and I’m going to reach out to them. I’m going to try and work with them. I’m going to try to find common ground,” Carter said.

South Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott said he appreciates the unprecedented level of security.

“I feel good about them doing everything they can do to protect the current vice president, the vice president-elect and the president-elect,” Scott said.

Newly elected Gwinnett County Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux thinks that even with troops protecting the capitol, the country will move on.

“At the end of the day, people on the left, people on the right, all of us, we believe in our country. We believe in our Constitution, we believe in our country,” Bourdeaux said.

Newly elected Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, who represents Georgia’s 5th District, introduced a resolution that would bar Donald Trump from ever entering the U.S. Capitol again.