NewsLocal News

Actions

Virginia National Guard prepares to protect US Capitol: ‘Never seen anything like this’

NationalGuardDC.jpg
Posted at 11:42 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 17:27:12-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Staff Sgt. Nicholas Castrinos arrived into Washington D.C. along with the Virginia National Guard (VNG) the day after the riots at the Capitol.

“I’ve been in almost for two decades. I’ve been in multiple combat tours and I’ve never seen the call to action that occurred with my guys when I gave them that phone call,” Staff Sgt. Castrinos recalled.

Within 12 hours, Castrinos and his soldiers were forced to drop everything and drive more than 100 miles northeast from the Charlottesville armory to the nation's capital. Their mission was to ensure the security of the Capitol and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“We are here in case someone needs help and clearly Washington D.C. needed help,” Castrinos explained.

CBS 6 spoke to Castrinos on Friday, which marked his ninth day at the Capitol. Outside of the uniform, he serves as a Richmond Police officer in the city’s Third Precinct.

“I’ve been in [the service] for 19 years. I’m married with four children. My younger children don’t understand what’s going on, but that’s because they’re so young,” Castrinos stated. “My wife has been through multiple combat tours, so she understands the nature of the beast. We have a good support structure.”

The Virginia National Guard has approximately 2,400 personnel on the ground in Washington D.C. as of Thursday. Castrinos said morale is higher among the troops than when they arrived.

“We’ve reached that steady state-op where my guys know they’re going to get 12 hours of rest and be able to recharge the batteries to get back out here,” he explained.

This all comes after pro-President Donald Trump supporters forced their way inside the Capitol Building as lawmakers certified the Electoral Votes. Five people died including a Capitol Police officer who was beaten by the crowd, according to federal authorities.

The soldiers will remain in D.C. until they complete their mission.
“Eventually Virginia is going to need help and we are going to reach out and ask these other states to help us,” Castrinos said.

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has urged Americans to stay home and watch the 59th Inauguration virtually.

The US Capitol is fortified with miles of fencing augmented by thousands of National Guard troops.

Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy has authorized up to 21,000 National Guard personnel to support the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

“Mobilizing a large force of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen on short notice is always a challenge because our personnel have loved ones, jobs and schools they have to leave to come on duty,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia.

Maj. Scott Drugo of Harrisonburg is tasked with public affairs with the Virginia National Guard. Forty states have descended upon the city.

“It’s kind of amazing to see National Guard Members from other states coming together,” Drugo said. “I assure you were taking care of and I appreciate all of your support.”

Drugo currently works with the Harrisonburg Police Department and joined the Virginia National Guard 21 years ago.

“[My family} understands there’s a bigger cause here. It’s not just about dad being away or husband being away from home. There’s a cause here. That’s why I joined the military.”

That cause: protection of property and serving the people.

The majority of VNG personnel are providing security assistance, but additional personnel are providing communications, medical, chaplain, logistics and public information support to their fellow troops and to district and federal agencies through the presidential inauguration, according to a press release.

As VNG personnel are supporting the security effort in the nation's capital, additional Soldiers and Airmen continue to support COVID-19 testing across the state and assisting the Virginia Department of Health with planning for administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, state capitals across the country are on high alert. Castrinos' colleagues with RPD, Capitol Police, and Virginia State Police are working to secure Capitol Square back home.

Windows were boarded and fences were erected in hopes of preventing scenes similar to those that played out on January. 6