MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Among the troops in Washington D.C. for Wednesday’s presidential inauguration are about 850 members of the Minnesota National Guard.

The mission coincides with the state’s Air National Guard celebrating its 100th anniversary Sunday, according to Brig. Gen. Dan Gabrielli, the Air Guard’s chief of staff.

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“It’s a lot of heritage and history,” Gabrielli said. “We are the first federally-recognized flying unit in the entire National Guard, so that piece is a great matter of pride.”

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What began with biplanes and continued through World War II and 9/11 continues today as an operational force with both federal and state missions. This week, they’re a part of unprecedented National Guard support for a presidential inauguration.

“We’ve got nearly 850 Air and Army National Guardsmen from Minnesota supporting the defense of our democracy and national institutions, doing critical business,” Gabrielli said.

(credit: CBS)

Everyone going volunteered. It means dropping everything to be in Washington D.C. indefinitely.

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“It’s sad that we got to this state that we have to have all those troops out there, but it’s comforting to know as leaders that we have the very capable airmen and soldiers out there,” Gabrielli said.

Before this year, states rotated sending National Guard soldiers to inaugurations. Fewer than 10 from Minnesota were at President Donald Trump’s, and about 350 were at President Barack Obama’s in 2009.

The transportation to have the soldiers there in time for Wednesday is already underway.

“It’s a huge moment of pride for us, and then also a very serious note, where we know our job never ends and things can pop up that we don’t even expect to have happen, and here we go again,” Gabrielli said.

There will be several events in Minnesota this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary, albeit some will most likely look and feel differently because of the pandemic. An air expo is currently in the planning phase.

In all, more than 26,000 guard members are set to be in D.C. for Inauguration Day.

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David Schuman