MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a successful mission in Washington D.C., Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen started to come home Saturday. About 800 of them will return by Tuesday morning.

“Whenever we leave for something like this, it’s tough being away from families and work,” said Capt. Ian Carpenter.

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Yet everyone who went volunteered for the mission. The gravity of being in the nation’s capital to secure the presidential inauguration was not lost on the men and women who disembarked at the 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul.

“It will certainly be one of my most memorable missions,” said Lt. Col. Scot Wilcox, a pilot with the Air National Guard.

Pvt. Molly Nygren says it was a huge honor to be there. It was her first time in Washington since a school trip.

“This was very different,” she said. “We definitely didn’t go around and see the sights. It was an all new perspective of being there because we were there for a purpose.”

While in Washington, Minnesota’s troops were mostly assigned to the metro area, away from the Capitol, ready to respond and do crowd control if needed.

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“It was peaceful and that’s the measure of success for this one,” said Col. James Cleet, the commander of the 133rd Airlift Wing.

Carpenter says he felt the air change after the inauguration was over.

“It just felt like the tension had dissipated,” he said. “One morning we went out to the location where we were staging, looked up in the apartment windows, and someone had blocked it out with paper letters saying ‘Thank you National Guard.'”

None of Minnesota’s soldiers reported any COVID symptoms. They all are tested right in the hangar as soon as they get off the plane and quarantine until they get results back.

David Schuman