Guard members have hotel rooms to sleep in, officials said. But soldiers are on duty for a day or two, working shifts for several hours, and cannot easily return to their hotels, many of which are in Virginia and Maryland. So they doze off wherever they can – on concrete, indoor tennis courts or, if they are lucky, on carpets.
Capitol police have moved guards from the field, officials said, as pedestrian traffic by lawmakers and other officials increased in the area.
Two soldiers who spoke to The Post estimate that hundreds of soldiers have been moved to the garage as officers struggle to find accommodation for thousands in Washington. More than 25,000 members of the National Guard arrived after the Capitol riot to help secure the president̵
The two soldiers, NCOs from the National Guard of Maryland, said the troops inhaled the flue gases, shared several toilets with hundreds of soldiers and struggled to sleep under harsh fluorescent lights.
“Throughout my career, I have never felt as if I had climbed the curb and told me, ‘Understand for yourself,'” said one of the soldiers, who said he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
“This is absurd,” said the other soldier, who said one of his men was nearly hit by a car.
Lawmakers, in response to news from Politico and other news outlets, have outraged Twitter. Representative Peter Meyer (R-Mich.), An Army veteran who served in Iraq, said Thursday night that members of the guard had been sent back to the Capitol complex. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Also a veteran of the military who served in Iraq, said Capitol police officers apologized to the troops.
Both soldiers said strict premises were a reality of the profession. But these conditions, they said, unnecessarily limit their obligations. Their rooms have few electrical outlets to charge smartphones, which are used to plan missions and keep in touch with each other.
“As Congress meets and traffic increases and business is conducted, U.S. Capitol police have asked troops to move the rest area outside the Capitol. They were temporarily moved to the garage of the Targud Marshall Courthouse with heat and toilets, “said Captain Edwin Neeves Jr., a spokesman for the DC National Guard.
A portable toilet used by soldiers spilled onto the sidewalk, according to a photo obtained by The Post.
Both Maryland soldiers said the coronavirus was raging among members of the National Guard. One said he personally knew several infected soldiers.
The soldier laughed when asked by a reporter to describe the protocols in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“There aren’t any,” he said. “We are on top of each other all day, every day. We gave up. “
Nieves did not immediately return a request for comment on the coronavirus protocols.
Some members of the guard said the conditions were not as bad as on social media. A member of the Wisconsin National Guard said they had rested in the garage between shifts for days. It is inconvenient, but there are not many places to easily accommodate thousands of troops in the area, he said.
Some lawmakers offered their offices after viral photos of the guards on concrete floors.
“Yes, that’s not right,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (DN.Y.). “This week my office is free for all members of the service who would like to use it for a break or take a nap on the couch. We will stock up on snacks for all of you. “
But one soldier said he doubted the motivation of politicians to win public relations, noting that lawmakers were happy to be photographed delivering pizza after photos of sleeping soldiers in the Capitol went viral.
“Now I feel like a wet paper towel,” he said. “He wiped me and threw me out.”
Dan Lamote contributed to this report.