REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - When the call came from Washington D.C. asking for aid from other state’s National Guard in dealing with civil unrest in their city, over 100 volunteers from Southeast Idaho and a total of over 400 of Idaho National Guardsmen answered that call.
The biggest part of the activation: there was no notice or planning. Captain Isaac Zimmerly, Bravo Battery Commander for the 1st of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, was one of the volunteers. He says the National Guard was able to pull volunteers from their everyday lives to activate within 24 hours and be on a plane headed to D.C. Captain Zimmerly says the ability to get in process, get gear, pack and be on a plane in less than 24 hours was a huge accomplishment for the unit.
The mission was to support the Washington D.C National Guard and Parks Police with the civil unrest that was occurring in the area at the time.
“We knew specifically our mission was to support Parks Police in the protection of the historic monuments, specifically around the National Mall area from any type of vandalization,” Captain Zimmerly said, “Another big part of this was was also to keep protesters safe, that’s blocking off roads so no traffic could get in, and also to make sure that everyone was in a safe environment and there was no destruction to any of those historic monuments.”
Captain Zimmerly says there was a lot of uncertainty going into the mission because the troops had never been activated on a mission quite like this. He says they were pleasantly surprised at how well the D.C. National Guard treated them, making sure they had a place to sleep, food to eat, and water to drink. The D.C. community was also very welcoming and seemed appreciative of Idaho National Guard’s presence in their city.
Captain Zimmerly says the National Guard brought all of the equipment they thought they would need, not knowing what to expect the D.C. National Guard would be able to provide. He says they found out all they really needed was the Guard in uniform, fully stocked with water for themselves.
Idaho National Guard conducted a handful of missions around the National Mall area to protect monuments and block traffic so citizens could protest safely. Captain Zimmerly says most interactions with the city’s protesters were all positive.
He says Idaho was sent home after four days because by the time Idaho arrived in Washington D.C., the civil unrest that caused their activation had subsided. The city tried to use the Guard as best they could but things had quieted down and their assistance was no longer needed.
"The National Guard, that's kind of one of our functions that a lot of members pride themselves on, is that we have the opportunity and the ability to support the community, not necessarily in a way that the active duty component would, where we can can really show up to a community and be there strictly to help," Captain Zimmerly said.
Captain Zimmerly says “none of our members experienced any kind of hostile act.” There were no protesters acting in a criminal way, no violence, or threat of injury.
“I think it was ultimately a good experience and an eye-opening experience for not only the members who got us ready to go, but also the members who went because I think that they realized just the scope and the size of how big some of these protests are, and if they do turn into riots or if they do turn violent, just the amount of people that you’ll need and the support that you need to help out,” Captain Zimmerly said.
Captain Zimmerly went on to say, “That is the benefit of the National Guard as well, if a state needs us, they can raise their hand and I think Idaho National Guard’s always willing to say ‘absolutely, we’ll help you however we can’.”
Captain Zimmerly says he would like the community of Southeastern Idaho to know the National Guard appreciates our support. “It is not uncommon for a National Guard member to get multiple thank yous, multiple offers to pay for their meals, and that’s just indicative of Southeastern Idaho and the community that we live in, so we’re extremely thankful for that,” Captain Zimmerly said.
He says the National Guard is also grateful for their families’ support and understanding of the sacrifice and service demanded of National Guard members. “Community and family are our number one mantra here so we definitely want the communities to know that we appreciate them,” Captain Zimmerly said.
As for now, Zimmerly says, “We’re content in continuing our training back home and supporting Idaho in any way shape, or form.”