Channel 2 exclusive: On the ground with Georgia National Guard in D.C.

WASHINGTON — Ahead of the presidential inauguration in Washington D.C. this week, men and women from Georgia are playing a major part in keeping everything safe.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne is the only reporter embedded with the Georgia National Guard in the nation’s capital.

The Associated Press reported late Sunday night that defense officials will be vetting all National Guard troops amid concerns of a possible “insider attack” at the inauguration.

Georgia Adjutant Gen. Thomas Carden told Winne that he’s not aware of concerns about any Georgia Guard members. He said his experience has been that additional vetting for anyone getting close to the president is routine and that he himself has been vetted before a number of presidential visits.

Carden said he’d be concerned if the vetting of anyone in the presidential bubble, so as to speak, wasn’t taking place.

Officials confirmed that hundreds of Georgia National Guard members are already in D.C. with hundreds more on the way.

Winne spent the day Sunday with the Georgia Air National Guard security forces team as they took in the sights and also did recon on the city they will be helping to protect.

“Site survey of the areas, liasoning with law enforcement,” Senior Master Sgt. Charles Simpson told Winne. “Trying to see where they need help and assistance to support the inauguration.”

Simpson said checking in with a U.S. Secret Service agent manning a checkpoint is part of the process and getting a sense of the depth of the security picture.

“How do you feel about being here?” Winne asked.

“I love being here. I think this is a historical moment,” said Simpson, who has been with the Georgia Air National Guard for 20 years. He also worked as an agent with the Federal Aviation Administration in civilian life.

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Simpson says about 90% of the guard’s men and women are in uniform part-time, which often means leaving civilian life for a weekend a month and two weeks a year.

It also includes special missions like the inauguration and other things like overseas combat.

“You could be on the front lines of whatever’s happening here. How do you feel about that?” Winne asked Staff Sgt. Tayler Lewis.

“I feel great about it. I just trust in my training, trust in my equipment and I know great men and women next to me and great law enforcement officers and federal agencies as well,” she responded.

Winne was told many of the members he met were not security forces, which are military police, but have other specialties in the military.

“I’m proud to be here doing something bigger than myself protecting the neighbors and my family friends and everyone that’s around here that just wants to be here,” senior airman Dorian Adkins said.

Master Sgt. Elsie Brown, who works as an eighth-grade science teacher, got a waiver to deploy overseas at 60 and volunteered now to be in D.C.

“I knew it was something I wanted to do,” she said.

“I never thought that I would be in D.C. supporting a mission like this,” Lewis said. “I’m grateful to be here and to be able to do this with such great people.”