Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin showed his leadership style on Friday when he visited National Guardsmen protecting the Capitol on a cold winter evening.
“I know it’s a little chilly out here,” Austin said, according to a press pool report filed by Military Times reporter Meghann Myers. “I know we’re going to do the right thing to take care of you, so make sure you talk to your chain of command if you need anything.”
Austin retired in May 2016 after more than 40 years in the Army, during which he led all U.S. troops in Iraq and then all forces in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations. President Joe Biden described him in December as “the right person for this job at the right moment.”
The retired general was confirmed as defense secretary little over two weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection, which led to about 25,000 National Guardsmen being deployed to Washington, D.C., in order to protect Biden’s inauguration.
Several thousand National Guardsmen will reportedly remain in the nation’s capital through the end of March. That time frame coincides with former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were outraged when pictures and videos emerged on Jan. 21 that showed National Guardsmen being forced to shelter in a congressional parking garage with one toilet for between 500 and 1,000 people.
“It’s pissed a lot of dudes off,” one National Guardsman told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
The National Guardsmen were moved out of the garage close to midnight on Jan. 21 and later billeted in more comfortable quarters.
On Friday, Austin thanked the National Guardsmen he met with for their professionalism as they protected the seat of government.
“I just want to say thanks for what you’re doing, really appreciate you leaving home, and family, to come out here and help us defend the Capitol,” Austin told a soldier from Michigan, according to the pool report. “Stay alert, take care of yourself. If you need something, don’t hesitate to let your chain of command know.”
Featured image: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks with a Michigan National Guardsman during a visit to the U.S. Capitol building, Jan. 29, 2021. (DOD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)