SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of Utah National Guard soldiers and airmen have returned to the Beehive State after they were deployed to Washington D.C. to support the 59th Presidential Inauguration.
“Task Force Utah, also known as Team Utah, represented our state and our National Guard units with excellence. The Soldiers served side-by-side the other National Guard members from over 20 states, with area security operations and performed their mission professionally. I am extremely proud of the Soldiers and leaders who stepped up to the challenge,” said Lt. Col. Clayton Anderson, commander, Task Force Utah, in a news release sent to FOX 13. “I’m blown away on how the National Guard, both Air and Army, was able to make all the logistics work so smoothly on an operation so large and with so little notice. It felt incredible and humbling to serve in such a historical and significant place.”
About 350 members of Task Force Utah arrived in Utah late Wednesday night. Governor Spencer Cox was there to greet them as they exited a KC-135 aircraft.
"Late night welcome home to the last of our troops from DC. I’m so grateful for their sacrifices this past week...year...always. They truly represent the best of our state," Gov. Cox said on Twitter. "Over the past 12 months our National Guard has rendered more service to our state than anytime in history. We are forever in their debt. And we are especially grateful to the families and employers who support them."
Each Task Force Utah member is being given a rapid COVID-19 test before returning to his or her home station. Capt. Jeffrey Dallin Belnap told FOX 13 he had never done anything like this mission before and he's grateful nothing happened on Inauguration Day.
"As we were in the air and got off the ground we were given more information. Communication was very smooth, it was very quick. We were very professional while we were out there and really felt like we were part of a coordinated and unified effort with the rest of the task force and with the capitol police," Belnap said.
Gov. Cox said Utah's National Guard members are now needed to help distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses.
“Since Jan. 15, our Utah National Guard troops have served in Washington, D.C. with distinction. Now it’s time to bring them home as we need their help distributing COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the state. We’re grateful for the willingness of these dedicated men and women to serve whenever and wherever they are needed,” Gov. Cox said in the news release.