By Howard Monroe

BLACKWOOD, N.J. (CBS) — Hundreds of troops with the National Guard packed their bags to go to Washington, D.C., on Saturday morning. The units, based out of Blackwood and Lawrenceville, will supplement the D.C. Guard through the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“My wife said, ‘do you see this?’ I looked at the TV and I was like ‘oh my gosh, what’s going on?’” 1st Sgt. Joseph Kern said.

What he was watching was the U.S. Capitol being taken over. He watched it with his wife and then his commander called.

“My commander doesn’t really call for chitchat. He calls me and I’m, ‘hey what’s going on sir?’ And he like, ‘hey, in lieu of the events today, we’re going to be activated to go down to D.C.,” Kern said.

He will lead over 100 soldiers, based in Blackwood, to Washington, D.C. through President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

They are among 500 troops from New Jersey who will be supporting D.C. National Guard with security and protecting monuments and buildings.

They’ll be there to prevent what happened on Wednesday when the Capitol was stormed, resulting in at least five people being killed. They’ll also be there to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

The last time this unit was deployed was over a year ago to Qatar.

“Really, this mission means a lot to me because we’re taking care of Americans. We’re taking care of citizens, which is a good thing,” Kern said.

The deployment hits particularly close.

One of the people killed Wednesday was a former New Jersey National Guardsmen. To them, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was Staff Sgt. Sicknick.

The New Jersey native served in the New Jersey Air National Guard for six years.

While they don’t know what they’ll be up against, Kern says his top mission is to get everyone back home.

“It’s not overseas somewhere, but I’m still responsible for them so myself and my commander if we get them all back in one piece safe, that’s a success for me,” he said.

Pennsylvania national guard troops were always expected to be deployed but their deployment was moved up.

On Saturday, 1,000 Pennsylvania troops deployed from the Horsham Air Guard Station and like New Jersey, they will be there to provide support at the capitol.

“The reason we were asked to go down to Washington was to assist local authorities. One of our core missions is to ensure that Americans have their constitutional rights protected to peacefully protest, and we are trained to protect life and property,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Costello.

Delaware also has troops in Washington, D.C., they will be there through President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.


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