NEWS | Jan. 21, 2021

45th Infantry Brigade Thunderbirds at the Capitol

By Capt. Jennifer Proctor 138th Fighter Wing

When our nation called for Guardsmen to defend the U.S. Capitol, nearly 400 Soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team thunderbirds answered the call and rapidly mobilized, arriving in Washington on Sunday, January 17, 2021.

The Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers, along with attached security forces personnel from the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 137th Special Operations Wing and 138th Fighter Wing are serving alongside 25,000 Guard members from multiple states to defend the U.S. Capitol building and other areas around the capital city.

With the Secret Service as the lead federal agency for the mission, the Oklahoma Guardsmen are conducting security-related missions to include crowd control, traffic control and assistance with entry points.

Lt. Col. Mike Scanlon, commander of the Oklahoma National Guard Joint Task Force troops, commended the Soldiers and Airmen under his command, saying he could not be more proud of the work they’ve done since being notified of their mission.

“They selflessly left their loved ones after only a three day notification,” Scanlon said. “The lives of the Guardsmen, their families, co-workers and employers have been disrupted to ensure that the Nation’s Capitol building remained secure throughout the 59th Presidential Inauguration. They have remained prepared and professional even when enduring grueling weather, tiresome hours and cold meals.”

Although this is not the first time the Soldiers involved have answered “the call,” this mission gave the Soldiers a unique opportunity to perform a task very different from the numerous and plentiful missions previously performed by this lethal group.

The legendary history of the 45th includes 10 Medal of Honor recipients and over year-long participation in both World War II and the Korean War. In more recent history, thunderbirds have served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Ukraine. They’ve also fought in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Inherent Resolve.

Every year, the men and women of the 45th respond to an emergency at home. They’ve seen floods, wildfires, devastating tornado outbreaks, civil unrest and responded to the 1995 domestic terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

One thing that has remained constant during the history of the 45th is the distinctive thunderbird patch. The patch dons the sleeves of not just the men and women of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team though. It is worn by the 90th Troop Command, appears on the patch of the 45th Field Artillery Brigade and is seen in Oklahoma Air National Guard symbols as well, making Oklahoma one of the most readily recognizable states among National Guard units.

“Our thunderbird insignia is a story in itself,” Scanlon said. “When Soldiers outside the 45th IBCT see the patch, they know who we are. They know that we are professional, disciplined and always ready. We wear the thunderbird as a badge of honor.”

The thunderbird has survived for decades and will now include “defender of the Capitol” to the list of many missions it has seen.