The head of the D.C. National Guard, who has a vital part in overseeing the presidential inauguration, will be removed from duty at 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20, when Donald Trump is sworn in to office.
According to the inauguration’s schedule, Trump will be sworn in by the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice John Roberts at 12 p.m., WCTV reports.
One minute later, 65-year-old Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz will step down from his position, even though thousands of his troops will be deployed in the nation’s capitol as part of the event’s security.
“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz told The Washington Post.
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In addition to members of the D.C. Guard, Schwartz will command 5,000 unarmed troops who have been dispatched from across the country to help. He is also tasked with overseeing military air support that protects Washington D.C. during the inauguration.
“My troops will be on the street,” Schwartz said. “I’ll see them off, but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.”
Leaving his post during the inauguration is not something Schwartz would choose to do.
“[I would] never plan to leave a mission in the middle of a battle,” he said.
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As president, Trump has the authority to appoint the National Guard commander in the District of Columbia. There have been contradictory versions as to why the decision to remove Schwartz was made, although the general did submit the customary letter of resignation.
Two military officials told The Washington Post that Trump's team decided to accept Schwartz's resignation. But a source close to the transition said Trump officials wanted to keep Schwartz as head of the D.C. Guard, but the Army wanted him replaced.
President George W. Bush appointed Schwartz to head the D.C. Guard in 2008.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a democrat, is upset that the removal of Schwartz will occur during the inauguration.
“It doesn’t make sense to can the general in the middle of an active deployment,” Mendelson said. “He’s been really very good at working with the community, and my impression was that he was good for the Guard.”
An email from the Pentagon told the general that he will be replaced by an interim successor, a brigadier general, during the inauguration.
The interim commander “is ready to assume complete mission,” and handle the inauguration, Army Maj. Jamie Davis, a spokesman at the U.S. Department of Defense, said.
Schwartz has decided to retire from the Army after he serves his final day at the inauguration.
“I’m a soldier,” he said. “I’m a presidential appointee. Therefore, the president has the power to remove me.”