A Uniontown native is leading National Guard soldiers standing as the first line of defense to protect Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.

Lt. Caileigh Carei, who became the first female infantry officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2018, is stationed with her soldiers checking people and vehicles before they are permitted to enter one of the perimeters around the U.S. Capitol.

“We’re essentially the first line of defense for any movement of vehicles into the city,” Carei said of their work to ensure that only people with proper credentials are permitted to pass. “Overall, my soldiers are staying positive. We’re giving a lot of positive feedback and staying vigilant. So far, everything has been pretty quiet.”

Carei is the executive officer of Company B helping to lead 100 to 150 soldiers as part of 2nd Battalion in the 112th Infantry based near Altoona. While being stationed at their checkpoint for the past week, Carei said the battalion has stopped multiple suspicious vehicles attempting to enter the perimeter, leading to several arrests by the DC Metro Police.

“It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget and an experience that I think will shape our future and how we train as soldiers, especially our infantry battalion,” Carei said.

While she’s been working primarily the night shift since arriving at the nation’s capital last week, Carei and her entire company will be at their posts at noon when Biden takes the oath of office as the country’s 46th president.

“If anything were to occur, we’re prepared and willing to do anything to maintain peace in the D.C. area,” she said. “We will not be having any down time, that’s for sure.”

About 25,000 National Guard soldiers from across the country – including 1,000 members from Pennsylvania – are stationed in D.C. to provide security for the inauguration following the failed insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6. There have been concerns in the days after the assault on Congress that Trump’s supporters could return in an attempt to disrupt the inauguration.

“Pennsylvania Guard members are well-trained and well-prepared to assist our communities, commonwealth and country in any way they can,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, acting adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard. “We are also very fortunate that our Guard members have extensive experience working alongside the D.C. National Guard as part of past training events and presidential inaugurations.”

Carei is proud to be part of the force securing the inauguration, but added it’s also upsetting that she’s protecting the capital from possible attacks by American citizens.

“It’s sad that the people we signed up to defend are the ones who took my soldiers away from their families at this time. I think it’s extremely disheartening that I have to worry about my soldiers’ safety on American soil,” she said. “But I believe in the United States and know we’ll overcome this as a country.”

Carei enlisted in the U.S. Army before graduating from Uniontown High School in 2012 and rose to the rank of sergeant. She later attended the University of Pittsburgh and joined the school’s ROTC program before graduating college in 2017 and being commissioned a lieutenant a few months later. Carei, 28, now lives in Penn Hills near Pittsburgh and works as a criminal analyst for the Pennsylvania National Guard’s CounterDrug task force.

While there have been photographs this past week showing National Guard troops sleeping inside the U.S. Capitol, Carei said those soldiers pictured were only taking short breaks between shifts, and none are residing inside the building. She and her company, along with most other guardsmen, are staying in hotels that have been rendered unoccupied due to the closure of the inauguration to the general public.

But a moment inside the Capitol was especially poignant for Carei and her company when they saw a plaque honoring soldiers who were mustered inside the building in April 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. One of them was Pennsylvania’s Logan Guards of Lewistown, which were a precursor to the Paxton battalion where Carei is serving.

“During the Civil War we were here, and now we’re here again,” Carei said. “Our lineage is repeating itself here. It’s a humbling experience. I keep telling my soldiers we’re a part of history and we’ll never experience something like this again.”

Looking forward, she and her soldiers are also prepared to ensure the inauguration is a safe event and the transfer of power continues on schedule as provided by the U.S. Constitution.

“We are prepared for whatever is to come,” she said. “All of my guys are set for whatever is to come.”

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