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D.C. National Guard Commander Told To Step Down On Inauguration Day

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, speaks  at an awards ceremony in December 2015. He will be stepping down from his command on Inauguration Day.

At noon on Inauguration Day, precisely the moment Donald Trump is scheduled to be sworn as president, there will be another changing of the guard in Washington.

The D.C. National Guard announced Friday that its commanding general, Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, will be stepping down as of 12 p.m. on Jan. 20.

As commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, Schwartz serves at the pleasure of the president — the only National Guard leader in the country to be appointed by the White House. As with other appointees, like members of the Cabinet, it is at the discretion of the incoming administration whether to keep Schwartz in command once Trump takes office.

Still, the abrupt change in command is unusual for the D.C. National Guard, particularly on a day when the force — along with 5,000 additional service members from around the country — will be working to maintain the security of the incoming president and those who have come to see him sworn in.

"My troops will be on the street," Schwartz told The Washington Post, telling the paper that his removal was ordered by the Pentagon but that he doesn't know who made the call. "I'll see them off but I won't be able to welcome them back to the armory."

What's more, it has been common for new administrations to hold on to the commanders appointed by the previous president. Schwartz himself was picked for his command by President George W. Bush in the summer of 2008; President Obama kept him on for the entirety of his two terms.

Bush, in turn, kept Maj. Gen. Warren L. Freeman, a Clinton appointee, for his first two years in office. And President Clinton left Russell C. Davis — who had been appointed by President George H.W. Bush — in command of the force for nearly all of his first term.

But it's not the first time an appointee who served during Obama's administration has been told to hit the road on Inauguration Day. Last month, the president-elect's transition staff issued a mandate to all politically appointed U.S. ambassadors to leave their posts on that date, with no exceptions.

As former diplomat Ronald Neumann told NPR's Michele Kelemen, that move was also unusual — though by no means against the rules of the transition.

"Some administrations have left people a little longer if they didn't have a successor right away or the kids were in school or something, for family and human reasons," Neumann said, "but there's no requirement that they do so."

When Schwartz steps down on Inauguration Day, he will be replaced in the interim by Brig. Gen. William J. Walker, the commander of the D.C. Army National Guard's land component.

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