The head of the District of Columbia National Guard has been ordered to step down immediately after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Maj. Gen. Errol Schwartz will be stepping down at 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20, just after Trump is sworn in, Maj. Byron Coward, a guard spokesman said.
Schwartz, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, told The Washington Post in an interview “the timing is very unusual” but that he’s following orders.
Unlike the commanders of state-level National Guard units, the head of the District’s National Guard serves at the pleasure of the president. At the time Schwartz departs, he will be in the midst of commanding thousands of Guard troops from the District and around the country who are providing support for the inauguration.
“My troops will be on the street,” he said in an interview, according to the paper. “I’ll see them off, but I won’t be able to welcome them back to the armory.” He went on to say that he would “never plan to leave a mission in the middle of a battle.”
Phil Mendelson, the D.C. Council chairman, criticized the move.
“It doesn’t make sense to can the general in the middle of an active deployment,” Mendelson told The Post. He added that Schwartz’s sudden departure will be a long-term loss for the District. “He’s been really very good at working with the community, and my impression was that he was good for the Guard.”
The Post reported that there have been contradictory stories about the behind-the-scenes developments leading to the decision. A person close to the Trump transition team reportedly said transition officials wanted to keep him, but the Army pushed for a replacement. Schwartz reportedly said the orders came in an email from the Pentagon. He will be replaced by a brigadier general at 12:01 p.m.