USA — Border Mission ‘Not Unique’ for Guardsmen

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 3, 2010 — Almost 1,100 Nation­al Guard mem­bers are on duty on the South­west bor­der per­form­ing a mis­sion that is very famil­iar to many of them, a Guard offi­cial said today.

“This [mis­sion] is not real­ly unique,” said Jack Har­ri­son, the direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Nation­al Guard Bureau here. “The Nation­al Guard has been involved at the South­west bor­der for two decades.”

Dur­ing that time, he said, Nation­al Guard mem­bers have worked in the counter-drug pro­gram in Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona, New Mex­i­co and Texas.

Bor­der Patrol agents observe an unnamed Ari­zona Nation­al Guard sol­dier train­ing for Oper­a­tion Cop­per Cac­tus at an undis­closed loca­tion on Aug. 25, 2010. Oper­a­tion Cop­per Con­dor is the Ari­zona Nation­al Guard’s con­tri­bu­tion to the up to 1,200 Nation­al Guard troops being deployed to sup­port the Bor­der Patrol and Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment in four South­west bor­der states.
U.S. Army pho­to by Staff Sgt. Jim Green­hill
Click to enlarge

“Above and beyond the 1,200 autho­rized for this mis­sion, there are over 350 counter-drug per­son­nel [in these states] doing that mis­sion,” Har­ri­son said.

Almost 6,000 Guard mem­bers from around the coun­try were deployed in sup­port of Oper­a­tion Jump Start, a two-year mis­sion that end­ed in 2008.

“So, this is not new,” Har­ri­son said.

Many of the Guard mem­bers, who have vol­un­teered for the cur­rent bor­der mis­sion, also have over­seas deploy­ment expe­ri­ence.

“And yes, those expe­ri­ences are cer­tain­ly use­ful for this mis­sion,” Har­ri­son said.

The Guard, he said, will act as “extra eyes and ears” for Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment agents dur­ing the one-year mis­sion. And, they’ll also pro­vide entry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and crim­i­nal analy­sis sup­port to these agen­cies, he added.

The Guard’s mis­sion along the south­west bor­der pri­mar­i­ly involves sur­veil­lance and it doesn’t per­form law enforce­ment activ­i­ties, Har­ri­son said.

“They will be armed,” he said, “but that will be more for self-pro­tec­tion than any­thing else.”

Of the 1,100 troops on duty, there are about 975 Army Guard mem­bers and 100 Air Guard mem­bers.

Har­ri­son said the Guard mem­bers vol­un­teered for this mis­sion and were not called up as part of a unit. Each state, he said, is employ­ing vol­un­teers to man the bor­der mis­sion.

“There are no units or indi­vid­u­als from out­side those four states being called in to help in those four states,” Har­ri­son said.

The incre­men­tal deploy­ment of Guard mem­bers began on July 1, Har­ri­son said, not­ing the one-year mis­sion includes train­ing time, “boots on the ground” time and the ramp down at the end of the mis­sion.

The train­ing can take from two to three weeks, he said, and it focus­es on the agen­cies’ tac­tics and pro­ce­dures, as well as any equip­ment that may be used dur­ing the mis­sion.

Har­ri­son said this is a fed­er­al­ly fund­ed mis­sion, but it’s not fed­er­al­ly com­mand­ed.

“The gov­er­nor and the adju­tant gen­er­al in each of these four states main­tain com­mand and con­trol over each per­son on duty,” he said. “They con­trol the flow of the forces and the num­bers of forces on duty … and they will main­tain that lev­el of con­trol through­out the mis­sion.”

Har­ri­son said the total amount autho­rized for the bor­der mis­sion for up to 1,200 Guards­men for up to one year is $135 mil­lion.

Of the almost 1,100 Guard mem­bers cur­rent­ly on bor­der duty, there are about 300 in Cal­i­for­nia, 450 in Ari­zona, 90 in New Mex­i­co and 225 in Texas.

“We take this mis­sion very seri­ous­ly,” Har­ri­son said. “The pres­i­dent has asked us to sup­port this mis­sion, while CBP and ICE hire new agents.

“Every­thing is going as we expect­ed it to go,” he added, “and we are on track for up to 1,200 peo­ple.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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