USA — Guard Presence on Border Deters Threats

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 17, 2010 — The pres­ence of Nation­al Guard troops along the South­west bor­der has pro­vid­ed U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agents with an addi­tion­al resource to counter drug smug­gling, human traf­fick­ing and oth­er threats along the bor­der, senior Guard offi­cials said this week.

Army Maj. Gen. Peter Aylward, special assistant to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, center, speaks with Arizona Army National Guard soldiers near Nogales, Ariz., while visiting troops serving along the Southwest border in support of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents, Sept. 13, 2010
Army Maj. Gen. Peter Ayl­ward, spe­cial assis­tant to the chief of the Nation­al Guard Bureau, cen­ter, speaks with Ari­zona Army Nation­al Guard sol­diers near Nogales, Ariz., while vis­it­ing troops serv­ing along the South­west bor­der in sup­port of U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol agents, Sept. 13, 2010.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
Click to enlarge

“With every place we’ve vis­it­ed, our col­leagues at Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol could­n’t praise them enough with step­ping up and real­ly pro­vid­ing an incred­i­ble capa­bil­i­ty that gives them the oper­a­tional flex­i­bil­i­ty they need, said Army Maj. Gen. Peter Ayl­ward, spe­cial assis­tant to the chief of the Nation­al Guard Bureau. 

Addi­tion­al flex­i­bil­i­ty also gives bor­der patrol agents a greater abil­i­ty to focus on spe­cif­ic areas with­in their sectors. 

“It helps us alle­vi­ate high-traf­fic areas,” said Mario Escalante, a Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol super­vi­so­ry agent. “More than any­thing else, they will be work­ing as addi­tion­al eyes and ears. They will be work­ing in … [entry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sites] giv­ing not just sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness of what is going on, but also act­ing as a [deter­rent].”

The deter­rence fac­tor read­i­ly can be seen in the num­ber of arrests made by Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol agents. In the Tuc­son sec­tor, dai­ly arrests have been on a steady decline, said U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol offi­cials, who attrib­uted the drop in num­bers to the Guard troops on duty in the area. 

The decrease has been steady for the past few years, offi­cials said, adding that Oper­a­tion Jump Start, ini­ti­at­ed in 2006, pro­vid­ed a much-need­ed boost. 

Because of that, the mis­sion along the bor­der isn’t quite what some troops imag­ined it would be like. 

“When I vol­un­teered for this mis­sion, I expect­ed it to be actu­al­ly mass amounts of peo­ple always cross­ing over,” said Army Spc. Joseph Syed of the Ari­zona Nation­al Guard. “I real­ly did­n’t know what to expect to see, but in my mind I expect­ed to see peo­ple just hop­ping [over the bor­der] and running.” 

Still, Syed said, ille­gal activ­i­ty along the bor­der still remains con­stant, with smug­glers search­ing for new ways to cross peo­ple and illic­it sub­stances across the border. 

“We most­ly see folks dur­ing the day,” he said. “We haven’t seen too many peo­ple at night. It start­ed out with one or two scouts a day, and now we have more along the ridge. Now they are actu­al­ly bring­ing groups with them.” 

Ayl­ward said those smug­gling oper­a­tions often fund larg­er enter­pris­es, such asnar­coter­ror­ism and transna­tion­al threats.. 

Many have com­pared the cur­rent rota­tion of Guard troops along the bor­der to Oper­a­tion Jump Start. The geo­graph­i­cal areas may be the same, but that is where the sim­i­lar­i­ty ends. 

“This is real­ly total­ly dif­fer­ent than Oper­a­tion Jump Start,” Ayl­ward said. “It is anoth­er phase, anoth­er chap­ter to make sure we’re doing every­thing we can to main­tain the sov­er­eign­ty of our borders.” 

One of the biggest dif­fer­ences is the ramp-up of troops. On aver­age, Guards­men will go through four weeks of addi­tion­al train­ing pri­or to work­ing on the bor­der. They began to arrive along the bor­der in late August and ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, and, as of yes­ter­day, slight­ly more than 1,200 Guards­men were in train­ing or already deployed to the border. 

The addi­tion­al time allowed the states to ensure that things ran smooth­ly, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jose Sali­nas, com­man­der of the Ari­zona joint task force, Oper­a­tion Cop­per Cactus. 

“With the ramp-up, it’s giv­en us the time to train peo­ple, make sure our orders are in place, make sure we get our chain of com­mand up to speed,” he said. “[The troops] feel like they’ve been prop­er­ly pre­pared for the sit­u­a­tions they might see.” 

The train­ing was based on sce­nar­ios that ranged from bor­der crossers just need­ing water to encoun­ter­ing more aggres­sive, hos­tile groups. 

“They are also get­ting train­ing in a lot of the tech­nol­o­gy that we have,” Sali­nas said. “I feel very con­fi­dent our troops are get­ting what they need to per­form the mis­sion properly.” 

In all of these mis­sions, Guard troops are strict­ly in sup­port of the Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol or Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment officials. 

“We see some­thing, and we call it in to Bor­der Patrol,” Syed said. “They’ll go check it out.” This helps Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol to bet­ter focus on spe­cif­ic secu­ri­ty issues, he added. 

“The aug­men­ta­tion that we’re pro­vid­ing gives them the oper­a­tional flex­i­bil­i­ty so they can pool their resources and cov­er down on those vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that have pre­vi­ous­ly exist­ed,” said Ayl­ward, who added that the Guard is part of less­en­ing those vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, while the Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol recruits and trains addi­tion­al agents. 

Ayl­ward, who’d toured all four bor­der states this week, said he has been impressed with what he has seen. 

“The moti­va­tion, the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and the atti­tude across the board has been superb,” he said. “It real­ly makes you feel proud to be a part of the team, and it real­ly has been a great expe­ri­ence to come out and vis­it with the lead­ers and the sol­diers that are per­form­ing this mission.” 

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

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