USA – Guard Stands Ready for Border Mission, General Says

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2010 – If civilian leaders decide to include the National Guard in a broader mission on the Southwest border, the National Guard stands ready, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said this week.

„The president and the secretary of defense will tell me when the time is right [and] when the conditions are right, whether they need [Guard members] or not,“ Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley told reporters May 3. „Based on this magnificent force, … I don’t think there’ll be a problem finding a force if authorized to help. But I’m not out looking for a mission.“

About 6,000 Guard members served in Operation Jump Start on the Southwest border for two years, starting in 2006, to support the Border Patrol while it recruited and trained new agents to boost then size of its force. Today, a small number of National Guard troops provide counterdrug border support.

Any new mission likely would be much different from Operation Jump Start, Guard officials said, perhaps focused on preventing the spillover of drug violence across the border.

President Barack Obama will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon later this month, McKinley noted.

„Let’s let the presidents of the two countries decide. … We will do what we’re asked to do,“ he said. „Many of the Southwest border governors have asked for National Guard forces, but those decisions will be given to me by my leadership when the time is right.“

National Guard Bureau