ARLINGTON, Va. - Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen in the ground reconnaissance, civil operations, and criminal analysis fields will see new and/or upgraded equipment between now and next fiscal year.

That's because the National Guard Bureau Domestic Operations Counterdrug Program has purchased millions of dollars worth of equipment to improve state programs.

The purchases were made possible with the combination of Counterdrug end-of-year funds and Army Program Executive Office Soldier funds.

"National Guard Bureau is definitely looking forward in regards to how ground reconnaissance supports law enforcement," said Army Guard Maj. Jeff Newman, logistics officer, California National Guard. "The fielding and receipting of this specialized equipment validates NGB Counterdrug's response from the field."

Newman was one of the first to get issued the equipment.

Each of the 54 programs will receive a set number of hand-held thermal imagers, with 559 dispensed at the cost of $12.4 million, provided by PEO Soldier funds from the U.S. Army. However, the nation's top seven states for illegally-produced marijuana--California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oregon, Virginia, and West Virginia--as well as the other southwest Border states--Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas--will receive plus-ups of the imagers. Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Nebraska round out the plus-up recipients as they also operate the Light Armored Vehicles used to bring law enforcement agents into high-risk areas.

"The MX-2 detects infrared sources such as human beings and vehicles at long distance, often when traditional night vision cannot," said Army Guard Lt. Col. Reyes Cole, training chief, National Guard Bureau J3 Counterdrug Division.

The imager is effective day and night, weighs 2.5 pounds and is cased in aluminum alloy. It's an adaptable device that can be hand-held, mounted on a tripod or vehicle, and has remote and monitor viewing capabilities as well as imaging recording.

"Threats can be detected at longer ranges with this equipment and that's a major force protection advantage," said Cole.

Soldiers and Airmen trained in ground reconnaissance will use the equipment in detecting illegal drug activity in operations they support to law enforcement agencies across the country.

All the equipment will be released in phases as it becomes available. Additional gear purchased for the surveillance teams and criminal analysts include binoculars, bullet-proof vests, cameras, satellite phones, goggles, holsters and more. Future purchases include zodiac boats and a low ropes kits for states that are in need of them. Those purchases will be with end-of-year funds that the states or other programs were not able to execute, said Cole.

Senior leadership says this equipment will provide an increased accountability to the program because standardizing equipment in all programs is simply the right way of doing business.

"Lt. Col. Cole, his staff, and many members from state programs such as West Virginia, California, South Carolina and Washington were vital to securing the funds from the U.S. Army to purchase the imagery equipment," said Air Guard Col. William Carle, chief, National Guard Bureau J3 Counterdrug Division. "What we bring to the table will be operable by everyone across the multiple jurisdictions we support. Additionally, the purchase of this equipment in bulk results in significant savings."