By Staff Sgt. Jim GreenhillAugust 3, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 2, 2010 - National Guard troops in four states are in training today as they prepare to join colleagues already supporting Border Patrol agents on the nation's Southwest border.
The National Guard has been providing Southwest border support for a number of years through its counterdrug program, said Army Maj. Gen. Peter Aylward, who is coordinating the latest operation at the National Guard Bureau. "Today we have more than 360 folks providing that kind of support," he added. "For this new mission, we have about 150 folks, and we'll ramp up as part of a phased, deliberate operation to as many as 1,200."
These Guardsmen will support Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Guard deployments over the last 20 years have increased capabilities in such a fashion that it puts more Border Patrol agents' boots on the ground, David Aguilar, deputy customs and border protection commissioner, said in June after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the latest deployment.
Homeland Security works with federal, state, local, tribal and Mexican partners to crack down on border-related crime and smuggling while facilitating legitimate travel and commerce.
Support from the National Guard has worked out very well, Aguilar said, noting that the Guardsmen don't arrest or engaging in enforcement activities directly attributed to illegal crossings of aliens or narcotics. "The National Guard ... will bring us a tremendous amount of capability in securing our borders," he added.
"We're designed to be in a support role for [Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement]," Aylward said. "Whenever there is an opportunity for law enforcement functions, it is up to those law enforcement officials to take whatever action they can under the authorities that they already have."
The majority of the Guard members will support the Border Patrol with entry identification teams and support Immigration and Customs Enforcement with criminal investigative analysts for one year.
The teams monitor the border from strategic observation points with state-of-the-art surveillance and detection tactics and technology in support of local law enforcement.
"It equates to what we normally do in military ops as observation posts/listening posts," Aylward said, "but there is some unique gear, and there are some unique protocols that they use from an operational security point of view that the teams really need to understand how to use them because they'll be out in very remote locations in some instances."
The criminal investigative analysts will assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in reducing the flow of illegal bulk currency and weapons from the United States to Mexico.
"Their work has to use special systems, and because the people may be doing this for the first time, we want to make sure they're thoroughly vetted and thoroughly understand what kind of activity they will be performing while they're on that mission," Aylward said. "These are things that will fill key, niche areas for our colleagues so that they can recruit, train and employ more than 1,000 folks over that one-year period of time."
The largest number of troops - 524 - is slated to deploy in Arizona, according to a Homeland Security Department news release. An estimated 250 will deploy in Texas, 224 in California and 72 in New Mexico. Additional troops from these states also will serve in command and control or support positions.
"Both the Air Guard and the Army Guard will be members of the team," Aylward said. "It's a great team effort to help provide that bridge to our colleagues."
Last week, for example, about 20 members of the California Air Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing based at March Air Reserve Base, and the 147th Combat Communication Squadron out of San Diego were deployed to the border as part of the state's support of Homeland Security.
The National Guard successfully supported the border security mission during Operation Jump Start from 2006 to 2008.
"The National Guard historically has always performed well," Aylward said. "This is a very important mission for this nation that's an intensification of earlier efforts that began in 1993. This is just another chapter of a great initiative."