National Guard on pace to put 6,000 troops along U.S.
By Otto Kreisher COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – The
National Guard is ahead of schedule in deploying troops to
help secure the border with Mexico and has had the full
cooperation of every governor approached for troops, the
Guard's top officer said yesterday.
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard
Bureau, said there are about 3,600 National Guard troops
assigned to “Operation Jump Start” along the Southwestern
border. He was confident he would reach the requirement of
up to 6,000 troops by Aug. 1. Most of the Guard troops
deployed are from the four border states: California,
Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Blum said 30 other
governors have committed to provide personnel.
Blum said California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger “has been fully supportive of
this mission” and has provided more of his Guardsmen than
requested for duty on the California border.
But he conceded that Schwarzenegger would not provide
the California Guard troops requested for service in the
other border states, arguing that he could not spare them
because of wildfires, mud slides and other natural
disasters the state might face.
“I'm very satisfied with that,” Blum said.
A California National Guard spokesman said the state
has committed to putting 1,100 Guardsmen into the border
security mission in California. As of yesterday, about
1,300 had orders to deploy and about 800 were on duty
along the border, Maj. Daniel Market said. California has
20,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel, he said.
Arizona was likely to see the most out-of-state forces,
Blum said, because it has a smaller Guard force than
California and Texas and has the area of highest concern,
the border between Yuma and Tucson. Blum said all of the
troops being sent to “Operation Jump Start” received
several days of briefing and orientation before they were
assigned to the border. The briefings included “cultural
sensitivity” and precautions on the heat, rugged terrain,
snakes and other hazards they might encounter, he said.
The troops also receive instructions on the “rules of
engagement,” which cover the possible use of force during
their border duties.
Blum stressed that the Guard was not “defending” the
border and was not doing law enforcement, but was there to
support the Border Patrol and Customs officers who are
responsible for border security.
“This is anything but a military operation,” he said.
The general said the troops would be working on “security
infrastructure,” such as installing or improving roads,
lighting, sensors and fencing. They also would be
providing aviation support, either reconnaissance or
transportation in the rugged areas. Only those troops
whose duties put them in a potentially hazardous area,
where they might encounter dangerous drug or immigrant
smugglers, would be armed, he said.