San Diego Union Tribune

July 15, 2006

National Guard on pace to put 6,000 troops along U.S. border

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.

Advertisement
 

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.

 »Next Story»