Guard Carry Automatic Weapons to Border, Compare Duty to Iraq

In a priceless dispatch from the Associated Press posted below, guard troops hitting the border in Arizona carry automatic weapons and compare their duty near Mexico with previous work near Iran as one big global war on terror. It will be good training for Mid-East duty says a guard officer. Is this exactly why the guard should not be in Arizona? Two other reports about deployments from Maryland and North Carolina mix references with Afghanistan and Iraq–gm SAN LUIS, Ariz. (AP) _ A National Guard unit that helped secure the border between Iraq and Iran about 18 months ago now has its eye on another border — this one a little closer to home.

Soldiers from the Fayetteville, N.C.-based Combined Arms Battalion this week became the first guardsmen to get field assignments in the Yuma sector of the U.S.-Mexico border, where they’ll act as the eyes and ears for the U.S. Border Patrol, sector Chief Patrol Agent Ron Colburn said.

The guardsmen will be posted about every quarter of a mile along a levee running adjacent to the border and will report any illegal crossings to border patrol agents, who will carry out any interceptions and arrests, Colburn said.

The National Guard troops deployed Wednesday night in full-combat gear, wearing camouflage and helmets and carrying automatic rifles. Lt. Col. Randy Powell said the roughly 100-degree temperatures will provide excellent training during the guard’s two-week mission because it mimics conditions in the Middle East.

Of the battalion’s roughly 550 soldiers, 240 have been deployed in Arizona, Powell said.

”We’ll get great training out of it and the great satisfaction of knowing that we’re helping secure the border,” Powell said. ”It helps us see the front line of what the global war on terror is for us here. They’ve seen it overseas and now they can really see it here.”

The addition of guard troops at the border has led to more than 15 Border Patrol agents being moved from support roles back into the field, Colburn said.

”It’s sending the right message to organized crime that would take advantage of the border situation,” he said. ”America is safer, Yuma is safer and residents here can sleep safer tonight because the National Guard from North Carolina are assisting us here in mission support.”

Paul Chavez, an asap reporter based in Los Angeles, traveled to southern Arizona and northern Mexico to report on the people who patrol the border, and those who hope to cross it.

Guarding borders: From Iraq to Arizona; By PAUL CHAVEZ , Associated Press (ASAP); © July 29, 2006

Annapolis-based Guard will help Border Patrol
By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer

Citzen-soldiers based in Annapolis will head to Arizona next week to help secure the border with Mexico, officials announced yesterday.

Maj. Charles Kohler, a public affairs officer for the Maryland National Guard, couldn’t say exactly how many Annapolis-based soldiers would go to the border. But he did said the majority of the 120 Maryland soldiers being deployed are based at the Medford National Guard Armory in Parole.

They’ll fly from Martin State Airport in Baltimore County in two segments on Monday and Aug. 5. Once in Arizona, they’ll support Border Patrol and Customs agents stationed at the Arizona-Mexico border, Maj. Kohler said.

The call-up is part of Operation Jump Start, President Bush’s plan to ramp up manpower along the border.

The soldiers won’t be directly responsible for confronting or arresting suspected illegal border-crossers.

Instead, they’ll conduct observation along a 372-mile sector between Arizona and Mexico, identifying suspicious subjects and alerting Border Patrol agents, Maj. Kohler said. They also could man checkpoints.

“They’ll be working closely with Border Patrol,” he said.

The Annapolis soldiers will come from the 1st Squadron, 158th Calvary Regiment of the 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

“They’re trained primarily in surveillance and reconnaissance, so it naturally fits with what they do,” Maj. Kohler said.

The tours will last 60 days.

Though the full Annapolis unit hasn’t been deployed recently, many of the individual members have been called up.

Some have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to help with the war on terror. Others have participated in Operation Noble Eagle, providing protection at key domestic sites, such as airports and military installations.

“Some of them were tasked to go down to Hurricane Katrina,” Maj. Kohler added.

More than 800 guard soldiers from across the state are currently deployed on various assignments, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and Kosovo.

“Once again, the Maryland National Guard answers the call of our nation,” Maryland’s top military official, Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, said in a statement. “Our soldiers have valuable skills that can help with the security of the southern border.”

Soldiers are expected to arrive at the armory this weekend for training before their deployment.

Published July 28, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Posted on Fri, Jul. 28, 2006
N.C. troops on guard at Mexico border
Soldiers stake out miles of desert to report illegal crossings

(Raleigh) News & Observer

SFC Patrick Mohan, of Sanford, points out a spot along the Mexico-Arizona border to Sgt. John Burt of Fuquay-Varina in San Luis, Arizona, on Thursday toward the end of the N.C. National Guard’s first shift assisting the Border Patrol.
TED RICHARDSON | News & Observer

SAN LUIS, Ariz. – The Border Patrol official gave the signal to move ’em out, and the N.C. National Guard’s first caravan of desert-tan Humvees and cargo trucks rolled south toward the nation’s border late Wednesday, drawing onlookers’ stares and casting long shadows.

This is the show of force President Bush wanted when he announced Operation Jump Start in May. The buildup to 6,000 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border is intended to send a signal to potential illegal immigrants: Don’t do it.

Some 200 troops from North Carolina’s 252nd Combine Arms Battalion are among the nation’s first to set up observation points to stem the flow of migration into the United States.

“We’re spotting illegal immigrants and reporting them. The customers, for us, are Border Patrol,” said Lt. Col. Randy Powell, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police sergeant who commands the Fayetteville-based battalion. “I think our legacy in Arizona is we develop something that’s not been done before by the Guard.”

Though the battalion is armed and has experience enforcing borders in Iraq, the soldiers will be used solely as scouts in Arizona. It is their job to spend endless hours near the line with Mexico, radioing reports of suspicious movement to the Border Patrol. It’s up to the federal agency to catch illegal immigrants.

“If we’re doing our job right, hopefully we won’t see anything,” said Capt. Chris Rogers, 39, of Cary. “We’re here to deter.”

This is why the troops are running out in caravans, hanging lights from their nighttime observation points and setting up along some of the sites most visible from Mexico.

The troops frighten migrants, Assistant Chief Arthur Angulo of the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector said during a tour of the border with visiting Brig. Gen. Steve Hargis of the N.C. Guard.

“They are afraid of the uniform, of the military uniform,” said Angulo, who oversees Operation Jump Start for the sector.

As the truck passed the border fence, a man peered around it, less than a foot from the United States.

The Border Patrol expects to have about 2,000 National Guard troops in place in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas by Tuesday .

Already, the National
Guard deplo
yments have helped free up 250 Border Patrol agents for field duty, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said this week in Washington. The Guard will stay two years as the federal agency hires new agents.

For North Carolina’s troops, the work replaces two weeks of training at Fort Bragg.

The N.C. troops arrived in Arizona on Sunday and spent the next couple of days training and getting briefed while leaders tried to figure out where to place them. They stayed two nights in Tucson hotels for training before driving west to Yuma.

To the troops, the land southwest of Yuma looks eerily familiar, like Balad, Iraq, with its flat lands, groves of date trees and harsh wind.

Wednesday evening, troops in San Luis unfurled camouflage netting on a levee overlooking the border a few hundred yards away. The netting would be used as daytime shade during the blistering southern Arizona heat, which is topping 110 degrees daily.

A Border Patrol agent briefed Rogers. Watch the fence there, he said, pointing left to the tall, corrugated metal. The migrants duck in and dash to the right along the fields or scurry past into a nearby cluster of homes and lose themselves there.

“Anything here, that’s what you’re looking for,” the agent said, sweeping his arm over the fields.

It was dark, and Pfc. Jonathan Tart of Erwin and Pfc. Isaac Lake of Fayetteville sat cross-legged on the hood of a Humvee. They wore Kevlar helmets, scanning the inky horizon through night binoculars.

“Do you see that?” Tart asked. He pointed out a pair of lights speeding through the field.

Lake nodded. “I see it. What is that?”

“It’s a truck. It’s moving fast as h—.”

It was the Border Patrol. No migrants, no emergency.

Since Bush announced Operation Jump Start in May, apprehensions on the Mexican border have dropped nearly 45 percent from the previous two months, Aguilar said Tuesday in Washington.

In the Yuma sector, apprehensions are down 1 percent from this time last year, said spokesman Richard Hays. Until Bush’s announcement, Hays said, apprehensions had been up.

Inside the detention center this week, captured immigrants sat on wooden benches in barren holding rooms. Two teenage girls sat quietly while a man slept nearby on the floor. A boy alone in a juvenile holding cell watched through the glass as a Border Patrol agent showed paperwork to N.C. Guard leaders.

Powell said the troops will work until Thursday and will return to North Carolina by Aug. 5.

By sunup, the troops on the San Luis levee had seen little. A few jackrabbits. A person who stood on the edge but wandered back into Mexico. And an endless stream of cars on a distant border road, making it tough to distinguish through the night vision goggles.

— News & Observer Photographer Ted Richardson contributed.

— Barbara Barrett: 202-383-0012;

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Educator, Lifelong Student

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