Border duty underway for newly arrived National Guard troops

Border duty underway for newly arrived National Guard troops

A poster lauding the National Guard, one of many in the National Guard hallway at the Pentagon (Tom Squitieri.TMN)

WASHINGTON — The first National Guard troops deployed in response to President Donald Trump’s order to counter alleged illegal immigration across the border with Mexico have begun assisting border patrol agents in southern Arizona.

Roughly 350 Guard troops from Arizona arrived during the week, commuting from a Phoenix military base to the border. Eventually, Arizona Guard troops will work from an Army National Guard facility in Marana, a town just north of Tucson. “Their efforts will help make Arizona and our country more secure,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement.

Ducey called the deployment “Operation Guardian Support” but the Pentagon did not confirm that name for the mission.

The troops will be joined by Guard elements from the three other border states in the next week, with 300 from Texas scheduled to arrive next Friday. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told San Antonio radio station KTSA that he will stream about 300 troops a week until a full strength of no less than 1,000 is in place.

On Friday, Pentagon officials said no new construction is anticipated to house National Guard troops deploying to the border but that specifics are still being determined. The initial thought is to station the Guard personnel at existing Defense Department, Homeland Security and other existing government structures, they said.

Existing facilities include Fort Huachuca in Cochise County, Ariz., approximately 15 miles north of the Mexican border; Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas; Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona; Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona, near the Mexican border; Holloman Air Force Base  and White Sands Missile Range in Otero, New Mexico; Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, and multiple Navy faciliities in southern California.

The Pentagon order, issued late last Friday night, authorized up to 4,000 National Guard troops for border deployment not to last beyond September 2018. Trump has said they will stay until he gets the money he seeks to build a wall on the Mexican border.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s office said that about 80 troops would deploy to the border this week. They will be followed by about another 170 troops, her office said in a statement.

California announced on Wednesday that it would add roughly 400 Guard members statewide to supplement the 250 individuals now in an ongoing statewide program to combat transnational crime. That includes 55 now at the California border. It was unclear when those elements would arrive.

“But let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws,” California Gov. Jerry Brown said in the statement authorizing the deployment.

Brown said in his statement that the location of Guard personnel and how many specifically will be in support of operations along the border, the coast and elsewhere “will be dictated by the needs on the ground.”

The first deployments of National Guard troops at the border came as Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen planned to visit this week part of a new border wall site in New Mexico this week, according to a DHS news release.

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