“This (mission) is not really unique,” Jack Harrison, the director of communications for the National Guard Bureau told participants in a DoD Bloggers Roundtable. “The National Guard has been involved at the Southwest border for two decades.”
During that time, National Guard members have worked in the counterdrug program in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. “Above and beyond the 1,200 authorized for this mission, there are over 350 counterdrug personnel (in these states) doing that mission,” Harrison said.
Almost 6,000 Guard members from around the country were deployed in support of Operation Jump Start, a two-year mission that ended in 2008.
“So, this is not new,” Harrison said.
Many of the Guard members, who have volunteered for the current border mission, also have overseas deployment experience. “And yes, those experiences are certainly useful for this mission,” Harrison said. “It is also why DHS requested the National Guard’s support on the border … they recognize that level of experience.”
Harrison said the Guard will act as “extra eyes and ears” for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during the one-year mission. They will provide entry identification and criminal analysis support to these agencies.
Neither mission requires direct law enforcement activates, Harrison said. “They will be armed, but that will be more for self-protection than anything else.”
Of the 1,100 on duty, there are about 975 Army Guard members and 100 Air Guard members.
Harrison said these Guard members volunteered for this mission and were not called up as part of a unit.
Each state is using volunteers from within the state. “There are no units or individuals from outside those four states being called in to help in those four states,” Harrison said.
The incremental deployment of Guard members began on July 1, and the one-year mission includes training time, “boots on the ground” time and the ramp down at the end of the mission.
The training can take from two to three weeks and focuses on the agencies’ tactics and procedures as well as any equipment that may be used during the mission.
Harrison said this is a federally funded mission, but it is not federally commanded. “The governor and the adjutant general in each of these four states maintain command and control over each person on duty,” he said. “They control the flow of the forces and the numbers of forces on duty … and they will maintain that level of control throughout the mission.”
He added that the total funding authorized for this mission for up to 1,200 Guardsmen for up to one year is $135 million.
The states cannot activate more than 1,200, but they could use fewer, Harrison said adding, “that would be up to each state.”
Of the almost 1,100 currently on duty, there are about 300 in California, 450 in Arizona, 90 in New Mexico and 225 in Texas.
“We take this mission very seriously,” Harrison said. “The president has asked us to support this mission, while CBP and ICE hire new agents. Everything is going as we expected it to go, and we are on track for up to 1,200 people.”