MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Soldiers from the North Carolina Army National Guard arrived here July 25 in support of the U.S. Border Patrol as part of Operation Jump Start.
Two hundred soldiers from Fayetteville, N.C., 252nd Combined Arms Battalion began a two-week deployment to assist along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President George W. Bush’s proposal to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the border, said Maj. Henry L. Stevens, 252nd CAB command judge advocate.
“252nd CAB will serve as an early identification team and be the eyes and the ears for Border Patrol agents,” said Capt. Chris Rogers, 252nd CAB Delta Company commander. “Our job will be spotting illegal immigrants who are trying to cross the border and reporting suspicious activities to the agents.”
The National Guardsmen will not be in charge of apprehensions, said Rogers. That will be left up to Border Patrol agents.
The North Carolina unit spent a year in Iraq in 2005.
“We conducted operations such as providing security patrols and setting up observation posts while we were deployed in Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Randy Powell, 252nd CAB battalion commander. “We are excited to be able to help.”
The Guard troops will use the two-week deployment as part of their annual training requirements.
“We feel that even though we will only be here for two weeks, we will have achieved a lot in the border enforcement efforts,” said Powell. “We also appreciate the warm welcome from the U.S. Border Patrol agents, and the Marine Corps for housing us.”
Although the majority of the soldiers are on two-week rotations, many of the guardsmen stay for up to a year.
Brig. Gen. Steve Hargis, North Carolina National Guard assistant adjutant general, visited the guardsman and was briefed on the plans.
“We are looking forward to engaging with the Border Patrol and fulfilling their duties within the law,” said Hargis. “We want to be sure the soldiers have everything logistically they need and make sure they are informed of their mission.”
This is the beginning of the border enforcement operations announced by Bush earlier this year. The operation began June 15. Government officials have said more than half of the 6,000 National Guard troops Bush wanted to send have already reported.