05/26/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT
National Guard soldiers to get minimal border training
By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
AUSTIN -- National Guard soldiers will receive minimal
specialized training before being deployed to the
Texas-Mexico border, Border Patrol and Texas National
Guard officials said Thursday.
"If they needed extensive training for a couple of
months, that would be a setback instead of being of
assistance," said Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, a
spokeswoman for the Texas adjutant general.
Next week, about 200 National Guard leaders are
expected to arrive at Texas Border Patrol sectors to
begin planning how soldiers will assist the civilian
agency. Officials said soldiers would be placed in
positions for which they already are trained and would
not have the authority to make arrests.
"They will be the eyes and ears for us but not our
hands," said Robert Boatright, assistant chief Border
Patrol agent in El Paso.
President Bush announced earlier this month that 6,000
National Guard soldiers would be sent to Texas, New
Mexico, Arizona and California to help while more
Border Patrol agents are trained.
National Guard soldiers will remain under the control
of each state's governor. Gov. Rick Perry's
spokeswoman Kathy Walt said he was working to get the
first 200 soldiers to the border by June 1.
The number of soldiers to be assigned to the El Paso
area is still unknown, Moncada said. Also unknown is
how long it will be before more soldiers are assigned.
Although it is not yet certain, Moncada said, the
assumption is that soldiers based in Texas will be
assigned to El Paso.
She said leaders, planners and analysts dispatched
next week would confer with the five Border Patrol
sector chiefs to determine what kinds of work are
needed and how to equip the soldiers.
"We don't want to show up on their doorstep and say,
'Here are 3,000 soldiers and give us a place to live
and give us food and water and make sure we are
comfortable,' " she said.
The amount and type of training soldiers receive would
depend on the type of work they are given, Moncada
said. She said she expected that some would learn
Spanish but said she did not know how much, if any,
training on immigration law and enforcement would be
"There may or may not be a need for minimalized
training," she said.
Soldiers who have just returned from missions in Iraq,
Afghanistan or other areas would not be directly
deployed to the border unless they volunteered to go,
She said Texas has more than 21,000 National Guard
soldiers, plenty to accomplish the border mission and
keep up with other demands.
Boatright said the soldiers would be used in a variety
of tactical and surveillance positions in which they
are already skilled so that they can quickly free up
Border Patrol agents trained to interdict illegal
"We try to match up the jobs with the people that are
doing this work. That way it's a benefit for the
Border Patrol" and useful training for the soldiers,
Tasks soldiers might be assigned to include vehicle
repair, camera monitoring, fence building and aircraft
support, Boatright said.
Soldiers would have limited interaction with the
outside community, and Boatright said the training
would probably consist of on-the-job familiarization
with the area and the duties. He said soldiers would
be given maps and global positioning system
coordinates and would be well-supervised.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said sending the
National Guard to the border so quickly and with
little training is not wise.
"That is very little lead time on a very complex
plan," Reyes said. "It's similar to Iraq. This plan is
being made up as they go."
Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for
Human Rights, said his main concern is that armed
soldiers with little or no knowledge of border
communities might disregard citizens' civil rights and
create a hostile environment.
At community forums throughout the city, Garcia said,
the group is seeking the public's comments immigration
and border security. He said the advice he offers to
many fearful El Paso residents, documented and
otherwise, is to remain calm when confronted by anyone
"In whatever case, the mentality of a soldier is to do
war and to shoot and to defend themselves and to look
for enemies," he said.
Brandi Grissom may be reached at
; (512) 479-6606.