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National Guard soldiers to get minimal border training

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_3865913 05/26/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT National Guard soldiers to get minimal border training By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
    Message 1 of 1 , May 26, 2006
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      http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_3865913

      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
      provided.

      "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,
      Moncada said.

      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
      border crossings.

      "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,
      he said.

      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 uniform.

      "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
      bgrissom@...; (512) 479-6606.
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