By Fred W. Baker III
Jan. 24, 2007 – More than 600 Texas National Guardsmen were activated by the state's governor Jan. 22 to support a surge operation targeting crime and international drug and human trafficking along the state's 1,200-mile border with Mexico. The soldiers are activated in support of Operation Wrangler, an interagency law enforcement operation that involves 6,800 federal, state and local officials, according to a release by Texas Gov. Rick Perry's office.
These soldiers are in addition to the 1,700 Texas Guardsmen federally activated in support Operation Jump Start, a beef-up of National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border aimed at stopping illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.
Airmen from the 204th Security Forces Squadron from Fort Bliss, Texas, will play a major part by supporting with trained and experienced security force airmen and the rest of the forces will be provided by smaller units from throughout the state, said Army Col. Bill Meehan, Texas National Guard's state public affairs officer. The majority of the 604 activated are Army National Guardsmen. The Guardsmen will remain on state activation for the next several weeks, Meehan said.
The Guardsmen will form 12 armed security platoons and man traffic crossovers along the Rio Grande River. Each platoon will be accompanied by a Border Patrol agent and a local police officer, according to a release by the governor's office. The Guardsmen are issued weapons, but whether they carry them will depend on the mission, Meehan said.
The 204th Security Force Squadron is uniquely qualified for its role of reinforcing local law enforcement as the only heavy weapons security force in the Air National Guard, Meehan said, and troop support is strong for this new mission.
"The National Guard has its roots as a voluntary organization, and all of our soldiers and airmen know this," Meehan said. "We have not seen a problem with recruiting and retaining fine Army and Air guardsmen in any of the years that we have answered the call to respond to the citizens of Texas or the United States.
"Morale continues to be high," Meehan said. "This is reflected in Operation Jump Start. Every (Texas) soldier or airman in Operation Jump Start is a volunteer."
Operation Jump Start Guardsmen work in direct support of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection under a federal activation, Meehan said.
The majority of the soldiers and airmen activated for Operation Wrangler already have seen either state or federal duty, or both, Meehan said.
In the past five years, more than 8,000 Texas Guardsmen have been activated on federal orders, Meehan said. Even more have been activated for state missions, such as hurricane and flood relief, he said.
Just yesterday, 400 Texas Army National Guard soldiers returned home after serving a one-year deployment to the Sinai, in Egypt, Meehan said. The group served as the command cell for Multinational Force and Observers 49. The command cell was led by the 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, out of Waco, Texas.
Some 250 Texas Guardsmen were activated to assist during the winter storm that swept through the state Jan. 15-17. The soldiers were stationed in Abilene, Corsicana, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Waco, Terrell and Tyler to support the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement in west central Texas.
Also, 1,500 are serving in Baghdad. The 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, from Austin, deployed in August and controls a 2,500-person brigade that represents troops from 44 states.
Texas has 21,000 Army and Air National Guard soldiers and airmen.
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