National Guard troops expected by Aug. 1 - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

National Guard troops expected by Aug. 1

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Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010 10:00 am | Updated: 1:05 am, Wed Jul 21, 2010.

Arizona should see its first National Guard soldiers next month.

But the full deployment won't be in the state until October. And they won't be staying that long.

The announcement Monday at the Pentagon left Gov. Jan Brewer unimpressed with what she continues to insist is the failure of the federal government to understand the situation along the border. So Brewer took the opportunity to hand out $10 million in grants to state, local and tribal entities to do the job she said the federal government has failed to do.

Monday's briefing was designed to provide some details about President Obama's decision in May to put 1,200 soldiers along the border with Mexico. Of those, 524 are earmarked for Arizona.

"We believe that we'll be fully ready through the month of August as we ramp up,'' National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Craig McKinley said at the Pentagon briefing. "But surely by September we should have our whole forces in the field, working with our partners.''

But Lt. Col. Robert Ditchey acknowledged that Arizona won't have its full complement of soldiers until October -- and then, only for about four months.

"It ramps up prior to that time, holds at kind of that high peak, and then will ramp down to June 30 when is the end of this support, this temporary bridge,'' he said. Ditchey figured that soldiers would start leaving in January.

Monday's Pentagon announcement, though, included more than just details about Guard deployment. John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said special attention is being paid to Arizona.

"We're placing a particular emphasis on the Tucson sector, an area favored by smugglers and the principal point of illegal entry into the United States along the southwest border,'' Morton said during the briefing.

"We're going to do it by opening a new investigative office in Ajo to focus exclusively on cross-border crime,'' Morton continued. And he promised to put a special "border enforcement security task force'' of specially trained agents in Douglas to bolster investigations in that part of the state.

"That's the part of the country where Mr. (Robert) Krentz, the rancher, was murdered,'' Morton noted.

And he promised additional lawyers to help prosecute criminals who illegally re-enter the country after they've been deported.

"Indeed, we're presently prosecuting every single felon who re-enters the country through the Tucson sector,'' Morton said.

McKinley said the new soldiers being sent to the border will have the same "use of force'' rules that now exist for Guard troops already involved in the Joint Counter Narco-Terrorism Task Force: He said soldiers will be armed but their weapons are "for self-preservation only, self-defense only.''

Some of the new soldiers will be assigned to "entry identification teams.''

"They work with Border Patrol agents in this case to provide additional eyes and ears on the border,'' said Alan Bersin, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, located at predetermined places along the border "to spot those trying to cross into the country illegally." But he said the Border Patrol would conduct the actual apprehensions.

He would not say whether that means being on the ground, located in towers or staffing radar units.

Brewer said while the soldiers are needed, she considers the response from the Obama administration wholly inadequate.

"It does not appear to be enough, or tied to a strategy to comprehensively defeat the increasingly violent drug and alien smuggling cartels that operate in Arizona on a daily basis,'' the governor said in a prepared statement.

Brewer separately used her office's announcement of the grant awards to take yet another slap at the failure of the federal government to secure the border. But the Republican governor reserved most of her criticism for the current Democratic occupant of the White House.

"I reject the Obama administration's notion that Arizona's border security is better than ever,'' Brewer said in a prepared statement.

That claim was repeated Monday at the Pentagon briefing.

"The border is more resourced and more secure than it's ever been,'' said Bersin.

He said there has been a 23 percent decrease of illegal immigrants coming across the border. At the same time, Bersin said, the number of drug busts is up 15 percent, with a 30 percent boost in seizures of illegal weapons.

Brewer said she remains unconvinced that the border is more secure.

"We are forced to do what we can locally to act on safety and security until the Congress and the administration act,'' the governor said.

In those grant awards announced Monday, vehicles and high-tech equipment appear to be popular choices of the cities, counties and tribes that succeeded in landing a share of the cash.

Many of the successful requests were for all-wheel drive sport-utility vehicles that would be suitable for driving through the desert. Several police departments also asked for smaller all-terrain vehicles.

Overtime pay also figured in several requests, as did K-9 patrols.

And then there is the technology.

Particularly popular are night-vision telescopes and thermal imaging sensors. Some cash also will be spent on radios and remote data terminals.

Brewer is hanging on to nearly $1.6 million of that for her own Department of Public Safety. It wants the cash for overtime to set up special "enforcement details'' to deal with border crime.

But that takes up just $400,000 of the grant. The rest is going to equipment, ranging from six 4x4 patrol vehicles to a telescope with infrared technology.

Recipients of "border security enhancement" grants:

-- Arizona Department of Public Safety: $1,594,000 -- personnel costs for special detail, six 4x4 patrol, forward-looking ground-based infrared telescopes

-- Benson: $76,080 -- SUV, 4x4 truck, patrol car

-- Bisbee: $160,500 -- one unmarked SUV, overtime, mileage reimbursement

-- Cochise County: $1,550,000 -- six satellite phones and service fees, radios, mobile data terminals, six 4x4 trucks, two ATVs and trailers, weapons, thermal imaging equipment

-- Cocopah Tribe: $162,500 -- K-9 program and vehicle, two motorcycles, gear, equipment, training

-- Douglas: $220,000 -- eight two-wheel drive SUVs

-- Fort Yuma-Quechan Tribe: $110,000 -- one employee, three 4x4 vehicles, ammunition, communications equipment

-- Nogales: $702,775 -- 40 mobile data terminals, five 4x4 SUVs, equipment

-- Patagonia: $114,060 -- three 4x4 SUVs, overtime, weapons, three GPS devices

-- Pima County: $1,136,688 -- 52 4x4 SUVs, two passenger vans, helicopter parts and fuel, rifle optics

-- Sahuarita: $225,366 -- two 4x4 vehicles, two unmarked vehicles, 40 digital video cameras for vehicles

-- San Luis: $195,000 -- two officers, overtime pay, two K-9 units, two SUVs, thermal imaging cameras

-- Santa Cruz County: $1,300,000 -- 20 mobile data terminals, 18 mobile and 15 portable radios, 14 desktop computers, weapons, ammunition, training

-- Somerton: $181,000 -- overtime, SUV, police equipment

-- Tohono O'odham Nation: $815,000 -- full-time reserve officers, two ATVs, two command vehicles, night vision devices, two search-and-rescue dogs, stun guns and cartridges

-- Yuma: $334,750 -- surveillance equipment, training, overtime

-- Yuma County: $907,114 -- four 4x4 trucks, mini tactical robot, ballistic vests and helmets, bomb suit, thermal imaging equipment

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