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By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2010 - The National Guard is sending 1,200 troops to the Southwest border states to provide temporary support for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, officials announced today.
The citizen-soldiers and -airmen will serve alongside federal agents for one year as an augmentation force. The troops will work to prevent illegal immigration and drug trafficking north of the border, as well as to counter weapons and cash smuggling going south, Alan Bersin, CBP commissioner, said today at a Pentagon news conference.
The deployment will give CBP and the Department of Homeland Security the time to hire and train 1,000 more border patrol agents and CBP officers, Bersin said.
The deployment and measures to increase border patrol personnel, he said, are part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the border, he said. More than 340,000 illegal aliens and smugglers have been apprehended along the border since October, he added.
Troops are expected to begin deploying to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California by Aug. 1. All 1,200 troops should be on the ground by September, Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, National Guard Bureau chief, said at the news conference.
Some troops will work as criminal and intelligence analysts. Others will support CBP entry identification teams. Troops operating in those capacities are undergoing training now, McKinley noted. Also, about 300 guardsmen are already on the ground working on counternarcotics teams, he added.
Troops will be armed during the deployment. However, their weapons are for self-defense purposes, the general explained. The CBP and border patrol agents "have the lead" and determine the amount of force necessary for certain situations, he added.
The troops will only be deployed on the United States side of the border and will follow the rules of engagement set by the agencies in each state, the general said. He added that the troops will fall under the command and control of the state governors.