- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

BALTIMORE — The Maryland National Guard is deploying 120 soldiers to Arizona to help monitor the Mexican border, the first group of Maryland soldiers to take part in President Bush’s plan to stem illegal aliens’ entry into the country.

Maj. Charles Kohler, a spokesman for the Maryland National Guard, said a group of 60 soldiers will mobilize tomorrow and fly to Arizona on Tuesday.

Another group of 60 soldiers will mobilize Tuesday and deploy four days later.

The soldiers will be spread out along a 272-mile section of the Mexican border with Arizona to observe from designated points, Maj. Kohler said.

“I want to emphasize that we are in a support role,” he said. “We are not the lead agency. We are working for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.”

The Maryland soldiers mostly will come from the 58th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Squadron 158th Cavalry.

Mr. Bush, who announced the plan in mid-May, has said the mission would free up thousands of officers now on other duties to actively patrol the border.

Soldiers are expected to build fences, conduct routine surveillance and take care of other administrative duties for the Border Patrol.

The Maryland soldiers are expected to return Sept. 26.

Lt. Col. Mike Milord, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, an arm of the Pentagon, said 4,951 National Guard troops had been deployed in the effort as of yesterday. Mr. Bush’s plan calls for having 6,000 troops participating in Operation Jump Start by the end of this month. Col. Milord said the military expects to reach that goal.

The Delaware National Guard also is sending its first group of soldiers to take part in the effort. Leonard Gratteri, a spokesman for the Delaware National Guard, said about 40 soldiers will be deployed next week — a group comprising engineering, medical, aviation and communications personnel.

Mr. Gratteri also said the Guard was sending 50 persons to Arizona tomorrow from the 166th Civil Engineering Squadron.

While they will not officially be part of Operation Jump Start, Mr. Gratteri said they will be helping improve roads and fences.

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