- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Local National Guard units say they are prepared to respond to President Bush’s call for 6,000 troops to help clamp down the border with Mexico.

“The Maryland National Guard can do this mission no matter what,” said spokesman Maj. Charles Pohlar. “We have a variety of skills and highly trained personnel.”

Mr. Bush announced Monday that he will send National Guard troops to the southern border to assist U.S. Border Patrol and local law-enforcement officers.

Although the troops won’t be involved in direct law enforcement on the border, Mr. Bush said they will help with training as well as building fences, roads and vehicle barriers.

Officials with the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. National Guards said yesterday that they haven’t received any orders for border duty in California, New Mexico, Arizona or Texas but are prepared for a call to action.

“We’re ready to support the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Parnell, a spokesman for the D.C. National Guard. “At this point, we’re just like the other 50 states — we’re just on standby. I don’t know at this point what the mission is or what we’re going to do if we get tasked for support. We’re ready to go if we should get the call, but at this point, it’s not at our level, it’s still in the works.”

The bureaucratic procedures necessary to authorize the mission may prove to be the biggest hurdle, officials say.

“That’s a lot of red tape, as far as getting to the area and all that,” Sgt. Parnell said. “If they want to do it right here, right now, they’ll make it happen. It just depends on the level of urgency.”

The D.C. National Guard has about 2,300 members, and about 140 of those are deployed overseas.

Officials with the Maryland National Guard, which has about 6,800 members, including 700 deployed overseas, said they have about 70 troops supporting the Border Patrol as part of a training mission with Operation Grizzly in San Diego.

“We actually do have soldiers down there right now,” Maj. Pohlar said.

Maj. Pohlar said Company C, 729th Brigade Support Battalion, a medical unit, is in San Diego for about two weeks and will return home when the training mission ends.

“This is just part of their normal annual training rotation,” he said.

Local Guard units could perform a variety of missions along the border, including analyzing intelligence, building fences, and constructing and patrolling roads, National Guard officials said.

“Those capacities are built into any military organization,” said Lt. Col. Chester Carter III, a spokesman for the Virginia National Guard. “We’ve got … Virginia National Guard air units, military police units, transport and medical assets” capable of handling a wide range of duties, he said.

The Virginia National Guard has about 8,200 members, Col. Carter said, with about 475 of those deployed overseas.

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