National Guard Makes Presence Felt At Border

National Guard Assisting Border Patrol In Stopping Illegal Crossers

POSTED: 5:16 pm PDT May 6, 2011
UPDATED: 7:30 pm PDT May 6, 2011

SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. National Guard is having a major impact on one of its most unlikely deployments -- San Diego.

In August 2010, President Barack Obama ordered the National Guard to the U.S. border region to assist the Border Patrol.

The results don't make sense at first glance, as the number of illegal immigrants apprehended is down 37 percent, according to the Border Patrol.

Last year, 260 National Guard soldiers and airmen came to San Diego. Since then, more than 3,300 people have been taken into custody and more than 300 pounds of drugs have been recovered.

"This station has had the most National Guard assisted apprehensions of anywhere on the U.S.-Mexican border," said Army National Guard SFC Richard Ittner.

The Border Patrol says fewer people are trying to cross the border illegally, which is credited to the National Guard and the Border Patrol wanting potential crossers to know they are watching.

"They know it's just extra eyes and ears out here. They know it's going to be even tougher," said Border Patrol Agent Michael Jimenez.

The National Guard's primary duty along the border is to operate thermal scopes and special night-vision cameras. That frees up Border Patrol agents who usually operate the scopes and cameras to pursue illegal crossers in the field.

"We can spot for them and that puts more of their guys out on the line," said Army National Guard SPC Johnathan Huss.
It has also been an eye-opening experience for the soldiers who have also served overseas in Kosovo and Iraq.

"I was really surprised. Up until I got here, I didn't realize exactly how many people tried to cross all the time," said Army National Guard SPC Jessie Qualley.

A recent Los Angeles Time article reported crossings were down so much that some agents and National Guard members were punished for falling asleep while on lookout.