Guard Soldiers May Go to Border Next Week

05-25-06 - The first wave of about 800 National Guard soldiers will head to the U.S-Mexico border as early as next week, including planners and leadership personnel who will stay longer than the planned 21-day missions, the National Guard chief told lawmakers Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said 200 soldiers are preparing to go to each of the four border states--- California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico _ around June 1. He said the initial troops will be part of a longer-term force of project managers who will stay on the job over time to provide continuity in the new border program.

The troops represent the launch of President Bush's plan to dispatch up to 6,000 National Guard members to states bordering Mexico to support the Border Patrol and help stem the flow of illegal immigrants across the border.

It was not clear whether the initial influx of Guard members would come from the four border states or from other units across the country. Blum said the Guard troop that will be deployed longer than three weeks are volunteers.

Under the plan, most of the troops would spend about 21 days, which includes their normal annual two-week training mission, working along the border. The Guard troops would be used for engineering, road and fence building, transportation, logistics and surveillance and reconnaissance.