Na­tional Guard re­treat at border deemed ap­pro­pri­ate

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

Na­tional Guard sol­diers who aban­doned an ob­ser­va­tion post on the U.S.-Mex­ico border af­ter spot­ting armed men ap­proach­ing their po­si­tion acted ap­pro­pri­ately by re­treat­ing to a safer lo­ca­tion, the U.S. Border Pa­trol said on Jan. 8.

Border Pa­trol spokesman Mario Martinez at the agency’s Wash­ing­ton, D.C. head­quar­ters said that al­though the Na­tional Guard troops were armed and au­tho­rized to use force in self­de­fense, they de­ter­mined they were not in im­mi­nent dan­ger and re­treated to call for help.

“The Border Pa­trol re­sponded within min­utes with air and ground units, but found no one in the area,” Mr. Martinez said. “In this sit­u­a­tion, the Na­tional Guard troops did ex­actly what was ex­pected of them, ex­actly what they should have done.

“The Guard troops are not there to en­gage, in­ter­dict or ar­rest any­one but to man ob­ser­va­tion posts,” he said.

The troops were mem­bers of an en­try-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion team, as­signed to mon­i­tor ma­jor il­le­gal-alien and drug-smug­gling cor­ri­dors.

Mr. Martinez said that no shots were ex­changed and that no one was in­jured in the in­ci­dent, which oc­curred Jan. 3 shortly af­ter 11 p.m. near Sasabe, Ariz., about 70 miles south­west of Tuc­son. He said agents who re­sponded to the site found foot­prints lead­ing back to Mex­ico.

The armed men had come within 100 yards of the ob­ser­va­tion post.

Mr. Martinez said the Border Pa­trol has not iden­ti­fied the four or five armed men in­volved in the in­ci­dent but said the Guard troops spot­ted them with their night-vi­sion equip­ment and con- firmed they were car­ry­ing ri­fles.

Sev­eral Border Pa­trol field agents said the armed men could have been a scout­ing party for drug smug­glers or might have been test­ing the Na­tional Guard’s re­sponse to a cross-border in­tru­sion.

In that same area in July 2005, two Border Pa­trol agents were shot and wounded by as­sailants in what law-en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties called a planned am­bush by drug smug­glers a mile north of the U.S.Mex­ico border.

More than 50 rounds were fired at the agents af­ter they spot­ted sus­pected drug smug­glers in a canyon east of No­gales, Ariz., au­thor­i­ties said. Al­though most of the smug­glers fled, one man used a hand-held ra­dio to point out the agents’ lo­ca­tion to other shoot­ers hid­den nearby, they said.

The agents, who were track­ing a pre­vi­ous mar­i­juana load on foot, were shot in the leg with high-pow­ered weapons. Au­thor­i­ties said the gun­men with­drew from the canyon us­ing mil­i­tary-style cover and con­ceal­ment tac­tics to es­cape back into Mex­ico.

Au­thor­i­ties later found 500 pounds of mar­i­juana near the site.

About 6,000 Na­tional Guard troops de­ployed along the 1,951mile U.S.-Mex­ico border are part of Pres­i­dent Bush’s $760 mil­lion Op­er­a­tion Jump Start. They have been de­ployed from Cal­i­for­nia to Texas to up­grade border se­cu­rity and give the Border Pa­trol time to re­cruit, hire and train 6,000 new agents by the end of 2008.

The Guard troops are not em­pow­ered to get in­volved in lawen­force­ment du­ties. They can­not de­tain, ar­rest or in­ter­dict any­one or any­thing com­ing across the border — only re­port them to the Border Pa­trol.

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