Oklahoma National Guard members sent to U.S.-Mexico border

Sunday, August 6th 2006, 2:03 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma National Guard is sending a second wave of troops to the U.S. Mexico border, with more to follow in the next few weeks.

Members of three National Guard units gathered in Oklahoma City on Saturday for medical checks, records reviews and equipment inventory. The first unit, the Oklahoma Army National Guard's 285th Aviation Company, was set to leave Sunday in four Black Hawk helicopters.

Two other units are expected to leave in the next two months to rotate on three-week shifts.

The Oklahoma troops fulfill part of President Bush's request for 6,000 National Guard members to monitor immigration at the 1,951-mile border until an equal number of Border Patrol officers can be trained to take over.

``No Guard should interject their views about this (order) that came down from the president,'' said Capt. Richard Dujardin, commander of the Tulsa-based 285th. ``As soldiers and Guard members, we support it.''

Dujardin said the 285th will conduct surveillance while transporting entry identification teams from site to site.

``If we see movement on the ground, we will report it to aerial reconnaissance sites'' set up along the border, Dujardin said.

The Enid-based 45th Field Artillery Brigade and the Okmulgee-based 120th Engineer Battalion will be deployed along the southern border over the next two months. Some of the troops may not leave until September.

The deployments were authorized by Gov. Brad Henry last month. Henry's memorandum of agreement with the Defense Department authorized more than 300 Oklahoma troops and their equipment to be sent to New Mexico and western Texas.

``The terrain out there is pretty rough,'' Chief Warrant Officer Robert C. Lane said.

Oklahoma has about 9,700 National Guard members, and Col. Pat Scully said about 350 are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

``It's just another mission, so I feel fine about it. Just go down there and do our job,'' said Capt. Brian Laney, 37. ``Our leaders ... have decided this to be an important mission, so it's my job to support it.''

About 20 Air National Guard troops from the Tulsa-based 138th Civil Engineering Squadron left July 15 in the state's first deployment to the border.

``I used to think immigration was kind of unfair,'' said John Dillon, 49. ``But now I think immigration is one of the greatest parts of our country. I'd like to see everybody get a chance to do it legally.''