|National Guard Troops Secure America's Airports|
National Guard Troops Secure America's Airports
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, Army News Service.
Washington D.C. -- (ANS) October 1, 2001 -- Airport security was added to the National Guard's growing list of civil support and homeland defense missions Sept. 27, at the direction of President George W. Bush. The Federal Aviation Administration has asked the Department of Defense to coordinate the use of about 5,000 National Guard members at 422 commercial airports nationwide for the next four to six months in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"To make sure that we improve security right now, the federal government will pay for governors to call up the National Guard and place Guardsmen at inspection stations in airports," the president said at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
"Some airports already meet high standards," said Bush, the former Texas Air National Guard fighter pilot. "But for those airports that need help, we will work with the governors to provide security measures - visible security measures - so the traveling public will know that we are serious about airline safety in America."
The president will work with Congress to put the federal government in charge of airport security and screening services, officials said. The Federal Aviation Administration will train the National Guard troops in airport security techniques, officials added. Fully implementing the extensive security proposal may take four to six months, Bush said. During that time, the president said that he will ensure that every airport has a strong security presence by asking the Governors of the 50 states to call up the National Guard - at the federal government's expense - to augment existing security staffs at every commercial airport nationwide.
A National Guard Bureau historian in Arlington, Va., said using Guard troops for airport security is similar to how they were used during the 1970 New York City Postal strike. Then, 10,845 Army Guard soldiers and 1,876 Air Guard members sorted mail and helped provide security. More than 1,000 of those troops delivered mail in the city's financial district.
This, however, is believed to be the first time that National Guard troops are being employed in this way across the country.
"We support the president's effort to maintain America's confidence in the aviation industry," said Craig Duehring, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs. "We will be working closely with the FAA, the National Guard Bureau and the states to expedite this effort to achieve the president's goals."
National Guard troops have been supporting security missions since terrorists in hijacked commercial airlines destroyed the World Trade Center and rammed into the Pentagon.
Nearly 300 military police officers from three Maryland Army National Guard units, for example, have helped secure the Pentagon since Sept. 12, said a Maryland Guard representative.
(Editor's note: Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is a member of the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office.)