Military News

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Guard Bureau Chief: 965 Guard Troops Deployed To U.S.-Mexico Border


By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2018 — There are 965 National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told a Senate panel today.

Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel spoke at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense.

On April 4, President Donald J. Trump signed a proclamation directing the Defense Department to assist the Homeland Security Department by providing security on the border, Lengyel said. The Defense Department authorized use of the National Guard to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he told the Senate panel, noting that Defense Secretary James N. Mattis authorized up to 4,000 troops through Sept. 30 in the ongoing effort.

National Guard troops were deployed April 6, Lengyel said, with the Guard soldiers and airmen under the command and control of their state governors. “With the movement from Texas and Arizona and a few planners from New Mexico, they began to move in and posture their assistance for the CBP,” the general said.

Support for Customs and Border Protection

The Guard troops are involved in “primarily things that enable Customs and Border Protection agents to leave nondirect border security jobs and go to the border and provide border security, and doing things like maintenance, communications, transportation, the operation of perhaps heavy equipment, analysis, trend analysis, and using some intelligence and surveillance and some aviation assets to assist in those endeavors,” Lengyel said.

“What they are not doing is [having] any direct civilian law enforcement operations, and they are not doing any direct contact with migrants unless … explicitly authorized by the Department of Defense, and that has not yet occurred,” he added.

The DoD comptroller has been directed to look across the department to find funding to pay for the National Guard resources to work for Customs and Border Protection, Lengyel said.

The cost of the mission is difficult to estimate, Lengyel told the senators, because it is not known how many of the authorized 4,000 troops will be deployed or how long they will stay.

National Guard, Reserve Troops Participate in Disaster Response Exercises


By Army Sgt. Brad Mincey 108th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., April 17, 2018 — It seems like a disaster here, but fortunately, it isn’t real.

More than 400 South Carolina Army National Guard soldiers are participating in the U.S. Northern Command-hosted Guardian Response exercise here through April 30. They’re joined by over a thousand other soldiers from the National Guard and reserves, supporting civil authorities for the training. Guardian Response is conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Army North-sponsored Vibrant Response exercise.

Exercise participants react and respond to a variety of scenarios in a mock nuclear event, where terrorists detonated a 20-kiloton dirty bomb in a generic U.S. city.

Working Together

Army Maj. Gen. Michael Stone, Task Force 46 commander and a Michigan National Guard member, held a mock press conference April 10 to kick off the exercise. "Task Force 46 serves as the command and control of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Element Bravo, coordinating efforts in case of a catastrophic event in the United States," Stone said. "Most of the members of Task Force are citizen-soldiers, ready to help their neighbors recover and get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible."

Task Force 46 consists of Element Alpha (Army Reserve troops) and Element Bravo (National Guard forces) from eight states across the U.S. Assets include medics, chemical companies, engineers and other soldiers who are trained to respond to a variety of natural and man-made disasters.

One of the primary units working with TF 46 as Element Bravo was the South Carolina Army National Guard's 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. The 218th MEB brought engineers, medics and chemical companies under their command, but also had engineers with the Indiana National Guard working with them during this exercise.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Event

"Our mission is to be a first responder to a weapons of mass destruction event here in the United States," said Army Col. Robert Carruthers, commander, 218th MEB. "Our two primary missions are technical search and rescue into an area that's been affected, and mass decontamination and medical care of the civilian population."

Guardsmen have to be certified and validated annually because of the complexity of their disaster-response mission.

"This training is critical because it is a nonstandard mission for us," Carruthers said. "We have our main mission, which is our warfighting mission. But this is an additional mission we have as guardsmen, to protect the homeland. Not a lot of people appreciate or understand that the National Guard also has this homeland defense and response mission in which we respond to natural disasters or terrorist events. That is equally important to the warfighting, but to those at home, this mission may be more important than the overseas mission."

Army Sgt. Kyle Everett, a combat medic with Company B, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry, 218th MEB, agreed that this training was atypical of what he normally trains for.

Combat Medics

"I'm used to combat medic training with my unit," Everett said. "What we are doing here would be training for in state, so we are treating our own citizens, civilians instead of our battle buddies to our left and right. So, it's a little different from what I'm used to normally."

Many of the soldiers involved were looking forward to training for scenarios that they have not experienced as well as working with units whom they were unaccustomed to collaborating with.

"I was looking to see a level of training that I haven't seen before," Everett said. "I was looking forward to working with a chemical company, because I've never worked with them before or a hospital unit. And working and treating civilians was really gratifying. This was very beneficial for us and I think we accomplished our mission to our utmost ability."

In order to do the training correctly and to be able to get an idea of what it would feel like in a real scenario, soldiers use the facilities like Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, here, where the ability exists to recreate almost any scenario soldiers may face in a disaster.

Training ‘Has Gone Exceptionally Well’

"The training has gone exceptionally well," Carruthers said. "The facilities are so advanced and so realistic. In fact, some of the most realistic we have seen. This is why they choose this spot, because they can simulate what it would look like in a real scenario. It's the closest thing you will ever do, short of a real event."

Although many of the skills used in the warfighting mission transfer over to homeland protection and recovery, there are other skills that guardsmen will only use in case of a disaster. And, there’s specialized equipment -- commercial and medical pieces -- that soldiers would only use in the event of a homeland attack or other disaster. All of this adds up to make a cohesive group of military and civilian teams that train together and are prepared to respond to a disaster.

"The camaraderie has been the best part of this training," said Army Sgt. Larmarion Williams, a firefighter with the 264th Engineer Battalion, South Carolina Army National Guard. "As we go in, we have to work with each other and we rely on each other. So this allows us to know what each of us are capable of. But we all have the same goals: let's get in, get the job done, get out and make sure the job is done without anyone getting hurt. We want everyone to go home the same way they came."

The guardsmen and reservists serve a vital role in stateside emergencies like the one in this simulation, serving in support of civilian authorities. The military brings capabilities that provide emergency medical relief, mass casualty and decontamination services, evacuation and ambulatory care, search and rescue assets, and assist other government authorities providing relief to affected citizens.

Ready to Respond

"Our primary mission is to respond to [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] and [defense support of civil authorities] operations in support of civilian authorities when we have mass incidents in the U.S.," said Army Maj. Brandon Pitcher, executive officer with the 218th MEB. "We are a maneuver enhancement brigade and we do mission command for subordinate battalions. Under us, we have chemical decontamination, search and rescue teams, firefighters, medical teams, and we have a battalion of engineers."

Because South Carolina and other states’ guardsmen continually train individually and as groups, they are quickly able to plan, prepare, move out, set up and take action when, and if, the need arises.

"We have set up a mass casualty decontamination line to save lives and minimize human suffering to casualties who were exposed to the simulated nuclear detonation," said Army Maj. David Blackmon, commander of the 251st Area Support Medical Company, South Carolina Army National Guard. Casualty roll players are bused in, form lines and are triaged based off of seriousness of injuries. Next, they are checked out by medics to diagnose what is wrong. Then, they are sent through decontamination by the chemical company and lastly attended to by additional medics.

However, since casualties can come in at any time, not just during daylight hours, soldiers changed shifts and continued to provide the same level of care after sunset.

‘It’s Been a Great Experience’

"It's been really good and it's been a great experience because we have been traveling up to Maryland conducting quarterly sustainment training," Blackmon said.

In addition to the military training soldiers receive at advanced individual training, many of the unit's soldiers are in school training to be physicians assistants, nurses and paramedics, so they already have hands-on training and experiences to deal with these situations.

Once soldiers from the 218th MEB have completed their training here, they will conduct quarterly training and ensure every unit and every individual is ready.

"Hopefully that day never comes," Carruthers said, "but we must continue to prepare in our normal training throughout the year in order to be ready to respond."

DoD, DHS Outline National Guard Role in Securing Border


By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2018 — National Guard troops are deploying to the U.S. border with Mexico to work in support functions for the Department of Homeland Security, including in aviation, operational and infrastructure missions, officials from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security told reporters here today.

The Defense Department will provide DHS with up to 4,000 National Guard troops to support the April 4 presidential memorandum authorizing the enhanced presence along the southwest border, said Robert G. Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration and defense support of civil authorities.

The troops will work only in operational support missions, he said, explaining their mission will not include roles in which they would interact with migrants or other people detained by DHS.

"They will not perform law enforcement functions, and they will not be placed in direct contact with personnel coming to the border," Salesses explained.

He spoke at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, alongside Army Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Hundreds of Troops Currently Supporting Mission

President Donald J. Trump authorized the National Guard, with the affected governors’ approval, to enhance its support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southern U.S. border. In the presidential memorandum April 4, he said a “drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border” is threatening national security.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis authorized up to 4,000 National Guard troops for the mission. Troops began deploying immediately.

While noting that the number changes daily, Hokanson said his latest figures show more than 900 troops have deployed for the mission: 250 in Arizona, just over 60 in New Mexico, and around 650 in Texas.

Enhanced Presence is Welcome

Vitiello welcomed the enhanced presence to aid in securing the border.

"The National Guard will perform many operational support functions, including monitoring cameras and senor feeds to assist with the overall situational awareness,” he said. “They will provide much-needed aerial support, and [we] anticipate they will help with repairing roads and vehicles, among other duties.”

In addition, National Guard members will provide surveillance, engineering, administrative and mechanical support to border agents, he said.

“Most importantly, the Guard will immediately expand our capabilities on the border, which will increase the effectiveness of our law enforcement operations,” he said.

Mattis authorized the use of Title 32 duty status and DoD funds for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel to support DHS’s southern border security mission while under the command and control of their respective governors through Sept. 30.

Title 32 status is full-time duty other than inactive duty performed by a member of the National Guard. It allows the governor, with the approval of the president or the secretary of defense, to order a member to duty for operational homeland defense activities. Arming the troops will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defense, the DoD memo says.