The National Guard's Operation Jump Start hit the ground on July 1, 2006. After more than nine months, officials say it's improving the situation on the border, but there is much work left to be done.
Maj. Paul Aguirre, a spokesman for the Arizona National Guard, said there are about 6,000 troops on the U.S.-Mexican border assigned to Operation Jump Start at any given time. The project has put troops on the border to help U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents with logistics and observation activities.
Agent Lloyd Easterling, spokesman for the Yuma sector Border Patrol, said about 90 agents have been recruited since Operation Jump Start began.
About 2,400 Guard troops, or 40 percent, are assigned to Arizona. Numbers within the Yuma sector were not immediately available.
"That’s been a fairly consistent number over the last months. It ebbs and flows by a few hundred, depending on who comes out that day or that week," Aguirre said.
Troops from National Guard units from all over the country rotate in and out of the state to work on the mission.
The Guard does not perform law enforcement functions and cannot arrest illegal border crossers. Their job is to provide support so the Border Patrol has time to do its job, Aguirre said.
The troops on the border are working on four missions to assist the Border Patrol:
-Aerial Identification - The Border Patrol has access to military helicopter assets and National Guard pilots, in addition to their own resources. Aguirre said the Guard takes the Border Patrol up to do routine flying missions to support monitoring activity along the border.
-Entry Identification Teams - Groups of four Guard troops are assigned to checkpoints along to border to monitor activity and report back to the Border Patrol. Aguirre said there are anywhere from 25 to 100 stations along the border at any given time. They rotate locations, which are chosen by the Border Patrol.
-Engineering - The Guard has been working on improving fences, putting up lights and building and paving roads for the Border Patrol's use.
-Station Support - Aguirre said the military troops use their skills in Border Patrol stations to work viewing monitors and other equipment at the offices.
"You put a guardsman in there to do that job, that frees up another badge on the border," Aguirre said.
Easterling said that illicit border activity is down 67 percent since Operation Jump Start began. However, agents are experiencing more violence on the border.
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