Guard beefs upThe Hawaii National Guard will place 35 more soldiers and airmen on active duty at island airports through the holiday season.
More National Guard soldiers
will be at isle airports through
the holiday season
By Gregg K. Kakesako
Maj. Chuck Anthony, National Guard spokesman, said the call-up is in response to President Bush's request yesterday to place more National Guard troops on active duty for airport security.
Bush, outlining what he called "important new measures to make air travel more secure over the holidays," said he was ordering a 25 percent increase in the number of National Guard troops already stationed "to protect our airports and airlines and American travelers."
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, more than 150 Hawaii National Guard soldiers and airmen have been stationed at statewide airports.
"That's a conservative figure," Anthony acknowledged.
He declined to say exactly how many National Guard troops are at each airport.
He did say that the bulk of the airport force was made up of Army Guard soldiers.
The Hawaii National Guard still plans to fill the airport security crews using volunteers. Anthony said "the pool of volunteers is still substantially large."
The 150 Hawaii citizen-soldiers reported to the airport in September after Bush asked governors to call up National Guard troops and station them at the nation's 420 commercial airports for up to six months. The federal government was to pick up the costs.
Most National Guard personnel have been stationed at security checkpoints, where passengers and carry-on baggage are screened. Others have been used for general airport patrol duty.
One Pearl Harbor-based warship is headed for waters near Afghanistan ahead of its normally scheduled departure date as part of the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis battle group.
Oahu-based warship heads for battle
The Pentagon said the Stennis battle group will leave San Diego on Monday to relieve the USS Carl Vinson battle group and keep three American carriers operating against the Taliban.
The Pearl Harbor-based cruiser USS Port Royal is part of the six ships that make up the Stennis battle group. The group is leaving well ahead of its scheduled January departure to have the Vinson rotated home by January at the end of its six-month tour.
Three Pearl Harbor-based warships are part of the Vinson battle group. They are the destroyer USS O'Kane and the attack submarines USS Key West and USS Olympia.
One idea under consideration is to station National Guardsmen at departure gates, where they would watch passengers boarding airplanes after passing through security checkpoints.
More than 7,300 National Guard troops have been mobilized since the Sept. 11 hijack attacks to augment ground security at airports, and Bush wants to bring the number to more than 9,000 on a temporary basis.
"This increase in security will last through the busy holiday period ... and we believe they'll help a lot," Bush said yesterday at a White House ceremony.
The White House said Bush's aim was to let the states use federal money to meet individual needs at airports -- everything from monitoring departure gates and baggage screening to guarding parking garages and air traffic control towers.
Anthony said the National Guard soldiers would be working areas other than the initial entry checkpoints.
"They could be placed in various places throughout the airports," Anthony said. "They could be assigned to the boarding gates and roaming about throughout the terminals."
A week ago at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, private security personnel employed by Atlanta-based Argenbright Security Holdings Inc. cleared a passenger through a checkpoint even though he was carrying a bag of knives, Mace and a stun gun in his carry-on luggage.
United Airlines personnel later hand-checked the luggage before the passenger boarded, leading to his arrest on state and federal charges.
The House and Senate have passed differing versions of airline-safety legislation, the Senate calling for the federalization of baggage screeners, the House voting to leave them with private companies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.