Tuesday, May 28, 2002

National Guard
tight-lipped on whether
guns had ammo
in isle airports

Maj. Chuck Anthony says it is
best to keep potential terrorists
in the dark for the future

By Leila Fujimori

The Hawaii National Guard will not say whether its troops were carrying unloaded weapons while patrolling state airports after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"As a policy, we want to remain deliberately ambiguous" because a similar situation may resurface, Hawaii National Guard spokesman Maj. Chuck Anthony.

"I'm sure terrorists would like to know one way or the other," he said. "We do want to maintain optional security."

According to Pennsylvania guardsmen who spoke with the Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 airports across Pennsylvania banned National Guard soldiers from carrying loaded weapons for more than seven months after Sept. 11, an Associated Press story reported Sunday.

Although the guardsmen had loaded magazines on their belts, guardsmen said they would not have had time to load their weapons to protect themselves.

Scott Sandman, a spokesman for the New York division of Military and Naval Affairs, confirmed that the New York guardsmen carried M-16s with no bullets in them.

In a survey of 19 states with the nation's busiest airports, not including Pennsylvania and New York, the newspaper reported a dozen states said their soldiers carried loaded weapons; seven declined comment.

"Each state and, in many cases, each airport may have had its own rules of engagement," Anthony said, but he did not think conclusions could be drawn from the Pennsylvania story.

"I assume they wouldn't carry an unloaded weapon," state Transportation Department spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said, but deferred to the National Guard.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Hawaii airports stepped up security by stationing, on average, 150 National Guard troops dressed in fatigues at security checkpoints or patrolling until April 15 at Honolulu Airport and until May 10 at neighbor island airports.

During the holidays that number was increased to an average of 200.

National Guard soldiers continue to provide security for state and county government as well as power, communications and water resources facilities.

About 2,000 full-time Army and Air National Guard troops are currently on active duty in Hawaii -- 1,300 regular-duty and 700 added personnel -- and 5,500 available for deployment, Anthony said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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