Isle Guard will aid Border Patrol
Volunteers will report to Arizona to help deal with immigrants
Hawaii will join 29 other states in sending Army and Air National Guard personnel for a 6,000-member border patrol security force in the Southwest.
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, who heads Hawaii's Army and Air National Guard force, said he expects up to 50 volunteers to report to Arizona for a few weeks during the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
But beginning in October, Lee said that infantry, medical and communications units of the Hawaii Army National Guard will perform their required 15 days of annual training in Arizona supporting the U.S. Border Patrol.
Lee said Brig. Gen. Joe Chaves, commander of both the Hawaii Army National Guard and the 29th Infantry Brigade, is in Arizona working out the details, including the units and deployment dates.
Lee said Hawaii Army National Guard units like 29th Infantry Brigade are required annually to go on active duty for 15 days. However, they were exempt from that requirement this year because of their year-long combat duty in Iraq.
One of the reasons Hawaii decided to send the volunteers to Arizona, Lee said, is because one of the 29th Brigade's three combat battalions is from that Southwestern state.
That unit -- 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment from the Arizona Army National Guard -- is already on the border, said Lee, performing its annual training because it did not go to Iraq this year.
"We are looking at this as a humanitarian mission," said Lee. "We are not going to engage with the illegals coming from Mexico, but rather offer them medical assistance and then direct them to the Border Patrol."
Many of the soldiers and units that will deploy to Arizona are veterans of the desert war in Iraq.
"We need soldiers out there who know how to survive and operate in the terrain along the southwest border," Lee said.
He said only volunteers will be sought from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 201st Communications Group and the 154th Medical Group: "We don't want to detract from the many missions we do in support of the Pacific Air Forces."
Yesterday, Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said 3,600 troops have reported for duty and that the National Guard will meet the requirement of 6,000 by Aug. 1.
Operation Jump Start kicked off June 15, a month after President Bush announced it. Under Bush's plan, National Guard units began deploying last month along the 2,000-mile border to assist Border Patrol agents, remaining under the control of state governors. Most of them will help the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency near Tucson and Yuma, Ariz., and El Paso, Texas.
Blum stressed that the National Guard members are subordinate to U.S. law enforcement agencies and will not be involved in detaining or intercepting illegal immigrants.
Blum, in a news release, said most of the guardsmen are coming from the four border states: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
The New York Times contributed to this report.