Parker concerned about Guard deployment to Mexican border

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker says he has strong concerns about Governor Jim Douglas’s decision to send Vermont National Guard troops to beef up security along the Mexican border.

Douglas says the mission is appropriate because it’s voluntary and will substitute for the annual 2 weeks of training that all soldiers are required to do.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Vermont National Guard says roughly 130 soldiers have signed up to be part of Task Force Lobo. It’s a mission to provide additional support to federal border patrol agents along the Mexican border.

Several months ago, President Bush proposed using individual state Guard units in this capacity.
The Vermont troops will spend the first two weeks of September in Arizona.

Guard Adjutant General Michael Dubie says a key factor in the mission is the clear understanding that Vermont soldiers can be armed and are capable of protecting themselves.

Parker is critical of the President’s decision to seek help from the National Guard.

(Parker) “I think there’s really been a failure to come with a consistent immigration and security policy at the federal level between the President and the Republican Senate and House. And this feels to me like something the President is doing in effect to be doing something, but not because it’s necessarily the best thing to do.”

(Kinzel) Parker questions if this kind of mission is really appropriate for Vermont National Guard troops.

(Parker) “It really is a question of why is the National Guard being mobilized. If we are going to implement that kind of policy, that should be a federal level consistent policy not something the Guard is called out to do. I see this as an ad hoc response to a situation that needs a long term solution.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he agreed to the mission with a number of stipulations; participation had to be voluntary, the mission had to count as the mandatory two week annual training requirement and the troops would serve only in a support role:

(Douglas) “They have to do 2 weeks of training anyway and many of the troops say to me that they look forward to this alternative to Fort Drum or wherever their training might otherwise occur. It’s entirely voluntary. It’s up to the soldiers as to whether he or she wants to serve in this role. And they remain importantly under my command so that if they’re needed back home for any reason at any time I can call them back.”

(Kinzel) Douglas doesn’t believe the Vermont soldiers will be put in dangerous situations.

(Douglas) “Occasionally an incident can occur, but they will not be doing the actual work of the border patrol, but supporting their efforts. The border patrol needs more help and eventually I hope the president and the Congress will provide them the resources they need to be successful.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he won’t hesitate to call the Guard troops back to Vermont if an emergency situation arises here.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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