Tense Moments Revealed In Guard Border Incident




 
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Tense Moments Revealed In Guard Border Incident
 
January 20th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Tense Moments Revealed In Guard Border Incident


Tense Moments Revealed In Guard Border Incident
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
January 20, 2007
Pg. 1

Armed intruders surrounded unit in Jan. 3 face-off
By Brady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star
Four armed Guardsmen from Tennessee were surrounded by six to eight men carrying automatic weapons during an encounter on Jan. 3 east of Sasabe.
This and other details have emerged about the widely-discussed incident in accounts released by Gov. Janet Napolitano's office and confirmed by the National Guard and the U.S. Border Patrol.
Statements from legislative liaisons from the National Guard Bureau and U.S. Customs and Border Protection released by Napolitano's office describe a much closer and potentially more dangerous encounter than has previously been acknowledged by the Border Patrol and the National Guard.
According to the statements, the armed group wore bulletproof vests and carried automatic weapons as they approached an entrance-identification site manned by the four National Guardsmen.
As they approached, the armed men "split into two groups to surround the site," said the statement from the National Guard government liaison.
Then, as the Guardsmen were putting their gear into the vehicle to leave, one of the armed men approached to within 40 feet, the National Guard report said.
The report goes on to say: "Both groups kept their weapons 'ready low' and never pointed them at each other. No shots were fired."
The Guardsmen finished loading their things and as they left the area, they called the Border Patrol to report the situation.
The Border Patrol statement says the agency was notified by handheld radio and satellite phone as the situation unfolded. After the face-off with the gunman who approached the closest, the Guardsmen followed standard operating procedure and "retreated to their vehicle and drove approximately 200 yards away from the site."
The Border Patrol statement says a Customs and Border Protection helicopter arrived within five minutes, and five Border Patrol agents were on site within 10 minutes.
The helicopter and agents on the ground tracked the armed men back into Mexico.
Nothing was taken or moved at the National Guard post. Both reports emphasized that the Guardsmen were armed at the time of the encounter.
"We see this as a triumph of the training, discipline and professionalism of the Guardsmen performing this mission," reads the report from the National Guard legislative liaison.
Gustavo Soto, Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman, confirmed the accuracy of the reports Friday although he said he doesn't know where the liaison office found some of its information. Arizona National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Aguirre said he hadn't released the report but confirmed the accuracy.
The release of the detailed accounts comes on the heels of calls from both federal and state lawmakers for more information on the incident.
Tucson Sector officials didn't release the statement because it wasn't theirs and because they wanted to make sure not to compromise their own investigation, Soto said.
The full accounts weren't released by Border Patrol headquarters because public-information officers didn't know about them, said Xavier Rios, Border Patrol spokesman in Washington, D.C. He said what was released to the media was a military description while the statement from the liaison was a civilian description.
"Unfortunately, there wasn't coordination internally here when that message went out," Rios said.
The Governor's Office received the statements via e-mail Jan. 10 from Aguirre of the Arizona National Guard but never issued a press release, said the governor's spokeswoman, Jeanine L'Ecuyer.
L'Ecuyer said she chose to answer individual inquiries about it rather than issue a release.
"This is definitely common knowledge," she said Friday.
Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Gilbert, who chairs the House Committee on Property Rights and Homeland Security, has scheduled a Jan. 29 meeting at which the committee will question Maj. Gen. David Rataczak, the state Guard commander.
Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps said he was surprised that the government accounts match the the description Minuteman volunteers heard from the Guardsmen involved.
Usually, government-issued reports bear little resemblance to what actually happened, he said.
"I'm impressed," said Simcox, who had not seen the accounts before Friday. "For the first time in a long time, they did something right."
At the same time, the reports expose the danger of putting the National Guard on visible posts with orders to avoid confrontation, he said.
"They are standing out there just basically being targets," Simcox said. "They could be wiped in a second by a group walking up on them. Ultimately, it's going to lead to a bad situation."
There are dozens of National Guard entrance-identification teams along the Mexican border, including east and west of both Nogales and Sasabe and on the Tohono O'odham Nation. The troops stand guard on hilltops next to army-green tents and serve as extra eyes and ears for the Border Patrol.
No changes have been made in light of the incident, Soto and Aguirre said.
Guardsmen working these observation posts receive special training, and many have been in Iraq or Afghanistan, Aguirre said. They will continue to follow protocol established for the mission, said Maj. Aguirre, which means: "If they feel physically threatened, they will react accordingly," he said.
If they were shot at, they would shoot back, he said.
Napolitano is pleased with how the Guard handled the encounter, her spokeswoman said. She and Rataczak are continually analyzing the danger the troops face but are confident they can handle whatever comes at them, L'Ecuyer said.
"It's not something they ask for," she said. "But, it's something they train for."
 


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