Deployments enhance U.S. border security
By Capt. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Officer
/ Published August 19, 2008
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Louisville, Ky. -- More than 100 members of the Kentucky Air Guard have played a critical role in the nation's defense by deploying to multiple locations along the U.S.-Mexican border since July.
The deployments are part of Operation Jump Start, the National Guard-led mission to help U.S. Border Patrol agents gain tighter control of the Mexican border. Additional rotations are expected for at least two years.
Most of the Kentucky Airmen have deployed to locations near Tuscon, Ariz., where they've acted as sentries, performed support functions like logistics and maintenance, and constructed or extended steel fencing that serves to deter illegal entry.
2nd Lt. Jerry Zollman, a maintenance officer in the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, deployed to Tuscon in August and described his experience as "extremely valuable."
"After going down there and working with the Border Patrol, I see how loose the border really is," said Lieutenant Zollman, who was part of the leadership team that stood up the first Air Guard presence in Arizona.
"Major crimes are happening every day, including human and drug trafficking. So a lot of bad stuff is coming through. "Our role in helping secure the border is a very important mission," he added. "It's the kind of job that the National Guard was created for -- protecting and defending our borders."
While in Arizona, Lieutenant Zollman served as flight chief for the first Air Guard element tasked with Entry Identification Team (EIT) duty. In this capacity, Airmen staffed border-
observations posts 24 hours a day and reported suspicious activity to U.S. Border Patrol agents for follow-up.
EITs in Nogales, Ariz., typically reported several dozen suspicious events per shift, Lieutenant Zollman said, including instances of potential drug smuggling and human trafficking.
In one instance, Air Guardsmen reported a suspicious vehicle that was subsequently stopped by the Border Patrol. Agents found 350 pounds of marijuana and two automatic assault rifles inside.
"The Border Patrol told us we were making a huge difference in the Nogales area," Lieutenant Zollman said.
More than 30 members of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron also made a demonstrable difference by constructing 500 feet of steel fencing and fabricating 70 "Normandy Barricades" during their August deployment to Arizona, said Senior Master Sgt. Steve Peters, the unit's operations chief for civil engineering.
The barricades -- iron crosses resembling tank traps -- were made by welding old railroad rails together, he said, while the fences were constructed from surplus plates once used to build temporary aircraft ramps.
Both projects were designed to frustrate illegal entry by giving U.S. Border Patrol agents enough time to respond to suspicious activities.
The Kentucky engineers also installed metal extensions on existing fences, raising their height by several feet.
'I think we made a lot of headway on border security," Sergeant Peters said. "We've also got a long way to go. But we'll probably be returning to Arizona for the next couple of years to fabricate more fencing. "We're definitely taking steps in the right direction."