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Deployments enhance U.S. border security

Members of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron in front of the border.
(Photos courtesy 123rd Maintenance Squadron and 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Members of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron in front of the border. (Photos courtesy 123rd Maintenance Squadron and 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Airmen position the steel matting to extend fencing between the
United States and Mexico. (Photos courtesy 123rd Maintenance Squadron and
123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Airmen position the steel matting to extend fencing between the United States and Mexico. (Photos courtesy 123rd Maintenance Squadron and 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Chief Master Sgt. Roger Hamilton of the wing’s 123rd Maintenance Squadron scans
the Mariposa Wash for undocumented aliens west of Nogales, Ariz., in August. Chief
Hamilton is one of more than 100 Kentucky Air Guardsmen who have deployed this
year to enhance U.S. border security as part of Operation Jump Start.
(Photos courtesy 123rd Maintenance Squadron and 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Chief Master Sgt. Roger Hamilton of the wing’s 123rd Maintenance Squadron scans the Mariposa Wash for undocumented aliens west of Nogales, Ariz., in August. Chief Hamilton is one of more than 100 Kentucky Air Guardsmen who have deployed this year to enhance U.S. border security as part of Operation Jump Start. (Photos courtesy 123rd Maintenance Squadron and 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

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."