By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer
A handful of Clovis National Guardsmen wait for word they will head south to support U.S. border patrols. As of yet they are unsure when or where they will go, but they have begun volunteering for the detail, according to Sgt. 1st Class Terry Stevens, public information officer for the unit.
Approximately 10 percent of the 65 National Guardsmen assigned to the unit has volunteered, Stevens said. The exact nature of their assignment has yet to be determined, but Stevens said the soldiers will serve strictly in an observational capacity, assisting border officials as needed.
The assignments are projected to last from a month to a year, Stevens said.
Initially scheduled to go July 5, the volunteers were disappointed to find their assignment had been delayed, according to Supply Sgt. Joe Gonzales.
“They were very disappointed about the delay, (but) it helps knowing that they will have a mission later,” he said.
Gonzales believes that more will probably volunteer when specific details become available, but the sketchy plans make it difficult for those with family and work-related concerns.
The group will likely relieve units from other states already in the region as they are rotated out, Gonzales said.
Full-time National Guardsmen have not been offered an opportunity to volunteer for the border assignment, Gonzales said.
He has every intention of being among those full-timers who volunteer when given the chance. “Most definitely — to defend our country,” he said.
The National Guardsmen will work as part of President Bush’s plan to increase the number by 6,000 of National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border.
More than 200 New Mexico National Guardsmen have been sent to the state’s border, and officials have asked for additional support from other states. Members of the Oklahoma National Guard also are expected to deploy to New Mexico and Texas to support border patrols, while Kentucky National Guardsmen were sent Monday to help on the Arizona border with Mexico.
Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey and North Carolina are among other states that have volunteered to send National Guardsmen to assist the U.S. Border Patrol.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report