The Alabama National Guard has deployed an additional helicopter to the southern U.S. border. It is the latest Guard unit to support counter-drug and immigration control operations along the frontier with Mexico.
The state dispatched a second Airbus Helicopters UH-72A and one pilot to Marana, Arizona, after Gov. Robert Bentley responded to a National Guard Bureau request for additional air support for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency operations along the southwest border. In April, the Alabama Guard sent the first Lakota and three pilots to Marana, just outside Tucson in southeast Arizona.
"The Alabama National Guard is serving as a force multiplier to civilian law enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol agencies in securing the southwest border," said the state Guard's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Perry Smith.
Alabama’s is the latest Guard to send UH-72As, other assets and personnel to assist Customs and Border Protection and local, state and other federal agencies since 2012, when the National Guard’s mission in the region shifted focus to aviation support.
The Texas National Guard provides such support for the civil agencies in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo Border Patrol sectors, according to the state. Those sectors cover 135,439 sq mi (350,785 sq km). Other states that have sent Guard helicopters and personnel to the southern border include Nebraska, New York and Virginia.
Guard units conduct aerial detection and monitoring to disrupt transnational crime groups and drug smuggling as well as supporting operations to interdict illegal immigration. The helicopters also assist law enforcement in vehicle pursuits and are used to conduct search and rescue operations and casualty evacuation.
The standard UH-72A crew consists of three Guard personnel (two pilots and a sensor operator) and one Border Patrol agent observer, who carries the authority to arrest individuals who become targets of the operations.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air National Guard