Tuesday, June 21, 2011

National Guard will serve as a security force for sheriff’s office

By Bill Hess
SIERRA VISTA —  Nearly 90 soldiers from the Arizona Army National Guard 860 Military Police Company have been activated for state duty to provide security in evacuated areas of Cochise County due to the Monument Fire, Guard spokesman Valentine Castillo said Monday.

An advance party of the unit headed for Palominas on the same day Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered the guard activation and today the main body of soldiers is expected to arrive, the captain said.

The unit  will be working under the guidance of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies as directed, Castillo said.

Sheriff Larry Dever said he welcomes the Guardsmen, because many of the law enforcement officers from different agencies have worked almost nonstop in protecting the area, helping residents and assisting with evacuation and pre-evacuation orders.

I know some of my deputies have had about 30 hours of rest in the past eight days,” Dever said.

The Monument Fire began on June 12 and has burned 27,000 acres and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents living in canyons on the west side of Highway 92 and in some areas on the east side of the highway.

According to Master Sgt. Desiree Twombly of the MP company, the activation order came early Monday afternoon and today the soldiers will gather at the Valencia Armory in Tucson.
They will be briefed, get their equipment and travel to the incident command post at Valley View Elementary School in Palominas for additional briefings.

Dever said the governor’s office had offered to provide National Guard support but had to have an official request from the county.

At Sunday’s daily evening public meeting Cochise County Board of Supervisors Pat Call said a formal request for the guard was submitted that day.

Castillo said shortly after Gov. Jan Brewer received the request she initiated the deployment.
Because it is a state-activated and state-operated deployment, the Guardsmen will not be under federal control, the captain emphasized.

The 860 was federally-deployed to Iraq for 14 months from 2005 to 2006, Castillo said.
Currently the Arizona National Guard has 300 soldiers and airmen deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, he said.

Additionally, there are a number of Arizona Guard soldiers and airmen supporting Operation Copper Cactus, the federal Southwest border mission which has been extended through Sept. 30, the captain said.

The soldiers are expected to live on Fort Huachuca during the deployment, he said.
As for the length of the time the 860 will provide security in evacuation areas, Castillo said, “They will remain until the emergency is over.”

Sierra Vista Herald

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