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Defense Leaders Define Military Security Duties During Katrina Response

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2005 – The National Guard troops reporting for duty in the Gulf region to help maintain security are trained professionals, many who serve as civilian law enforcement officers when not on military duty, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told reporters today.

Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum said the Guard forces aren’t simply troops with no police skills pulled into the mission; they’re bringing solid expertise to the mission and an understanding that they’re supporting existing law enforcement authorities, not replacing them.

“They are military police, trained badge-carrying law enforcement officers that discharge their duties when called to active duty, both here at home or overseas,” he said. “Many of these people are civilian law enforcement officers. When they are not in military uniform, they’re in civilian law enforcement uniform. So they come with great expertise and great sensitivity to the fact that they are there in support of the existing law enforcement agency.”

An estimated 1,400 National Guard military police – a force the size of the entire New Orleans Police Department -- are arriving in New Orleans today, with an equal number to arrive Sept. 2 and 3, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale said during a Department of Homeland Security news briefing on hurricane-relief operations.

There, they will join 2,800 National Guard police already on the ground to help maintain security, prevent looting and control what Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff called “isolated incidents of criminality.”

Chertoff confirmed that a National Guard soldier was shot in the leg in New Orleans Aug. 31. The shooter was arrested, Chertoff said.

Blum emphasized that the Guard is not enforcing martial law, as some media outlets have reported. “This is helping a police force that is overstretched with the extraordinary challenge that it’s facing,” he said.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits active-duty forces from conducting law enforcement operations, but does not cover National Guard members operating under their state governors’ control. This enables Guard forces, who often come from the communities they are serving, to work side by side with law enforcement officials in ways active-duty forces simply can’t, McHale said.

Before the hurricane-recovery effort is complete, Blum said, he expects to see National Guard soldiers and airmen “from every state and territory in our nation responding to this national catastrophe.”

“I think that sends a very strong message that when you call out the National Guard, you call out America,” he said.

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Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, USA

Related Sites:
Hurricane Katrina Military Relief and Recovery Efforts

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