Alaska National Guard Plans Deployment to Assist Federal Government on US-Mexico Border

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Migrants with children walk by razor wire fencing after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S.
Migrants with children walk by razor wire fencing after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the U.S., close to the Eagle Pass International Bridge II, on May 22, 2022, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)

The Alaska Army National Guard said Friday it has begun preparing for a potential deployment early next year in support of the federal government's U.S.-Mexico border control efforts.

In a prepared statement, the Alaska National Guard on Friday said that a memorandum from the federal government had been issued, directing Alaska forces to prepare two LUH-72 Lakota helicopters and 20 guardsmen to potentially be deployed in early 2025. The units would help provide aviation support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Alaska National Guard spokesperson Alan Brown.

Maj. Ryan Wierzbicki, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's Joint Task Force North, said in a phone interview that Alaska guard members could be sent to any of four states along the border, including Texas and Arizona. Federal requests for states to provide border assistance are issued regularly and have become routine, he said.

National Guard units can be mobilized in two distinct ways. Friday's request was to deploy in a "Title 10 duty status," meaning the federal government would pay, and Dunleavy would have little leeway to refuse. Activation by Alaska's governor means the state would foot the bill.

Jeff Turner, a spokesman for Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy's office, said on Friday that the planned mobilization had nothing to do with Operation Lone Star — the Texas government's long-running border control effort that has escalated into a heated dispute between Republican-led states and the U.S. government.

Brown said there are currently no plans for Alaska National Guard soldiers to be deployed in support of Operation Lone Star.

Ten Alaska National Guard soldiers were last deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border by Dunleavy in 2019 after former President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican, requested assistance with border security efforts. Brown said the 2019 deployment was the most recent request from the federal government to send Alaska guard members to the southern border.

Dunleavy, though, has harshly criticized the Biden administration's border policies. Last week he joined 24 other GOP governors in support of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's choice to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing federal agents to remove razor wire installed by Abbott's administration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Juneau, multiple members of the Republican-led House majority caucus attended a closed-door briefing Thursday evening with Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commander of the Alaska National Guard, and Attorney General Treg Taylor, and left believing Alaska guardsmen would be sent in support of Abbott's escalating dispute with the Biden administration over enforcement of immigration controls.

House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said the Texas governor had requested National Guard volunteers from all 50 states, and Thursday evening's briefing focused on what that deployment could look like.

"There's some complications with how it's funded," she said. "There's a federal funding issue, there's a state funding issue. It's still kind of unclear what that's going to look like."

More than a dozen Republican governors have sent National Guard units to Texas, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced on Thursday that hundreds of additional guard members would be sent to assist Abbott.

Several Republican state legislators were enthusiastic about what they understood were the plans for a National Guard deployment to Texas.

Fairbanks Rep. Frank Tomaszewski said Alaska should send guard members south because there is "obviously an invasion" occurring at the border with Mexico. Anchorage GOP Rep. Tom McKay said the U.S.-Mexico border should be closed after imported fentanyl had killed tens of thousands of Americans.

The Republican-led House majority was the only legislative caucus that received a brief Thursday evening.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, on Friday morning said he had not heard of any deployment plans. Anchorage independent Rep. Calvin Schrage, the House minority leader, said he learned about the briefing from a Friday morning social media post by political website the Alaska Landmine.

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