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750 troops sent home from southern border deployment

U.S. Marines with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, walk along the California-Mexico border at the Andrade Point of Entry in Winterhaven, California, Nov.30, 2018.

ETHAN VALETSKI/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 14, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas — About 750 active-duty servicemembers deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and Arizona returned to their home bases Wednesday, U.S. Northern Command announced on social media.

In a string of tweets Thursday, Northern Command released updates about the ongoing mission of troops supporting U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents that began Oct. 31 and will end Jan. 31.

“In addition, about 220 replacement troops arrived in Arizona yesterday. The [Defense Department] units remaining on the border, as well as those on alert, are able to meet CBP requirements approved in the signed (Department of Homeland Security)-DoD support agreements,” one tweet reads. Officials have not identified where the replacement troops came from or all the units that returned home.

However, Fort Hood officials confirmed soldiers from 62nd Engineer Battalion and 297th Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, returned to the post after completing their portion of the mission. The central Texas base is about a six-hour drive from Weslaco, a city in south Texas where some troops were deployed.

Others Fort Hood units have begun returning home, including soldiers from the 36th Engineer Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, 89th Military Police Brigade and 1st Cavalry Division.

At the height of the deployment, about 5,900 servicemembers from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines were situated along the border. The original intention was to “harden” and protect the border as a caravan of Central American migrants traveled through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States.

Now, about 4,200 personnel remain along the southwest border with about 1,700 in Texas, 1,000 in Arizona, and 1,500 in California.

The caravan has trickled into Tijuana, Mexico, near California, but in smaller numbers than anticipated.

The military will continue providing engineering and military police force protection at designated ports-of-entry in California and Arizona, officials posted. Most forces in Texas will redeploy to their home bases in the “next week or so,” Army North officials said.

“However, we have the ability to quickly reestablish support operations in Texas if needed,” read an emailed statement.

The military also will maintain the capability to provide emergency medical support to Border Patrol personnel and migrants, as required.

“DoD will continue to mature composition of our force to meet CBP requirements,” one tweet reads.

A main aspect of the deployment was to install coiled razor wire, known as concertina wire, near ports-of-entry and along the border. Officials posted military engineers have place about 70 miles of wire obstacles and movable barriers at 22 ports in the three states. More than 480 miles of single-strand wire forms 70 miles worth of obstacles.

Meanwhile, military police units have conducted more than 10,000 hours of unit training and combined rehearsals with Border Patrol in all three states. Military rotary wing aviators have flown more than 740 hours.

At this time, Army North officials said there is no plan in place to remove the wire barriers, indicating any plans would be made by Customs and Border Patrol.

Speaking to the Austin American-Statesman, Army Maj. Derek Wamsley described the border deployment as a “practice deployment.”

“We were able to achieve a training goal, and had (the caravan) come here, we would have achieved other goals,” Wamsley said to the newspaper.

 

Thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

 

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