18, 2002, 18:45 EDT
Guard aids in war against drugs
by Capt. Mike Renwick
Virginia Guard Public Affairs Office
BLACKSTONE, Va. - The Virginia RAID (Reconnaissance And Interdiction
Detachment) assisted the Virginia State Police, Virginia Alcoholic Beverage
Control (ABC) and Mecklenberg Sheriff's Office in detecting and destroying
110 marijuana plants worth over $200,000 on Aug. 20.
O’Bannon verifies the intended fly-over targets with members
of the RAID ground team. Within 30 minutes of being in the air,
CWO O’Bannon radios the awaited for words, “TANGO”,
indicating a positive sighting. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Turney,
VaARNG Public Affairs Office.)
Flying a specially modified
OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, Chief Warrant Officer O'Bannon flew throughout
Mecklenberg County looking for fields and clearings that could contain
Within 30 minutes of taking off on the morning of Aug. 20, O'Bannon
radioed members of the ground force that some plants had been spotted
in a forest clearing.
Upon arriving, members of the ground force, including Staff Sgt. Marchioli-Acra,
found 36 carefully cultivated plants. Marchioli-Acra is a medic, and
has been a member of RAID for almost three years.
Marchioli-Acra travels with the ground force and is prepared to treat
minor injuries such as cuts, minor heat injuries, and insect bites and
can perform first aid for serious injuries until an ambulance arrives.
Paul Cox, a Mecklenberg Deputy Sheriff, removes a protective fencing
used to keep wildlife from eating the immature plants. (Photo
by Staff Sgt. Mark Turney, VaARNG Public Affairs Office.)
In the spring of each year,
various law enforcement agencies throughout the Commonwealth assign
"spotters" who undergo specialized training and certification.
When RAID aircraft work in the spotter's jurisdiction, they are alerted
and told when they will be spotting.
The ground force consists
of deputies from the county, members of police departments in the county
to be searched, members of the State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation
and Virginia ABC.
As plants are spotted from the air, directions are given to the ground.
O'Bannon and the spotter circle overhead until the ground crew arrives
to investigate the field for marijuana plants.
If plants are found in the clearings, three fields containing plants
were found Aug. 20th, then the ground force cut the plants down, and
destroy any equipment that may be found near the plants.
Samples of the plants are collected and sent to the University of Mississippi
for analysis and the plants are then destroyed after a judge has signed
a destruction order authorizing the police to burn the plants.
The fields containing marijuana on August 20th, were all small clearings
in forested areas, not readily accessible by road. In one field the
plants were being grown in wire cages to prevent deer from eating the
Soldiers assigned to RAID are active year round, but are only involved
in the eradication phase in late summer when plants are large enough
to see from the air.
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