September 28, 10:10 EDT

VA Guard to provide airport security

BLACKSTONE, Va. - Major General Claude Williams, The Adjutant General, Virginia National Guard, met with Governor Gilmore yesterday afternoon to review how Virginia would implement President Bush's decision to place members of the National Guard at commercial service airports to provide additional security. There are nine airports in Virginia affected by this decision. They include Washington Dulles International, Charlottsville-Albemarle, Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke Regional, Lynchburg Regional, Richmond International, Newport News / Williamsburg, Norfolk International, and Washington Reagan National. Representatives from the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia State Police met yesterday at the affected airports to review technical aspects of implementing this homeland defense mission.

When interviewed this morning, Col. Michael Coleman, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Virginia Army National Guard, indicated that planning is currently ongoing to place members of the Virginia Army National Guard at all security checkpoints in Commonwealth commercial service airports. Planning includes determining the number of Army National Guard soldiers to be placed on active duty to support this operation, identifying where and when the training of the soldiers will take place and which facilities will be affected first.
Col. Coleman said that the Federal Aviation Administration will train Virginia National Guard soldiers on how to deal with the public in their role of providing security at commercial airport facilities as well as military training. He said that the training would probably take five days to complete. When asked what the start date for this mission is Col. Coleman said the President Bush indicated this would take place immediately.

When asked if the 229th Military Police Company located in Virginia Beach would be given this mission Col. Coleman indicated that would not be the case. He said "The 229th Military Police Company has been tasked to provide security to the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va. and Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va. Those will remain 229th Military Police Company missions. The mission to provide security at Virginia commercial service airports will be given to Virginia Army National Guard units that are located close to the airports. It is a soldier care issue. We want our soldiers to be in close proximity to the airports that they are assigned to protect."

When asked if including Reagan Washington National Airport in the Guard's planning for this mission suggested that the airport would reopen he said that it did not. He went on to say that the Virginia National Guard wanted to be prepared for the mission if the decision was made to reopen the facility.

Coleman said that additional information about this mission would be released, as it becomes available.

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