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150 Nebraska National Guard members to deploy to southwest US border in October
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150 Nebraska National Guard members to deploy to southwest US border in October

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The Nebraska National Guard helps with a food drive at the Food Bank for the Heartland.

Two Nebraska National Guard units are slated to deploy to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the southwest border in early October. 

The deployment could last up to a year, according to Maj. Scott Ingalsbe, spokesperson for the state National Guard.

A total of about 150 guardsmen from the Nebraska Army National Guard's 1-376th Aviation Battalion, based in Grand Island, and the 128th Engineer Battalion, based in Columbus, will deploy at the direction of the federal government, according to Ingalsbe. They're replacing units from other states that have been deployed there, he said.

"Under the direction of U.S. Northern Command and its forward operational command, U.S. Army North, the Nebraska National Guard units’ mission is to assist CBP by providing aviation and engineer support," Ingalsbe wrote in an email.

He did not offer a more specific location where the soldiers will be based.

Deployments are always in support of a lead agency's request for assistance for some specific capability, he said. Sometimes that could be for law enforcement. In this case, though, Ingalsbe said, the soldiers will "provide mission enhancing support" to Customs and Border Protection's "border security operations" so its agents can "conduct their law enforcement mission more efficiently."

Nebraska has sent National Guard soldiers to the border in relatively small numbers off and on since 2006, Ingalsbe told the Omaha World-Herald. This is one of the larger contingents it will have deployed there, he said Tuesday.

The Nebraska State Patrol deployed 25 troopers to the Texas-Mexico border earlier this summer, in response to a joint request from Texas and Arizona. Public records obtained by the World-Herald revealed the state would be on the hook for the costs of the deployment, which Gov. Pete Ricketts and State Patrol officials have estimated at $500,000.

The federal government will pay for the upcoming National Guard deployment, Ingalsbe confirmed.

Nationally, guardsmen have been used on the southern border at various times for more than a decade. In 2006, President George W. Bush requested up to 6,000 guardsmen at the southern border as he called for comprehensive immigration reform. Four years later, similar circumstances unfolded during President Barack Obama's administration. President Donald Trump in 2018 directed the deployment of Guard members to address the "lawlessness that continues at our southern border."

Beyond the border, the past 18 months have brought a dizzying number of assignments for the National Guard, whose members have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and protests against racial injustice.

Nearly 600 Nebraska Guardsmen helped with crowd control during protests in Omaha and Lincoln in the summer of 2020 after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. About 300 Nebraska Guard members deployed to Washington earlier this year for the presidential inauguration.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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