National guard troops begin FAA training for airport duty

Posted: Friday, October 05, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska National Guard troops began training on Thursday to provide added security at key airports around the state.

So far 230 National Guard members have volunteered to serve as security at 21 airports in Alaska, said Maj. Mike Haller, National Guard spokesman. It is unlikely more will be called, he said.

Troops began arriving at Fort Richardson on Wednesday for four days of training from Federal Aviation Administration officials, Alaska State Troopers and others on protecting Alaskan airports.

The first troops are expected to arrive at airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Valdez early next week, Haller said.

''By a week from now a majority of them will have been in place,'' Haller said.

The training is part of a nationwide mobilization of up to 50,000 Reserve and National Guard troops ordered by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Bush urged states to call up National Guard units to protect airports while he implements a long-term plan to secure airlines from terrorist attack.

FAA officials will train troops on interacting with airport managers, air carriers and law enforcement, said FAA spokeswoman Joette Storm.

National Guard troops will be instructed on the use of handguns by Alaska State Troopers, Haller said. Troops will carry sidearms in airports, but not rifles, he said.

''The soldiers are used to carrying weapons, but they are not used to this particular role and responsibility,'' Haller said.

Following Bush's announcement, Alaska officials had prepared to call up 260 National Guard members to provide airport security. But those estimates where later downgraded.

The troops are expected to serve for about six months.

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