Guard’s last border deployments offer clues to the future

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. National Guard faces a vastly different environment than it did on its last two deployments to the border with Mexico, with far fewer illegal crossings and more Central Americans than Mexicans coming.

Still, its role is shaping up much the same: moving more Border Patrol agents from behind-the-scenes jobs to the front lines.

From 2006 to 2008, the Guard fixed vehicles, maintained roads, repaired fences and performed ground surveillance. Its second mission in 2010 and 2011 involved more aerial surveillance and intelligence work.

People involved in both operations say the Guard was the Border Patrol’s “eyes and ears.”

Federal law limits military involvement in civilian law enforcement, creating a supporting role for the Guard. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expects their jobs to include vehicle maintenance and aerial surveillance.