Sunday, July 4, 2010

National Guard called up to fight oil intrusion

Posted: Jul 02, 2010 9:42 PM CST
Updated: Jul 03, 2010 7:45 PM CST

By Rebecca Powers –

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - It's unlike anything they've ever faced. On Friday at the National Guard Armory in D'Iberville, soldiers of the 155th Infantry Regimen trained for their latest mission. This mission will be here at home helping protect our shores and waterways from a silent enemy called oil.

"It's not new equipment, but it's new to them," said Captain Jeff Mallard.

About 59 troops from the 155th's first battalion are being armed with radios instead of guns. They're training on the new radios for a mission much different than fighting a foreign enemy.

Captain Jeff Mallard said, "Three months ago, I was in Iraq commanding soldiers, now we're fighting oil."

Most of Captain Mallard's soldiers are South Mississippians who care deeply about their hometown's future.

Mallard said, "Most of the people down here are helping at the federal level don't have the vested interest that my soldiers do so they're excited about being here and helping their community."

The radios will be used for ground operations at the dock or land based areas. They are similar to the ones they use in battle to provide security, surveillance and more.

Mallard said, "We can also provide communication assets for individuals on the ground to the aircraft that's in the air doing surveillance and any other thing that the civil authority might find for us to do."

Mallard said Governor Barbour called up the National Guard to help in the oil spill clean up effort.

"The ability to take a large number of soldiers and large amount of resources and employ them effectively is what we do and it's very similar to what we do in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Right now the 155th is on orders for 30 days, but they say they're ready for the long haul.

Captain Mallard, "As long as the civil authorities need us, that's how long we'll be here."

The Governor's office says they expect BP to reimburse the state for the costs of using the National Guard in the oil clean up.

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