National Guard boosts airport security, public peace of mind

Shira Kantor

After successfully passing through an airport metal detector and retrieving his carefully X-rayed carry-on, one passenger patted a nearby National Guardsman on the back and thanked him for being there.

The guardsman was one of roughly three dozen on duty Saturday afternoon at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. They arrived at 6 a.m. Friday at the behest of President George W. Bush to augment security following last month’s attacks.

Lt. Col. Danny Shields said Gov. Jesse Ventura “enthusiastically endorsed the request” and called for the Guard to take whatever steps were necessary. Throughout the state, 130 National Guardsmen have been mobilized to secure the four major Minnesota airports, including the two in the Twin Cities and those in Duluth and Rochester.

“We’re here to bridge the gap from past security to new security,” Shields said, adding that the stepped-up measures will be in place for at least six months.

The guards, clad in camouflage and shouldering M-16 rifles, stood watch in the Charles A. Lindbergh Terminal as passengers went about their business.

Kathy Junek stood just a few feet from several armed guards as she waited for her son’s plane to land.

“It’s never been safer as far as I can tell,” Junek said. “I think they’re doing everything right.”

Lt. Cols. Gary Sigfinus and Amy Marvin patrolled the airport supervising the guards, who last week had undergone two and a half days of Federal Aviation Administration-developed training for the unprecedented long-term security effort.

“We’ve had zero problems,” Sigfinus said, and passengers have not reacted negatively to the sight of the rifles. Rather, he said, the guardsmen have been heralded for their help.

Marvin echoed Sigfinus’ remarks, saying 99 out of 100 passengers are glad to have the extra security. “The other one is ‘I’m a little nervous,'” she said.

Minneapolis native Glenda Parrish was on her way to North Carolina with her grade-school-age daughter Jesse Ruth. Parrish said having guardsmen in the terminal made her feel safer.

Carrying her own luggage and chewing on the ears of her stuffed bear, Ruth nodded to confirm her excitement to fly.

“She just wants to go see her friend,” Parrish said.

 

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