National Guard to support security at state’s airports

Amy Hackbarth

Armed and robed in camouflage fatigues, National Guard members will patrol the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport starting Friday morning.

Metropolitan Airports Commission and National Guard officials announced Tuesday that 103 guardsmen in full battle uniform will assist security officers at the airport for the next six months. An additional 27 members will be stationed in Duluth and Rochester airports.

“This combat gear may surprise some passengers, but our intent is not to intimidate anyone,” said Gen. Gene Andreotti. “Rather, we want to reassure our public that our skies are safe.”

Jeff Hamiel, MAC executive director, said the Sept. 11 events have changed the nature of air transportation and aviation.

“We can no longer do business as usual,” he said. “The new way of doing business will be more stringent and more demanding.”

Once activated, guardsmen – each armed with either an M-16 rifle or a 9 mm pistol – will patrol the airport 24 hours per day, with 33 members working at a time.

Guard men and women in the airport will police areas behind the security ticket checkpoint and near the baggage claim. They will work under the airport police officers, monitoring check-
points and looking for
suspicious behavior.

Andreotti said Guard members will examine body language and dress, not ethnicity, while profiling passengers.

“I won’t say that they have to be Middle Eastern ladies and gentlemen to be called over,” Andreotti said. “They could look like you and I and be suspicious.”

Andreotti also said Guard members will be trained to use deadly force and board airplanes if necessary.

Guard men and women began two and a half days of training Tuesday at the Rosemount National Guard Training and Community Center.

The training sessions inform Guard members of Federal Aviation Administration guidelines and prepare them for possible threatening situations.

Andreotti said he expects some air travelers to dislike the sight of weapons in the airport, but he said armed guards are needed.

Amanda Neby, a Plymouth native flying to school at Radford University in Virginia, said the armed guards at the airport will be an eerie sight, but she understands their necessity.

“If it makes people feel safer, then it’s good,” she said, “but I think it will put people on edge, a constant reminder of what could happen.”

 

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