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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — In this file photo, Governor Asa Hutchinson speaks Wednesday, January 2, 2019 before his announcement of Keith Gibson as the incoming Arkansas Highway Commissioner at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce in Fort Smith. - Photo by David Gottschalk

An Arkansas National Guard unit is making plans to move after Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday ordered that troops deployed along the nation's southern border in New Mexico be relocated to Texas to assist with border security there.

Eight Arkansas guardsmen and two helicopters were deployed in May to the southwest border in New Mexico after President Donald Trump requested assistance from states to secure the border between the United States and Mexico.

"Our National Guard assets were deployed at my direction to assist in a multistate effort to secure our southwest border," Hutchinson said in a news release Thursday. "At this time, I have directed General [Mark] Berry to shift those assets to Texas, where they have additional security needs and are requesting our assistance."

J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Hutchinson, said the unit will be deployed until June 1. After that, future deployments will be evaluated quarterly. He said the National Guard bureau had requested assistance at the border in Texas as recently as last week.

Earlier this week, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered the withdrawal of the New Mexico National Guard from border deployment, and directed that 25 troops stationed there from other states be withdrawn as well. Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Wisconsin all had troops in New Mexico, according to The Associated Press.

"New Mexico will not take part in the president's charade of border fear-mongering by misusing our diligent National Guard troops," Grisham said in a statement released shortly before the president's State of the Union address Tuesday.

Hutchinson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he respects Grisham's decision.

"Our mission was supportive of the border patrol action and increasing border security, but the decision is ultimately up the governor whenever our National Guard is deployed under state authorization," Hutchinson said. "We're moving to Texas because they have a continued concern over border security, and we want to be able to support that effort."

Hutchinson said he announced his decision in the interest of transparency.

"The people of Arkansas should know where our Arkansas National Guard is serving," Hutchinson said. "From an Arkansas standpoint, we're not only supporting a national mission of increased border security and supporting our fellow states, but we're also providing our National Guard with an important training mission that they value."

Guard spokesman Maj. Will Phillips said the unit was in the beginning stages of leaving New Mexico.

"They gave us 30 days, so sometime in the next 29 days we will be leaving here," Phillips said. "We currently have one helicopter and five people in New Mexico."

Phillips said the officials are still discussing how many troops will be moved to Texas, where they will be deployed and the types of duties they will handle.

"This is all relatively new," Phillips said.

He said he expects information will be sent out in the coming days detailing the scope of their mission.

National Guard and Customs and Border Patrol officials said last week that the Arkansas National Guard helicopter that was deployed to the New Mexico desert helped federal agents seize large sacks of marijuana and arrest four camouflage-clad men hiding in brush at night.

The Pentagon announced Sunday that it would send 3,750 more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to put up barbed wire and provide support for the Customs and Border Protection agency, increasing the total number to 4,350, The Associated Press reported.

Photo by AP file photo
In this Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham talks after signing an executive order for state agencies to aggressively pursue strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Santa Fe, N.M. Grisham ordered the withdrawal of the majority of the state's National Guard troops from the U.S. border with Mexico on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in a move that challenges President Donald Trump's description of a security crisis.

State Desk on 02/08/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas governor orders troops to Texas

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