Channel 2 joins governor, head of GA National Guard as they tour crisis at southern border

ATLANTA — Only Channel 2 Action News was there as Gov. Brian Kemp and the commanding general of the Georgia National Guard left Friday morning for the Texas-Mexico border.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne learned that nearly 300 Georgia guard soldiers are in the border area.

Kemp and Georgia National Guard Adjutant Gen. Thomas Carden boarded an Army UC-35 headed for the border between Texas and Mexico.

“Our focus for this trip is the Rio Grande Valley. It tends to be the most active part of the sector,” Carden said.

The Georgia National Guard says 273 Georgia Army National Guard soldiers are working along the southwest border, supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“It was my second trip out there today. I went in December,” Kemp said. “Really learned a little bit about the mission and obviously that’s changed greatly with the flood of people we have coming across the border.”

“They’ve been out there now for about six, seven months,” Carden said.

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“When you’re talking to them, you have the humanitarian part of this crisis. But you also know the human trafficking is occurring, people are being smuggled across the border,” Kemp said.

“Everything that comes across that border’s not an immigration problem. There’s a terrorism challenge on the border. There’s a counter narco-terrorism nexus to that mission. So it’s really about protecting the homeland,” Carden said.

“I felt like it would be good for me to go back and see our folks and make sure they got everything they need and really learn a little more about what they have going on right now,” Kemp said.

The guard said most of the Georgia soldiers are on the ground, but some are in the air.

Years ago, Winne covered the Georgia Guard’s Lakota helicopter operations in the border area during a couple of trips.

Technology, especially the heat imaging system, plays a key role in the operation.

“We got Lakota helicopters out there flying, mainly at night, to help mainly the border patrol. It’s the border patrol that they coordinate to do that and they can therefore coordinate with the border patrol on the ground to help them apprehend people,” Kemp said.

“When you talk to them, they’re also dealing with a lot of humanitarian issues of, you know, injuries, people dehydrated, children and other things. So it’s going to be interesting, you know, to see how that’s changed since December,” Kemp said.

“There’s a huge contribution from National Guard units across the nation on that border,” Carden said.

A guard member told Winne that one Georgia Guard unit by the border helps maintain border patrol vehicles beat up by the rough terrain.