Mississippi National Guard Troops Begin Airport Security - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

"ARMED MILITARY PRESENCE IS NOT FOR SHOW. IT'S FOR REAL".

Mississippi National Guard Troops Begin Airport Security

Mississippi Guardsmen went on duty at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport Friday morning.

Fourteen guardsmen have been assigned to the local airport.

They're doing what President Bush asked them to do:  provide a higher level of security at airports across the country. The goal of the guard mission is to help the public feel comfortable flying again in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The National Guard will be working mainly around the security checkpoint area. They're wearing traditional military uniforms and carrying 9mm handguns. Their mission at the airport is straightforward.

Bruce Fralic is the airport director.

"The guard will provide a supplemental police operation and to observe everything happening at the security checkpoint and to work closely with the ground security coordinators, airline representatives and our screening personnel."

The first day of airport security detail, the National Guard boss came calling to check on the troops. General James Lipscomb says this is an important mission for the Mississippi National Guard.

The commander is confident his troops are prepared. For anyone who might think the guard's presence is more show than substance, the Adjutant General would strongly disagree.

"Armed military presence is not show. It's for real. And these people are trained in what they have to do and they'll be there to protect the traveling public and to instill confidence that our airlines throughout this country are safe," said General Lipscomb.

Travelers we talked with, welcome the guard's presence and say they do feel more comfortable.

Debbie Harkey was flying from Gulfport to Washington D.C.

"I like the idea. It makes me a lot safer and I'm sure it does everyone else. If they're here to protect us, I'm all for it. Anything they can do."

The National Guard troops are prepared to provide a security presence here for as long as they're needed. The initial order from the President says that should be about four to six months. 

By Steve Phillips

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