Utah National Guard troops will be searching the ground and the skies for illegal drugs soon as part of a $25.2 million anti-drug effort approved by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
Public Safety Commissioner Doug Bodrero plans to meet Tuesday with National Guard officials to explore the role the Guard will be allowed to play in the anti-drug campaign under provisions of the federal plan, said Public Safety spokesman Gary Whitney.Utah's share of the drug campaign money for this year is $484,184. Congress has given the Pentagon $300 million this year to involve the military in the anti-drug campaign.
The federal plan allows National Guard troops to conduct aerial searches for marijuana fields, track low-flying aircraft using radar and inspect cargo containers.
"The National Guard is not in a role where there will be the likelihood or even the possibility of contact of National Guard personnel and people who are on the wrong side of the law. That's a clear part of the plan," said Maj. Bob Nelson, public affairs officer for the Utah National Guard.
Nelson said he couldn't say whether Guardsmen would be involved during routine training or whether they would be called away from their civilian jobs to conduct special searches. The dates and times of search missions will not be publicized to protect personnel involved and preserve the effectiveness of the missions.