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Published: Friday, 9/28/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

Taft likely to call National Guard to shield airports

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft will likely call up Ohio National Guard troops today at the request of President Bush to boost security at major airports around the state, including Toledo Express Airport.

Mr. Taft said he's waiting for details from the White House before making a final decision. “In all probability, we will respond favorably to it, but we want to see exactly what has been asked of us before making that decision,” he said.

Mr. Bush, speaking yesterday at an Illinois Air Guard hangar in Chicago, requested all governors to deploy guardsmen at inspection stations in every commercial airport for the next several months.

About 50 to 60 guardsmen are expected to be deployed within a week to 10 days at airports in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Akron-Canton, and Youngstown, said Aaron McLear, an aide to Mr. Taft.

Since the international airport serving the Cincinnati area is 13 miles south of that city in Kentucky, that state's national guard will cover the airport, Mr. McLear said.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has officers that patrol Toledo Express Airport. Port officials did not have details on how many guardsmen would be deployed at the airport.

Mr. Bush said guardsmen nationwide will fill the gap until other security measures can take effect, including placing baggage screeners under the supervision of federal employees and expanding the federal air marshal program.

Guardsmen will receive training in airport security from the Federal Aviation Administration. The deployment of guardsmen at airports will be funded by the federal government.

Capt. Neal O'Brien, a spokesman for the state Adjutant General's office, said National Guard officials are awaiting details on the airport security mission.

He said the work will be carried out by military police units stationed in Toledo, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Middletown.

“Essentially, they will be at the airports to support and enhance whatever security is going on - but not to replace it,” Captain O'Brien said.

Governors around the country moved swiftly to call up National Guard units to protect airports.

In Michigan, Gov. John Engler said National Guard troops will be assigned to the state's dozen or so commercial airports.

About 100 troops will be placed in Michigan airports in response to President Bush's request, Mr. Engler said. The troops will supplement existing security, not replace it.

Only Rhode Island, where Gov. Lincoln Almond said he is satisfied with security at the state's largest airport, immediately refused Mr. Bush's request. A few governors said they need to know more about the proposed Guard mission before deciding.

Most states offered no details about numbers of troops or specific units to be called up, and a national spokeswoman for the Guard couldn't provide that information either.

Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.'s chief of staff said Virginia's top priority will be Dulles International Airport, near Washington. American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, took off from Dulles.

Massachusetts Acting Gov. Jane Swift said she will call up the Guard to improve security at Boston's Logan Airport, the starting point for the two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center.

New York Gov. George Pataki said he will comply with Mr. Bush's request, though it will be difficult since the Guard has been heavily deployed in New York City.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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