California National Guard troops heading to San Diego ahead of new border safety mission
Posted May 3, 2018 11:40 a.m. EDT
SAN DIEGO — Hundreds of California National Guard troops are heading to San Diego Thursday for a new mission said to be part of President Trump's focus on increased safety at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sgt. Brianna Occhino has been around the world with the National Guard, being deployed in places like Italy, Germany and Afghanistan.
However, her most recent deployment memo focused on her home state.
"Our job is to support the Border Patrol," Occhino said.
The 29-year-old started her military career with the Minnesota National Guard in 2007. After her deployment to Afghanistan in 2013, she moved to California and joined the Guard.
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Occhino is now part of the 143rd HHC, a military police unit out of Ventura County.
On April 18, all members of the California National Guard received a call for volunteers, for what would be the first deployment to the California-Mexico border under Gov. Jerry Brown, addressing Trump's plan for increased security.
"From what I understand, we are not going to be making any arrests," she said.
While Occhino is not heading to San Diego due to an injury, many from her military police unit will be part of the mission.
For the last week, around 400 volunteer soldiers from different units and ranks trained at Camp Roberts in Monterey.
Occhino could not get into details about troop movements and training, but she did say the note clearly stated that the Guardsmen will not be dealing with any immigration-related arrests or the building of a border wall.
"We will not be touching that. We are not authorized to do those kinds of activities," she said.
Instead, they will work in a supportive role to the Border Patrol, focusing on patrolling gangs, human trafficking, and drug and weapons smuggling.
"Guarding people, or entry control points, or exit control points," she explained.
According to the note, the border mission begins Thursday. Many of her fellow soldiers have already made their own ways down to San Diego and El Centro.
As with all National Guard missions, the hope is that their service does not jeopardize their lives outside their uniforms, when they return, perhaps in a few months.
"You're talking about citizen soldiers," Occhino said. "They have careers, families. They're uprooting their family to go do their job and leaving their jobs for an undetermined amount of time and asking their employers to hold their job for them while they're gone. So it's very difficult although we do enjoy what we do."