National Guard leaving security posts at airports around state

Posted: Sunday, May 05, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Hundreds of Alaska National Guard soldiers and airmen are leaving security posts at Alaska's airports because the federal money has run out.

Members of the guard who were deployed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were dismissed from airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Ketchikan on April 29. The remainder will leave 16 other airports around the state by the end of the month.

Guard members encountered no reported incidents of terrorism.

The newly-formed federal Transportation Security Administration won't be ready to hire federal law enforcement officers to fill the security gap until early December.

The gap leaves some of the state's airports scrambling to meet the new policing requirements.

Even with the changes, an armed security presence will continue at all Alaska airports, said Sgt. Jeff Wells, a spokesman for the Guard.

The transition is expected to be smooth at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport because the federal government is paying for members of the 55-person airport police force to fill in at screening checkpoints, said Mort Plumb, airport director.

Airport police have been in charge of airport security since Sept. 11, Plumb said.

Airports at Fairbanks and Ketchikan will use a combination of airport police and local law enforcement to meet federal regulations, Wells said.

Juneau city officials earlier said the requirement was unworkable for their community and others such as Petersburg, Klawock and Wrangell where law enforcement officers are difficult to find.

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