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Puerto Rico National Guard

The Puerto Rico Army National Guard maintains 48 armories, and is present in 30 communities. The Puerto Rico National Guard, like the National Guards in all 50 states, is a hybrid organization. National Guards are ordinarily under the control of state (or, in the case of Puerto Rico, Commonwealth) officials, but are organized pursuant to federal statute, and in war time or other emergencies, Guard units may be brought under federal control. Puerto Rico Army National Guard and Reserve units support USARSO's many multilateral exercises and programs. It is through this integration of our Active Army, National Guard, and Reserves that US Army South [USARSO] can maximize resources to carry out missions.

In 1989, Congress authorized federal funding to permit the local National Guards to support drug interdiction and other counter-drug activities. 32 U.S.C. 112. Section 112 provided that each state desiring to participate would draw up its own plan subject to approval by the Secretary of Defense. Despite this and other authority over the program granted to the Secretary of Defense, the statute required that the National Guard personnel involved in these operations be under local control and "not in Federal service," id. 112(c)(1), a requirement apparently designed to mesh with the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. 1385, limiting the use of federal troops for domestic law enforcement purposes.

Most National Guard members ordinarily serve only part time, but there are exceptions. Section 112 itself provided that subject to Secretary of Defense regulations, local National Guard members could, pursuant to a state plan, "be ordered to perform full-time National Guard duty under section 502(f) of this title for the purpose of carrying out drug interdiction and counter-drug activities." 32 U.S.C. 502(f) allows National Guard personnel to be assigned additional duties, apart from ordinary drills and field exercises, with the provision appropriate for "pay and allowances."

Beginning in 1989, the Puerto Rico National Guard used the federal funds provided under section 112 for a variety of counter-drug projects. In one of the projects, Puerto Rico National Guard personnel assisted the U.S. Customs Service in inspecting cargo containers arriving and leaving Puerto Rico ports and airports.

The Puerto Rico National Guard claims to be a direct descendant of the original militia that existed on the Island since the time of the Spanish conquest and colonization at the beginning of XVI century. Four years after the militia establishment by Juan Ponce de Leon. The Puerto Rican Indians, called Tainos, rebelled in 1511. The Spanish men (mostly farmers and mine workers) had to quit their jobs to take arms and defend their adopted land. Since that unconfirmed date in 1511 when Taino Indians killed Cristobal de Sotomayor and burned the town named in his honor, the Borinquen colonists had to form, by necessity, a sort of National Guard unit with citizens as its soldiers.

The Milicias Urbanas de Puerto Rico was first organized in 1693 and reorganized in 1765 as the Milicias Diciplinadas de Puerto Rico. After the Lares Uprising of 1868, the Spanish doubting the loyalty of Puerto Ricans, began to disband these companies, including the Compania de Artilleros Morenos de Cangrejos, a separate company of black Puerto Ricans. The milicias, are the direct lineal ancestors of two of today's Puerto Rico National Guard Units, the 295th and 296th Infantry. The milicias were replaced in 1871 by another similar organization, El Instituto de Voluntarios.

In 1899, the U.S. Congress authorized the establishment of a military unit comprised of Puerto Ricans and in 1900 the Porto Rico Battalion was established. Through successive reorganizations this unit became the Porto Rico Voluntary Infantry, The Porto Rican Provisional Regiment of Infantry, the Porto Rico Regiment, U.S. Infantry and finally in 1920, the 65th Regiment, U.S. Infantry. The Puerto Rico National Guard eventually became the 296th Infantry Regiment ("Alerta Esta" - "Always Alert").

The Porto Rico Regiment, U.S. Infantry, 4,000 strong, served in World War I. From 1917 to 1919 it guarded the Panama Canal. During this period, the Porto Rico National guard also came into existence with the creation of the 295th and 296th Infantry Regiments. Additionally, several "Home Guard" units were organized and many other Puerto Ricans living in the continental U.S. served in mainland units that fought in Europe. Dark skinned Puerto Ricans were placed in such racially segregated units as the 396th Infantry, "The Harlem Hell Fighters" who fought under French command. Rafael Hernandez the famous Puerto Rican musician/composer and his brother, Jesus, served in that unit's band. All told, 236,000 Puerto Ricans registered for the WWI draft and 18,000 served in the military.

Although war plans did not call for separate infantry brigades in the United States, the War Department authorized a new 92d Infantry Brigade in the Puerto Rico National Guard to command forces there. The new headquarters came into federal service on 15 October 1940, but served less than two years without seeing combat. In July 1942 the Caribbean Defense Command inactivated the brigade and replaced it with the Puerto Rican Mobile Force

It has been estimated that anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 Hispanics served in the armed forces during World War II. This represents a range of 2.5 to 5% of all persons who served during the war. Figures are imprecise because, with the exception of Puerto Ricans, data on Hispanics were not maintained. Over 53,000 Puerto Ricans served during the period 1940-1946. National guard units from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California had a high representation of Mexican Americans. The US Army has never segregated Hispanic soldiers. The Puerto Rico National Guard was called into Federal Active Service in October 1940, and assigned to the Puerto Rican Department in accordance with the existing War Plan Orange. Members of Puerto Rico's National Guard, of the present 65th USA Reserve Command, and of its ancestors, the 65th Infantry Regiment and the 1899 Puerto Rican Regiment US Volunteers, were residents of the island. Approximately 200 Puerto Rican women served in the Women's Army Corps.

Puerto Rico Army National Guard (PRARNG) support to the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) is the longest sustained support to a law enforcement mission in modern U.S. history. Targets are drug dealers and other criminal elements. The Puerto Rico National Guard (PRNG) has concentrated on the Homeland Defense [HLD] mission by fighting drug-related crime on the island and providing humanitarian relief to the communities affected by the drug trade. The PRNG concentrates on support to domestic civil authorities, counterdrug operations and humanitarian assistance. During Operation Centurion in 1996, PRNG units and the police moved into 76 housing projects to arrest dealers and criminals and restore community order. Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rossello created the program to reinforce limited Puerto Rico LEA assets and drive out drug traffickers from housing areas. The secondary objective was to restore normalcy to communities through a coordinated security and social effort. Soldiers from aviation and military police units supported the police in the initial cordon, search, seizure and arrest phase. Once the target area was cleared of identifiable criminal elements, infantry, artillery, engineer and maintenance personnel helped community agencies rebuild housing complexes, distribute antidrug literature, rehabilitate facilities and dispose of garbage.

The program was a resounding success, and the PRNG's skills and resources were paramount. Unfortunately, in terms of active force integration, this wealth of operational experience was misdirected. The PRNG applied and exercised MOOTW doctrine, not conventional war-fighting practices. They used valuable training days that could have been used for collective combat training. They also built close cooperation, reinforced habitual relationships and integrated with police and various social agencies-not with AC combat forces.

Operation FRONTIER SHIELD was introduced in fiscal year 1997 to test this concept in the maritime approaches to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This region was identified as the second largest gateway, behind the Southwest Border, for drugs entering the United States and provided an emergent opportunity to create an immediate and measurable impact. Operation FRONTIER SHIELD demonstrates the tangible positive impacts of interdiction in Puerto Rico. In 1997, drug related crime was down 37 percent from the year before and the Governor no longer needed the Puerto Rico National Guard to maintain order in the housing areas. On the streets of San Juan cocaine purity went down and street prices rose nearly 36 `percent throughout 1997.

A major Jamaica Defence Force (JDF)-US bilateral training program is the quarterly unit exchange between the Puerto Rico Army National Guard and the 3rd Battalion, Jamaica Regiment (National Reserve). Under this exchange program, platoon-sized elements from each unit "trade places" for a four-day period and participate in weapons familiarization and other small unit training.

The Puerto Rico Army National Guard, America's unique bicultural force, is comprised of more than 8,600 citizen-soldiers. During FY99, the PRARNG was recognized as one of the most versatile and best prepared state militias of the United States. FY99 began with troops supporting the Island's communities recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Georges. Soldiers were summoned to perform disaster relief operations and engineering support for road clearance and debris removal.

The PRARNG also supported communities using their specialized skills. Medical units provided preventive health care, education, and immunizations in low-income neighborhoods. Guard members served drug and law enforcement agencies through its Counter Drug Program, resulting in the confiscation of millions of dollars in illegal drugs. The PRNG is the only organization in the US conducting all three NGB-sponsored youth programs: STARBASE, Youth Conservation Corps, and Challenge. At the international level, the 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment deployed to Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador in support of Hurricane Mitch disaster relief. Aviation units provided helicopter support to Joint Task Force Esteli in Nicaragua as part of the US Southern Command Exercise New Horizons '99. The PRARNG also commenced the State Partnership Program with the Republic of Honduras.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:34 ZULU