Troops ordered by President Donald Trump to secure the southern border of the United States in the face of a number of approaching migrant caravans have fanned out to several locations.
Pentagon officials said that about 1,000 troops have been deployed to the McAllen area of Texas, turning about 40 acres of barren land into a fully operational military base within a week.
“One of the most unique things, in my experience, has been the short notice of this,” Cmdr. Sgt. Maj. Matt Howard told NBC News. “Most folks didn’t even know this mission was going to exist.”
U.S. Army engineers in Donna, about 20 miles from McAllen, have built up barbed-wire fencing and a facility to house U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel and other officials.
“So really what it takes is a lot of teamwork to make something like this run,” said Captain Lauren Blanton, who helps coordinate the over 600 soldiers that run the base, according to CBS news.
The camp is equipped with massive housing tents and a fully functioning hospital.
Lieutenant Lee Dimaculangan told CBS that the medical facility can hold up to four trauma patients, and could be expanded if the need arose.
‘Border Security Is National Security’
“It’s a viable mission for us,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commanding general of U.S. Army North, according to the San Diego Tribune. “Border Security is national security.”
Of the more than 5,600 troops deployed along the southern border, 2,800 troops have been sent to Texas, 1,500 to Arizona and 1,300 to California.
In California, 1,100 Marines from Camp Pendleton have been deployed as part of “Operation Secure Line,” according to The Tribune. Its mission is to provide support to law enforcement, mainly by fortifying vulnerabilities along the border by such means as setting up barbed wire and patching compromised fences.
“We are going to be ready for them,” San Diego’s Chief Border Patrol Agent Rodney Scott told reporters during a news conference on Friday, Nov. 9, according to The Tribune.
The chief spoke of a caravan of migrants with “a propensity for violence,” and referred to video footage showing how at least one large migrant group overwhelmed military forces as it forced its way into Mexico from Guatemala.
“We are preparing for a different dynamic … because of what we’re seeing from the adversary this time, the threats we’re seeing in this group, it upped the game to make sure we were better positioned,” Scott said, comparing this caravan to previous ones.
President Donald Trump has said there are “bad hombres in that group,” making reference to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report that says 270 people from 20 countries who are traveling with the caravan have a variety of criminal histories, including rape and robbery.
Pete Flores, director of San Diego field operations for Customs and Border Protection, said all options “are on the table” and anything that threatens public safety will be countered with “necessary steps to protect the border and those using the border.”
Currently, there are three caravans in Mexico with a total of about 10,000 people. The closest is still hundreds of miles from the United States and, according to The Tribune, is headed towards Tijuana.
Crossing the border illegally will result with arrest and prosecution, authorities said.