The initial deployment of 12-hundred soldiers in 2010 was supposed to last only a year while the Border Patrol hired and trained staff.
The main purpose was to take up positions, watch for those crossing illegally and report it to Border Patrol. The mission was extended, twice, though the focus is now flying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to spot illegal activity from the air. Matt Chandler, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the Department of Defense has now agreed to extend that mission through the end of 2013, with 300 soldiers involved. He said their presence has made a difference.
"Since March 2012, DoD support has resulted in nearly 20,000 apprehensions as well as the seizure of over 100,000 pounds of marijuana along the Southwest border by DHS personnel," Chandler said.
Matthew Benson, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, a frequent critic of the Obama administration's border security efforts, called the move a step in the right direction.
"The governor is glad to see they've extended deployment for another year," Benson said. "Until you get properly staffed up with border patrol, it's important that we keep a National Guard presence along the border."
The latest figures show there are more than 21,000 Border Patrol officers, with close to 18,500 of them on the Southwest border. That compares with fewer than 10,000 nationwide in 2001.