Commander: Florida National Guard ‘really enjoying’ mission at southern border

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 5:05 PM EDT
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Florida National Guard members are currently patrolling the U.S. southern border with Mexico in Texas.

Many of them are from the Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach 124th infantry armories.

Lt. Col. Robert Virant is the commander of the First Battalion, 124th Infantry Florida National Guard members deployed to the southern border.

Virant told WPTV the Guard members arrived at the border May 21 and got to work assisting the Texas National Guard.

"The jobs that Florida National Guard folks are doing is we're doing roving patrols," Virant said. "We're doing boat operations, as well as static security point coverage."

Lt. Col. Robert Virant speaks about the work that the Florida National Guard is conducting at...
Lt. Col. Robert Virant speaks about the work that the Florida National Guard is conducting at the southern border.

Virant said Guard members are in Del Rio, Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas.

"Our mission is to prevent, detect and interdict any transnational criminal activity at any points of entry," Virant said. "We're all citizen soldiers. We know when circumstances are out of our control and they disrupt our lives, but we're professionals in the National Guard, and we're here to help the residents of Texas."

Virant could not talk about specific numbers of migrant encounters at the border.

The days and nights have been long, but he said morale is high among the many guard members from Florida.

"They can range from a 10-hour day to a 14-hour day because it's shift work. Wake-up times depend on which shift you're on," Virant said. "The soldiers are really enjoying the mission. The lodging is good. The food is fantastic, and we're really enjoying working with our counterparts in the Texas National Guard."

This mission for the Florida National Guard comes on the heels of a recent overseas deployment and support following the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Virant said Guard members are eager to help because they've been helped before.

"We deal with a lot of hurricanes and with this past hurricane, Ian, I know we had folks that came down from Texas that came down to help us with that in Fort Myers," Virant said. "So, it really means a lot to that we're able to reciprocate and help another state in their time of need."

The Florida National Guard doesn't have a specific date when they will return home but many hope that could be in early June.

For now, they're on patrol, following their motto: Always Ready, Always There.

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