YUMA, AZ — Hundreds of National Guard troops have been deployed to border towns in Arizona as part of an operation to support local law enforcement.
Task Force Badge was created last year by Governor Doug Ducey after an increase in activity along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In all, about 220 troops have been stationed in four counties helping 18 sheriff's offices or police departments.
"A lot of these agencies were using overtime funds to bring officers in to fill in a lot of these roles," said Maj. Frederick Thomas Fell, the task force's commander.
"Some of them were taking officers off the street," he added.
Nationwide, departments are facing a shortage of manpower leading to lower response times.
According to Fell, by filling the support roles with troops, police, and deputies are able to go back to patrolling.
Some troops are stationed in the medical department of county jails.
"If we weren't here, the nurses would be capable of doing what they have to do but then the continuity of care goes down at that point," said Spc. Dustin Danley, a Phoenix native stationed in the Yuma County Detention Center.
"We work in a lot of areas, we multitask a lot," said Spc. Regina Campos Miyagui.
Campos Miyagui grew up in the area and joined the military two years ago.
"This is my first mission since I've been in. It's been a great experience. I'm still with my family in my county," she added.
In San Luis, the police department has been sending officers to deal with immigration issues, leaving them low on manpower.
"As far as the immigrants coming over, we've had some that actually have jumped the fence and tried to go into some of the housing developments, so we've been busy when it comes to that," said Lt. Marco Santana.
Santana applauded the governor's efforts to help local law enforcement.
"At this time, we're obviously dealing with unprecedented times, we're dealing with the COVID pandemic and some of the situation at the border," he said.
"Any help we can get, we're always welcomed to it," Santana added.
Officials with the National Guard told ABC15 the project is budgeted for $25 million. However, they've spent less than half that in the first nine months of the project.
No end date has been announced and military leaders said they plan on staying in the area as long as they're needed.