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By Jayvee Vallejera Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 23, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)---Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has asked the U.S. Pacific Command for help in securing more men to guard the Commonwealth’s airports, in line with the increased security level being enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration nationwide.

As a possible solution to the manpower problem, Tenorio suggested activating the United States Army Reserve to augment the men that are now guarding the CNMI’s airports.

In a letter to Rear Admiral Tom S. Fellin, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Tenorio said that, since the FAA issued new security guidelines, the CNMI government has been faithfully implementing the new regulations, despite a crippling lack of manpower.

"We now face the reality that our few local law enforcement officers are over-tasked and are performing a significant amount of overtime due to the additional FAA-imposed responsibilities," he said. "These officers and other airport officials are being taken away from performing the duties that they performed daily before the September 11 attacks. . . leaving shortages and gaps in our ability to meet local law enforcement needs."

Faced with such a problem, including the fiscal burden that the additional regulations are imposing on the CNMI government, Tenorio said that activating the US Army Reserve in the CNMI would help the local government meet the requirements imposed by the FAA.

"Considering the size of our airports, FAA has asked that we provide six [soldiers] for the Saipan airport alone. I am requesting two additional soldiers for the Tinian airport and two more for Rota," said Tenorio.

By having 10 uniformed soldiers on a 24-hour period proportionately assigned to the three CNMI airports for up to six months, the Governor said that the CNMI would be in compliance with the federal mandate.

"I understand that these soldiers have undergone additional training in critical site security missions, and that the FAA will provide additional training on airport security and operations upon their assumption of duties. I believe that the duties they [will] perform will further enhance the soldiers’ skills, benefiting the combat-readiness of the unit, the traveling public and the people of the Commonwealth," Tenorio said.

The Governor had pointed out that, unlike the CNMI, other states and territories have National Guard resources, whom they could call to supplement existing resources. At the same time, the U.S. government has provided additional funding to support the activation of the National Guard.

The CNMI, however, only has the U.S. Army Reserve as its emergency reaction military force and that no CNMI National Guard exists, ruling out any possibility of the CNMI government tapping into the additional funding for this purpose.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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