By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
The U.S. National Guard pulled out of the Del Norte County Airport last night as security for flights was handed off to the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department.
"We had an officer over there (Friday) during the main flight to San Francisco, just for a transitionary period," said Cmdr. George Mina. "But everything is going very smoothly."
Mina said the deputies assuming the duties of the departing guardsmen are being trained according to federal guidelines.
"Whoever signs up for the coverage will have all the qualifications necessary. There is a video supplied by the federal government on how to do it, what to do, what to look for, and everybody will go through that," said Mina.
Three shifts will be necessary at the airport to cover the three regularly-scheduled commuter flights. Mina said federal funding to pay for the deputies is still being "ironed out" but a preliminary request was granted by the Transportation Security Agency.
Elsewhere around the state, guardsmen began closing up shop at much larger airports as they prepared to return home. On their last day at San Francisco International Airport, soldiers reflecting on six months of duty said that one passenger stood out the naked woman who tried to stroll through an airport checkpoint.
A woman got out of the taxi, stripped down to her skin and tried to walk through this checkpoint naked,'' said Chief Warrant Officer David Young, pointing to a United Airlines checkpoint.
The woman was arrested, and the soldiers returned to their mundane routine.
The troops have been stationed at airports around the state since Gov. Gray Davis authorized posting 800 personnel at 30 California airports to boost security following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The soldiers, who wore camouflage uniforms and carried assault rifles, will be replaced with armed police officers. Federal transportation officials hope to hire at least 60,000 screeners to replace private employees at the nation's 429 commercial airports by Nov. 19.
Although the soldiers are leaving the airports, officials said there is no plan to remove the 100 soldiers who now patrol four bridges from San Diego to San Francisco.
The troops were deployed in November after Davis said there was evidence of possible terrorist threats on the bridges.
The threat is still there,'' said National Guard Col. Terry Knight. Has anyone done anything yet? No.''
Paul Glader of the Associated Press contributed to this report.