SAN FRANCISCO (Associated Press) - Some National Guardsmen
patrolling San Francisco Bay area bridges since
November believe they're unprepared for any real
threats because of a lack of proper weapons and
training, a newspaper reported Friday.
Four guardsmen, who asked to remain anonymous, told
the Contra Costa Times the noncommissioned officers
leading their mission told them they are there "just
They said the M-16 rifles they carry are dirty,
they wear outdated bulletproof vests borrowed from the
California Highway Patrol, have no security training
and have been given vehicles that don't run.
Both National Guard and state officials denied the
"I am convinced the troops have the gear and the
training they need to do the mission," said George
Vinson, Gov. Gray Davis' adviser on state security. He
also said Bay area bridges have indeed been the target
of credible threats, although he would not
"We're very concerned not only about the bridges,
but certain other infrastructure," he said, citing
nuclear plants and water ways.
Maj. Kim Oliver, a Guard spokeswoman, said all
weapons are serviceable, the protective vests are
optional and the Guard has requested newer
Guard troops usually are assigned to protect the
state during public disturbances or in the aftermath
of natural disasters. Davis activated the volunteer
force to wartime duty in November after threats to the
state's four suspension bridges.
The soldiers say they are concerned for their own
and the public's safety. "This isn't a game. We're at
war," one said. "There are shortcomings that need to
be addressed and taken care of."
Soldiers tapped to guard the bridges come from a
variety of military backgrounds, not from military
police or infantry units rigorously trained in the use
of firearms and guarding civilian areas.
"They have no training in this type of situation
except what they picked up in boot camp," one soldier
"These guys do their jobs," another said. "But when
it comes down to their basic infantry skills, those
are quite lacking."
Oliver said each soldier assigned to security on
the bridges is adequately trained. "They're qualified
to do the mission that the CHP has asked us to assist
them with," she said.
But Col. William V. Wenger, a retired commander of
the California Army National Guard, said he believes
the Guard lacks the equipment, training and resources
to mount a serious counter-terrorism initiative.
The Guard "still has not taken proper steps to
supply the troops with proper equipment," he said.
Wenger described the bridge deployment as
"You cannot guard what you cannot control, and they
are not given the equipment and the manpower to
control the bridges," he said.
The total cost of the Guard's anti-terrorism
mission on four California bridges was $2.5 million as
of last month, according to the Finance Department.
Government officials estimate the state will pay $400
million this year for counter-terrorism.