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National Guard to Hand Over Patrol Duties at So. Fla. Airports

Guardsmen are scheduled to withdraw completely from airports by May 10, spokesman Jon Myatt said Thursday. The airports in Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale will be among the last to lose their coverage.

The Guard also pulled all 75 troops from the Port Everglades cruise terminal earlier this week, turning security duties back to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Guard troops have been patrolling U.S. ports and airports to bolster security since shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Once the Guard pullout is complete, the federal Transportation Security Administration will oversee the local law enforcement agencies at airports, said Myatt.

That new federal agency is hiring directors to run security at each airport, and more than 30,000 federal employees to screen passengers and luggage. The agency faces a congressional deadline of Nov. 19 to replace the current private security screeners with a better-trained, higher-paid federal work force.

Spokesmen for the Broward Sheriff's Office and Miami-Dade Police Department say they're ready for the task of letting travelers know they are being protected.

"I think our people are more than qualified to occupy these positions," said Miami-Dade police spokesman Juan DelCastillo.

Visitors to Port Everglades should notice no difference in the level of security measures there, said Broward Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal.

The withdrawal from the port does not include 170 National Guard Troops who work with U.S. Customs and the Coast Guard for drug intervention.

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