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Arizona National Guard welcomes senior enlisted leader for border operations tour

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Desiree Twombly
  • Arizona National Guard Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, senior enlisted leader of the National Guard Bureau wrapped up a two-day tour along the southern Arizona border, April 1.

Despite the hectic schedule, Jelinski-Hall made time to recognize and shake hands with as many Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen as possible.

"I'm really excited to be here and appreciate having the opportunity to spend some time with Arizona Guardsmen," said Jelinski-Hall.

Jelinski-Hall, along with a handful of other key leaders from the Arizona Guard, came together to discuss the progress of border operations, tour other federal law enforcement agencies, and visit with the troops.

During her visit, Jelinski-Hall met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), the Arizona National Guard Counterdrug Program - the Joint Counter Narco-Terrorism Task Force (JCNTF) and Arizona's current border support mission, known locally as Operation Copper Cactus (OCC), officials.

Upon arrival, she was welcomed at the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing by OCC senior leaders, members serving on the border support mission and JCNTF, and leadership from the 162nd Fighter Wing. Jelinski-Hall attended a briefing on JCNTF/OCC operations. Briefings from task force leadership detailed the number of troops on the ground, challenges and successes of each operation.

On the second day of her visit, she met with officials at the Tucson Sector Headquarters in Tucson, Ariz. Chief Patrol Agent Randy Hill expressed his gratitude for the support and contributions Arizona Guardsmen have made during the operation. CBP officials also provided a briefing on the Secure Border Initiative network and hailed the contributions Guardsmen are making in its success.

Preceding her visit with CBP, Jelinski-Hall flew on an OH-58 helicopter for a bird's eye view of the various locations where Guardsmen are stationed to support Border Patrol agents. She also was able to see the critical aerial reconnaissance support the JCNTF provides to law enforcement in a drug interdiction capacity.

The highly anticipated stops during her tour included visits to entry identification team (EIT) sites to speak with Guardsmen working on the border. At each site she asked them to discuss the different aspects of their jobs and their thoughts about serving on the mission.

One soldier described the joint working operation with CBP as "great."

"There isn't a day that [CBP] isn't out here checking on us a couple of times a day. They really take an interest in our daily well-being as we support them," said Spc. Rogers. To protect the Soldier's identity, his first name is excluded.

At each site she spoke candidly about individual responsibilities to fellow wingmen and battle buddies when it comes to suicide prevention, and also reiterated available family service and strong bonds programs.

"With the mission coming to a close at some point, I really encourage taking advantage of these programs. Finance and relationships are two of the stress points for our people. With the suicide issues that the services are facing, it's important to do away with the negative stigma associated with asking for help. It's important to have this conversation with each other," said Jelinski-Hall.

In addition, she stressed the role of having a support network and connection to family members who provide strong bonds to support the work being done along the border.

"Married or single, it's important to have that support system. It could be your mom, dad, brother or sister. What they do at home allows you to stay out here and be mission focused and accomplish it successfully. Sometimes our families get the short end of the stick when it comes to this kind of thing. It's important to thank them for their support because they get it. They get what it's all about," said Jelinski-Hall.

Her visit along the border concluded with an in-depth look at Arizona National Guard ground reconnaissance operations and the impact we are making in support of our law enforcement partners. Her message, consistent and sincere at each stop, left a lasting and positive impression of the important work of the Senior Enlisted Leader of the Guard.

"Thank you for what you do here for the state of Arizona along the border. It's important work and affects all Americans," said Jelinski-Hall.

This visit comes on the heels of a similar visit from Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, Director of the Air National Guard and Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, Command Chief Master Sgt. to the Director of the Air National Guard, earlier in March. Gen. Craig McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, also visited Arizona border support operations in December.