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Ventura County

Oxnard Airport Will See a Changing of the Guard

Safety: City police will soon take over security duties from the soldiers, who have been there since Oct. 19.

April 21, 2002|SUZIE ST. JOHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Except for a change of uniform, passengers won't likely notice when the California National Guard wraps up its tour of duty at Oxnard Airport.

Airport officials last week reached a verbal agreement with the Oxnard Police Department for officers to assume security duties for the departing soldiers beginning in early May.

Assistant Police Chief Tom Cady said once the written agreement has been drafted and reviewed, his department will be ready to roll.

"There won't be a lapse in security," Cady said.

Based on the airport's schedule of five daily United Express flights, Cady predicted the department would use flexible scheduling and overtime to accommodate the facility's security needs.

"This won't affect our protection of the community," Cady said.

The switch to local law enforcement is happening at regional airports across the country under the orders of the recently formed Transportation Security Administration.

Scott Smith, director of airports for Ventura County, said he received a directive from the security administration stating the National Guard was pulling out of airports nationwide on April 30.

Although the withdrawal was expected to occur eventually, the April date came as news to officers of Delta Battery, 144th Field Artillery, 40th Infantry Division, whose troops have served at the airport since Oct. 19.

Col. Nate Reddicks of the National Guard said soldiers are prepared to remain on duty until May 10, if needed.

The security administration has allocated money to cover the cost of using local law enforcement.

How much has been set aside is unknown, but any amount the federal government does not cover will be picked up by Oxnard Airport.

The assignment of the Oxnard police will only be temporary until the security administration moves federal officers into place in mid-November.

Meanwhile, Cady's officers are studying federal security manuals and will undergo special training prior to their assignment.

Many travelers say the change in security won't be any less reassuring than the sight of camouflaged National Guard personnel.

"They will still be dressed in a uniform with a big gun, so it won't make a difference to me. I will still feel protected," said Joan Bready of Washington D.C.

Lance Pine of San Diego echoed Bready's sentiments, saying: "The National Guard has such a high-profile presence but I'm sure the Oxnard PD will do a fine job."

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