Guardsman Reporting for Border Duty Arrested for DUI

04/04/02 12:00AM



(Host) A Vermont National Guardsman has been relieved from active duty after he was stopped for drunk driving on his way to work on the U.S. Canadian border. Authorities say the soldier had two loaded weapons in his vehicle.

The incident occurred as Vermont's congressional delegation has challenged Pentagon rules that prohibit National Guard members from carrying weapons on border duty.

VPR's John Dillon reports.


(Dillon) State police late last week stopped the national guardsman on Route 78 in West Swanton. It was about 7:30 a.m. and the solider was apparently heading to work to help patrol the U.S. Canadian border.

Police cited the soldier for driving under the influence. His blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit. The police found two loaded weapons in the man's vehicle ¿ a shotgun and a .45 caliber handgun.

Army Major Michael Whetston of the joint forces command in Virginia confirmed the incident:

(Whetston) "Yes, there was a soldier who was picked up by Vermont State Police for DUI. This soldier will be released from active duty. He was serving in a federalized status and he will be returned to his state¿."

(Dillon) About 70 Vermont National Guard members have been assigned to the border duty. They are under national, not state, command and are not allowed to carry weapons. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and others in Congress have called on the Pentagon to change the rules and to allow the soldiers to be armed.

The Army spokesman says the weapons the Vermont guard member when he was stopped by police were his own, not the military's:

(Whetston) "This is not to be confused or associated with the question in the media about whether the troops should be armed. These were his personal weapons and he was in on off-duty status."

(Dillon) Pentagon officials have said they may eventually allow National Guardsmen to carry weapons while they patrol the nation's borders.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon.
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