Sunday, 07 October, 2001

Soldiers Are Not Policemen

When we were going through security at Chicago's O'Hare airport this afternoon, Debra noticed a National Guardsman standing just inside the secured area.  This was somewhat surprising because we hadn't yet heard about the U.S. attacks in Afghanistan, and there were no National Guard at the airport when we flew in on Friday.  There were more troops at the Austin airport when we arrived this evening.  Although I had heard that troops were going to be deployed to airports, and I understand that they're there for a reason, I can't help but feel a little uneasy.  The soldiers we saw were young, which is something of a concern, but my primary reason for being uneasy is that they're soldiers, not policemen.  Some of those we saw in Chicago were MPs, so they have some police training, but they are still soldiers first.  None of the Austin contingent were MPs.

A soldier is not a police officer.  They have different missions, and different methods of dealing with potentially hostile situations.  A police officer is trained to diffuse situations in a generally peaceful manner, resorting to force only as a last resort or when his safety or the safety of others is in danger.  A soldier is trained to command peace, and to enforce that command with a rifle.  It's true that soldiers (and National Guardsmen in particular) are trained to consider the effects of their actions on civilians, in general they are trained to act as though everybody is a potential combatant, and the "good guys" are well identified.  Using soldiers as police officers in a crowded place such as an airport is a disservice to the soldiers and to those they're supposed to be protecting.  The potential for a fatal error is very great.

I hope that the deployment of National Guard troops in airports is a temporary solution that will be phased out as soon as we can employ more security officers who are trained as police.