Today’s news:

National Guard to start patrolling city airports

National Guard troops will begin patrolling John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports Friday by order of Gov. George Pataki to increase security in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack.

Pataki called out more than 300 National Guard members to help secure airports in New York state, with more than half that number assigned to New York City airports.

“Our National Guard troops provide a visible and consistent presence at our airports to ensure safety and boost confidence among travelers,” Pataki said.

“By answering the president’s call, we are sending a powerful message to the business traveler and tourist alike that New York is open for business.” he said. “New York remains the financial and cultural capital of the world, offering unparalleled opportunities for business and fun that I encourage all Americans and people from around the world to see for themselves.”

National Guard members will take their posts at airports Friday after finishing a two-day training session with the Federal Aviation Administration school at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, N.Y. The FAA recommended the number of troops to be assigned at each of the state’s 19 federally regulated airports.

The FAA said the National Guards’ principal mission would be to supplement airport security and law enforcement personnel at passenger checkpoints and to augment existing ground security for the length of time determined by federal authorities, perhaps up to six months.

The state’s call-up of the Guard is in response to “Operation Noble Eagle,” a federal initiative in response to President Bush's Sept. 27 directive “to provide a trained, armed military security presence at the airport facilities of the United States to reinforce the civilian security function.”

“While it would be unwise, for the sake of operation security, to publicly announce specific mission details, we will be providing a level of support consistent with the size and amount of passenger traffic of each airport,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Maguire Jr., the state’s adjutant general.

Besides LaGuardia and Kennedy, National Guard troops will be assigned to area regional airports, including Long Island MacArthur, Stewart at Newburgh and Westchester County.

Curbside checking resumed at LaGuardia for some airlines, which now must get clearance from the FAA before they can offer such service to passengers.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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