NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS RETURN TO LAX PATROL.
Armed National Guard troops returned Thursday to Los Angeles International Airport, where they last patrolled the passenger terminals in the jittery months after 9-11.
``Starting today, Los Angeles Airport will be more secure,'' Gov. Gray Davis said at an afternoon press conference. ``I have ordered an infantry platoon from the California National Guard to provide perimeter defense at this airport.
``Their job is to protect the integrity of the airport. Their mission is to prevent unauthorized personnel and equipment from disrupting air travel in and out of this airport.''
The National Guard spent two months at LAX following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, providing backup security inside the terminals.
The soldiers began this deployment at noon Thursday, patrolling the sandy hillocks, poppy-covered fields and perimeter roads and checkpoints into the sprawling airport complex in Humvees.
With camouflage uniforms, black berets and M-16s slung over their shoulders, the troops are intended to deter would-be terrorists from targeting LAX - the world's third-busiest airport - which averaged 4.7 million passengers a month last year.
``I want the terrorists to know: We're ready, we're prepared, we're trained. So don't bother coming here,'' Davis said.
The troops will remain at LAX as long as the country remains at Level Orange - the second-highest national security level. Davis said the state will pick up the tab - $108,000 for the first 10 days, $14,000 per day after that - in the hope of getting some reimbursement from the federal government.
The deployment came at the request of Mayor James Hahn, who thanked the governor Thursday for his ``swift response.''
``While I do believe LAX is safe and prepared to handle any emergency, we need to do everything we can to make sure the airport is safe and secure,'' Hahn said.
The troops will join the already beefed-up patrols of airport police and the Los Angeles Police Department assigned to protect the passenger areas of the airport.
The troops - roughly 50 members of the 40th Infantry Division - are based in Inglewood. All are local men and women who left civilian life to help protect the home front.
They include Charles Hoyle, a 35-year-old former salesman from Van Nuys, who joined the National Guard right after Sept. 11, 2001, and has been deployed almost continuously since then.
``I felt I had to do something for my country,'' said Hoyle, a Gulf War veteran.
Davis said he granted Hahn's request because of LAX's status as the state's No. 1 terrorist target. Al-Qaida operatives had previously targeted the airport for an attack, and are likely to do so again, Davis said.
LAX is the second major target in the state to get a Guard deployment; the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was the first. However, Davis said he didn't have plans to add other targets or airports to the deployment list.
``I'm very unlikely to do so,'' Davis said. ``They will have to provide a compelling case that that airport is similarly attractive to terrorists.''
(1) Gov. Gray Davis greets National Guard Reserves Sgt. Charles Hoyle, center, of Van Nuys and Sgt. Major Albert Altro of Redondo Beach after a press conference Thursday at LAX.
(2) National Guard Reserves get ready to patrol the perimeter of LAX on Thursday as part of increased security at the airport.
Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer