News: Georgia Army National Guard’s support to the war on drugs
Story by Maj. Will Cox
CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, MARIETTA, Ga. – Air crew members from Georgia’s Army National Guard (NG) Counter Drug Task Force (CDTF) patrolled the skies north of Rome looking for marijuana grows in July. They harvested more than 20 plants thereby keeping $40,000 of dope off the streets of Georgia.
The Georgia NG CDTF is part of the Governor’s Task Force/Drug Suppression (GTF) along with three other federal agencies and six state agencies, including the Georgia State Patrol. The GTF supports local sheriff departments with an air team and ground team designed to find and eradicate marijuana grows.
“The Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Army National Guard provide helicopters making up the air team that searches for marijuana from the skies,” said a Georgia NG aircrew member. “We receive suspected locations from the local Sheriff’s office and talk the ground team in to eradicate the marijuana grow sites once we locate them.”
According to the Georgia GTF website, the prevalent use of public lands by drug trafficking organizations has resulted in a significant rise of marijuana plants eradicated in 2012 compared to 2011. In fact, more than 71,000 plants were seized with 53 percent of the outdoor plants eradicated coming from only 11 plots in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The remaining 47 percent were located in 122 plots spread throughout the state.
“That sounds like a lot of plants, but to put that in context, each outdoor grow plant produces about $2,000 dollars in dope a growing season,” said a Georgia NG aircrew member. “That is over $140 million in dope that was kept off of the street in 2012.”
The Georgia NG CDTF flies for the GTF from May to October helping local sheriff departments and forest rangers eradicate their local grows, making it safer for the citizens of Georgia.
“We do find small grows throughout the year, but our goal is to find and eradicate the large grows being planted and cultivated by drug trafficking organizations on public lands here in Georgia,” said Capt. Eddie Williams of the Georgia State Patrol and GTF commander. “These large grows are in the national forests miles off the trails with armed guards and booby traps surrounding them. The GTF wants to safe guard our citizens by eradicating these sites and the threats that surround them.”
According to the Georgia GTF website, agencies comprising the Task Force are: The Georgia State Patrol, Motor Carrier Compliance, Department of Natural Resources - Law Enforcement Division, Department of Corrections - Probation Division, Georgia Army National Guard Counter Drug, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Civil Air Patrol, United States Forest Service and United States Customs and Border Patrol. Each agency provides resources specific to their enforcement mission, i.e. aircraft, intelligence, logistical and administrative support, equipment and personnel trained and experienced in operating in a variety of environments found within the state.
“The GTF’s effectiveness would be seriously degraded if the Ga. Army National Guard was not part of our task force. The helicopters and the air crew members are as good as they get and significantly contribute to the success of the GTF,” said Williams.
For specific information on the GTF’s statistics and an overview of the program go to: http://dps.georgia.gov/gtf-overview.