Uniformed Maryland National Guard members carrying M-16 semiautomatic rifles will soon be standing at security checkpoints inside Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the state's regional airports.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening activated about 100 Guard members from the 29th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade yesterday for airport security, in response to a request from President George W. Bush.
"The White House wants an armed, uniformed presence at our airports," Glendening said. "It's important we do all we can to ensure Maryland airports and travelers are safe."
Until the Guard members complete military police training that meets Federal Aviation Administration security standards - which could take two to three weeks - Maryland state troopers will be stationed at the airports, Glendening said.
The troopers were dispatched last night to BWI and to the regional airports in Salisbury and Hagerstown.
Guard members, ordinarily trained for combat, will take over for the State Police at the airports' security gates where carry-on luggage is X-rayed and passengers pass through metal detectors, officials said.
They could be on duty at the airports for more than six months while federal officials recruit, train and deploy a new security force for the nation's airports.
"It could be longer," Glendening said. "We just don't know yet. This is all new."
Glendening spoke with White House and Department of Defense officials in a conference call yesterday, along with more than 20 other governors from around the nation.
The governor said the White House had already agreed to reimburse the state for the expense of activating the National Guard and for using state troopers at the airports.
State Police commanders said they will likely ask troopers to work overtime to fill the security posts until the guard members begin their tour of duty. State police might also reassign some troopers from special enforcement units.
But Col. David B. Mitchell, the State Police superintendent, said the temporary assignment should not affect emergency service or the safety of Maryland's highways.
Meanwhile, the National Guard began notifying its members last night that they would be needed.
Maryland National Guard Major Gen. James F. Fretterd said it was unclear where they would be trained and how long it would take.