John Carlin: On the Frontline with the Virginia National Guard

The first of a series of blog posts as John covers Virginia troops on the border

On the Frontline (WSLS)

ROANOKE, Va. – When Governor Glenn Youngkin announced in late May that he would be sending 100 Virginia National Guard troops to Texas to help patrol the border, it didn’t occur to me that I might be going there as well.

Normally, this is outside the purview of a station that primarily covers events in central, southwest, and southside Virginia. Of course, we cover state and national news as well, but most of the time that out-of-town coverage comes from our sister stations, or networks, like NBC and CNN.

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But the more we looked at it – at the millions of dollars Virginia is spending to send the Guard, and the Governor’s argument that “Every state is a border state” – we thought maybe it was the best way to tell the story.

There is strong evidence that fentanyl that comes across the Mexican border ultimately winds up in Virginia. The same for people who are the victims of human trafficking.

So one day, a conversation with the News Director went from, “Man it would be nice to go to the border to see what those guys are doing,” to “It looks like you are going to the border,” faster than a marine can clean his sidearm.

So, I’m headed south to a place called Eagle Pass, one of the hot spots in the fight against drug smugglers, human smugglers, and migrants trying to cross into the United States. It is also where members of the Virginia National Guard are assisting the Texas National Guard.

It’s not like we cover these stories every day on WSLS 10 and WSLS.com. We pick up the big stories like most of the stations in the rest of the country, but it’s not daily coverage as it is for stations on the border.

So, I’m learning as fast as I can. I’m talking to people on the ground there. I’ve been in communication with members of our Graham Media Group sister station, KSAT in San Antonio.

Mostly, I’m just planning and trying to figure out how to think when the temperature slides north of 100 degrees.

We are planning to bring you as many live reports as technology and scheduling permits from Eagle Pass from Monday, July 24 to Wednesday, July 26. We will also be filing extra material for WSLS.com and some bonus photos and videos for WSLS Insiders. Once we get home, we will get in the editing room and put together some reports that attempt to bring context and explanation to what we find.

While I think it is unlikely, we will be there if the troops intercept a smuggler with 20 pounds of fentanyl under his arm. I do expect we will see and record the way migrants are trying to cross, the way they are being handled, and to ask how Virginia troops are making a difference. My press contact says we will be going out with the troops for night patrols. So who knows what else we might be able to report.

In the meantime, I’m packing lots of sunscreen.

I’ll see you at the border.


About the Author:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.