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OPERATION CRACKDOWN: The 147th Reconnaissance Wing and the War on Drugs

Residents of Eden, Texas watch as a suspected drug house is demolished.

Residents of Eden, Texas watch as a suspected drug house is demolished.

ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas -- Members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing are helping wage war on drug and gang activity in Texas by participating in Operation Crackdown. Master Sergeant Marcus Wilkins and Technical Sergeant Rodney Blanton both assigned to the 147 Civil Engineer Squadron, Heavy Equipment section deployed to Eden TX in May to support Operation Crackdown.

Operation Crackdown is not that well known except to the communities in which it affects. It has the Texas Military Forces Joint Counter Drug Task Force (JCDTF) working hand in hand with local law enforcement agencies and community based organizations to demolish abandoned housing used as a place of refuge for drug dealers, drug users and gang members.

The process involves local law enforcement requesting help through the state Counter Drug Office. Units throughout the Texas Military Forces are then tasked to provide the skill sets needed to accomplish the mission.

"I get a great deal of personal satisfaction when we do this mission" said MSgt Wilkins. "When we remove these abandoned structures we beautify the town. Drug dealers, criminals and gang bangers have fewer places to hide." MSgt Wilkins has been involved with Operation Crackdown since 1995. "Since Operation Crackdown started, over one thousand structures have been demolished" said MSgt Wilkins.

Heavy equipment used to tear the building down is rented from the local economy and is paid for with drug seizure money.

Buildings are identified by the local authorities as structures used for gang and drug related activities. Guard members determine what heavy equipment to use for each particular job because sometimes it could be a row of houses or just a single house within a foot of someone else's property. Materials from the demolished houses are then loaded into roll-off containers for disposal.

Operation Crackdown is much more than tearing down buildings. During the deployment, members from the Drug Demand Reduction section present an anti-drug program to local school children. The news media is invited for a day during the deployment known as Media Day. Media, locals and school kids watch as a structure is being demolished. TSgt Rodney Blanton received cheers and hugs from some of the school kids after completing one demolition.

"The local community really appreciates what the Guard does." TSgt Blanton said " We had home cooked meals everyday at lunch in the community center," said Blanton. "The local folks really help out."

Colonel Tony West, Commander of Texas Military Forces Joint Counter Drug Task Force stated that Operation Crackdown "shows in the community."

"We help to get rid of crime and gangs, that's an immediate impact on the local community," said Col. West. "Assets seized from drug dealers go back into the community by paying for the rental of the back hoes and bulldozers used by Operation Crackdown. Any recyclable metals or materials that are recovered from the demolition are given to the city," he said.

Texas Military Forces also benefit from Operation Crackdown because "Our folks get to apply their military skill sets in a real world situation, helping Texas communities." Col West concluded.