By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Rhodes says the Defense department encourages such use of the guard to justify its large military budgets despite the end of the Cold War. It's easy and convenient to "fit" the military into a police-style role, he says, but it is a perversion of the American military's historic role.
"Up to now, we always saw the military as being a defense for the country against foreign enemies," Rhodes says. "Now we have defense contractors who still need money, so we figure we'll use spy planes to watch the border, and pretty soon you're not just watching the border, you're watching the city near the border, and soon you're not just watching the city. . . ."
S.P.I.N. isn't all the guard has been up to. Two educational programs, Freedom Academy and Project Challenge, are designed to increase youths' self-esteem and help them stay in school, and get them their General Equivalency Diploma if they do drop out. The guard also runs a park-based homework club, in which kids help each other study, and a grade school mentoring program, in which guard troops team up with youths to help them get through school.
Although some educators may bristle at the thought of the National Guard using its relative largess in an educational role while funding for Arizona schools is a never-ending fight, most say that it's good someone is doing something.
"The more people who are interested in focusing on young people," says Kay Lybeck, president of the Arizona Educational Association, "probably the better off we are."
She says, however, she wishes educators had the guard's deep pockets.
"Do we wish we had the same resources? Yes," she says. "Do we think it's necessarily bad that they're doing it instead of us? No.