Drug smugglers have turned to the past and found yet another way to get marijuana across the border - a pot-a-pult.

National Guard troops operating a remote-video-surveillance system near Naco on Friday spotted people launching bundles of marijuana from a catapult in Mexico, said Border Patrol spokesman Steven Passament.

The Guard troops told the Border Patrol, with which they are serving during their current border mission, and the agency contacted Mexican authorities.

That same night, Mexican officials went to the location and broke up the operation, seizing the trailer-mounted catapult and 45 pounds of marijuana. The smugglers fled.

The Border Patrol has seen a wide variety of methods used to smuggle marijuana across, under and over the border, including homemade car ramps to drive over steel barriers, ultralight aircraft and an array of tunnels.

Using a catapult to launch bags of weed over the border was a first, though, Passament said.

There are 560 National Guard troops along Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border now in the "Copper Cactus" mission, which began on Aug. 1 and is scheduled to end June 30.

Most of them - 504 to be exact - are supporting the Border Patrol in around-the-clock border observation posts like the one these troops were in when they spotted the catapult.

The rest of the troops are working in administrative roles to support the observation posts or as criminal-intelligence analysts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The 560 soldiers in Arizona represent nearly half of the 1,200 troops President Obama authorized in May for active duty along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The troops have weapons and will be authorized to use them within the established rules of force, which include self-defense. But they won't be allowed to apprehend anybody, the same rules as the during last major National Guard mission, Operation Jump Start from 2006-2008.


Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com.