RAPID CITY, S.D. - Sen. Tim Johnson visited Camp Rapid on Monday for a briefing on how the South Dakota National Guard is helping fight illegal drugs.
Johnson got a look at a helicopter the Guard uses to help find drug houses. The four-seat chopper has long-range surveillance capabilities and can take aerial photos of drug locations with its special cameras.
The Guard's security and support detachment, or RAID unit, is trained for making drug busts across the region.
Such efforts have taken $4 million worth of drugs off the streets in the past 18 months, Guard officials said.
Johnson, D-S.D., said the drug-fighting tools are necessary in states like South Dakota.
"I think if we're going to be really serious about our war against drug users, we have to be able to turn to these kinds of resources, especially in a big rural state like ours," he said. "We've got a lot of miles out there (and) those meth labs can pop up anywhere. So to have this to augment these investigative capabilities of our state and local law enforcement officers is a real plus for us."
Lt. Col. Douglas Quarve of the National Guard said the efforts will continue to grow. "I think the military's role in helping law enforcement is solid," he said.
The National Guard uses the helicopters at least 500 hours a year for drug-related missions.
How does a helicopter detect a meth lab?