Army Reserve soldiers alerted Thursday to an Operation Desert Shield call-up will fill the Moore Hall armory Saturday to take care of last-minute tasks before the entire 160- to 170-member group leaves in a convoy Monday.
The soldiers' family members are also invited to the armory, at 4550 S. 1300 East, for briefings about the military's legal and procedural workings that will play a significant role in many of their lives for the next 180 days.Gov. Norm Bangerter and Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis made plans to meet with the members of the 419th Transportation Company and their families at the armory at 4:30 p.m.
The most immediate concern for group members is getting their personal affairs in order and preparing to leave on such short notice. "Most of them have their bags packed, but I don't yet," said Company Commander Capt. Lisa Porter, who said she has spent most of her time at the armory taking care of administrative tasks.
Porter said a core of "essential people" has also been working full time at the armory to help the other unit members wade through predeployment paperwork. Maj. Bill Auer, spokesman for the 96th Army Reserve Command at Fort Douglas, said soldiers not involved in the predeployment process are being kept away from the armory for the day "just so the families can get things done. We're even going to try to keep the headquarters staff away."
The work for the day will include making sure wills, legal documents, family plans and medical records are in order.
The activation took Reserve officials at Fort Douglas by surprise and left them without much time to contact the company members, Auer said. Porter said 20 to 30 percent of the unit's petroleum truck drivers have civilian jobs as over-the-road truck drivers, which has made some of the soldiers hard to reach. The petroleum transportation unit will drive in a 60-to-70-truck convoy to Fort Lewis, Wash., when they leave Monday morning.
Once at Fort Lewis, the once part-time soldiers will receive additional training in weapons use, nuclear, biological and chemical warfare and other "common tasks," Porter said. Beyond that, the unit members have not been told where they will be sent during their activation period, which is expected to last 180 days.
The first post-deployment obstacle will be spending Thanksgiving away from home. "At least we have each other," Porter said of the company members, many of whom have been in the company for 12 to 18 years.
The activation, announced Thursday, is the first from Utah's Army Reserve component and the fifth from the 96th ARCOM's seven-state territory that includes Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and North and South Dakota.