About 125 men and women from the Utah National Guard's 625th Military Police Company have been called up in the string of recent activations for Operation Desert Shield.
Monday morning's announcement by the National Guard headquarters in Draper brings the number of Guard soldiers called to active duty during the past week to about 275.The activated soldiers could leave the state as early as Dec. 9. "Plans call for deployment of the unit to the Persian Gulf from Fort Lewis but the deployment date is not yet known," said Maj. Bob Nelson, spokesman for the Utah National Guard.
The mission of the 625th is to provide guards for prisoner-of-war and civilian internees and for U.S. military installations and facilities.
Members of the Murray-based group were placed on alert status one week ago and have spent the week preparing for an activation. A weekend drill scheduled for next weekend was moved to this past weekend to allow the soldiers more time to get equipment ready and take care of personal affairs and military paperwork before receiving official word of an activation, said the wife of one of the unit members.
Federal authority over Guard and Reserve troops allows President Bush to call the troops for up to 180 days. Gov. Norm Bangerter was notified of the activation Sunday evening, Nelson said. The governor's office, concerned about the effect the departures will have on Utah's private and public service infrastructure, estimated that 18 members of the MP unit have civilian careers in either corrections or law enforcement.
Activation of the 625th follows the activation of three other Army National Guard units: the 120th Quartermaster Detachment and a cell of the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, which have been in the Gulf region since September; and the 144th Evacuation Hospital, whose members are at a training station Fort Carson, Colo.