National Guard and Reserve involvement in Operation Desert Shield has Utah Public Safety officials scanning their ranks to see how many officers could be called away from their Highway Patrol jobs.
And while the loss of five troopers to active-duty military assignments has put a squeeze on the UHP, the town of Alta has lost one of its three-member marshal's office at a critical time of the year.Public Safety spokesman Gary Whitney said 42 UHP troopers are also members of National Guard or Reserve units. "We're shorthanded anyway," he said, adding that the department identified which troopers have military obligations back when Utah troops first began providing soldiers for the Middle East conflict.
Except for a small concentration of troopers in Ogden who are part-time soldiers, the rest of the troopers with military obligations are fairly evenly distributed throughout the state, Whitney said.
The temporary nature of the call-ups, most of them limited to 180 days, has department officials setting contingency plans to fill vacated positions by realigning patrol area boundaries and offering overtime shifts to other troopers, Whitney said.
Members of the Utah Army National Guard's 625th Military Police Company in Murray began their active duty Thursday and are scheduled to leave for last-minute training at Fort Carson, Colo. Sunday evening. About 18 members ofthe unit had to leave law enforcement jobs because of the call-up including an Alta Marshal's Office member named Mike.
Mike said he is as concerned about the job he's taking on with the military as he is about the job he will leave behind for 180 days. The marshal's office is busy during the winter patrolling avalanches and taking care of the seasonal rush at the ski resorts.
Alta Mayor William Leavitt said the marshal's office would not be able to train a replacement for the 180 days the MP company will be on active duty. The mayor is trying to get the National Guard to defer Mike's activation long enough for winter to pass.
"This leaves us really strapped," Leavitt said. "If he'd broken a leg, they wouldn't take him until the leg had healed. We just want them to defer him until this situation heals."
Leavitt said he has requested the deferment from the state adjutant general and is awaiting a response.