Twelve members of a Utah Air National Guard unit specializing in aircraft crash and fire operations will be activated Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Gary Nelson, chief of staff for air operations of the state ANG, announced Saturday.
The members of the 151st Civil Engineering Squadron, based at the ANG headquarters at the Salt Lake International Airport, will be assigned to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., as replacements for a unit that has deployed overseas in Operation Desert Shield.The guardsmen make up a third of the Utah ANG's firefighting capability but Nelson said the unit will retain adequate resources.
The firefighters have started preparations for activation, including family support activities, immunizations, physical exams and briefings.
"We're not anxious to leave our families and disrupt normal activities," said Chief Master Sgt. Larry Hall, the unit commander. "However, this provides us an excellent opportunity to show that we can perform the job we have trained so long to do."
This is the first time since the Korean War in 1951 that elements of the Utah ANG have been activated, according to Nelson.
But volunteers from the 151st flew resupply missions in Vietnam and have been involved in midair refueling operations in Operation Desert Shield.
"We have had extensive and continuous involvement by airplanes, aircrews and support personnel from a number of our units since the beginning of the crisis in early August," said Nelson.
"Up to this point, however, it has all been on a volunteer basis."
The primary mission of the 151st is mid-air refueling, using KC-135 tankers. The group is attached to the Strategic Air Command (SAC).
Nelson said that Gov. Norman Bangerter was notified of the activation immediately after the 151st received its orders. Unlike Reserve units, National Guard units are nominally under the command of governors until called to federal service.