The Utah National Guard reports that 73 people have volunteered to join military units in or headed for Saudi Arabia - almost three times the number of Utah Guard members reportedly trying to get out.
Chief of Staff Col. Phillip Peay said he has heard reports that about two dozen Utah National Guard members or family members have contacted members of the Utah congressional delegation trying to find a way out of their military obligations after being called to active duty."They don't call us when they want out; they call (Sen. Jake) Garn or (Sen. Orrin) Hatch - we never hear about it," he said. But those who want out are outnumbered by individuals who have not been called to active duty but who have volunteered to go.
So far, 33 volunteers have joined three Guard units that are in or bound for the Mideast - the 625th Military Police Company, the 144th Evacuation Hospital and the 120th Quartermaster Detachment. Another 40 have volunteered to go and are waiting to hear from the state headquarters or the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon.
Peay said several of the volunteers came from outside the Utah Guard - a cardiologist transferred from the Wyoming Guard, one former member came out of retirement and a third transferred from the Army Reserve.
Some of the volunteers' military training has been more extensive in areas outside of the jobs they will be doing with the deployed unit they have joined, but they committed to go knowing that officials at mobilization stations at Fort Carson and Fort Lewis could transfer them to a non-Utah unit.
And the 40 people still on the waiting list could be snatched up by the Pentagon and plugged into a unit from anywhere in the country, Peay said.
One of the volunteers, a 55-year-old warrant officer named John, (the Guard has embargoed the use of last names) told the Deseret News from Fort Carson that officers at the state headquarters kept taking his name off of the activation list even though he volunteered to join the 144th Evacuation Hospital. The officers, he said, knew him well enough to know he wasn't ordinarily supposed to ship out with the hospital.
John is one of those whose qualifications as a personnel officer make him vulnerable to be pulled away from the hospital while at Fort Carson and assigned to another unit, Peay said.