Eleven of every 100 Utah National Guardsmen and reservists have been called to active duty as part of America's involvement in the Middle East.
And the commander of Utah troops, Maj. Gen. John Matthews, said Saturday he expects more will join the ranks of the 1,611 Utah troops already involved in Operation Desert Shield."You don't have to read tea leaves to know there will be more call-ups," Matthews told Gov. Norm Bangerter during a briefing at the Governor's Mansion.
Currently, some 90,000 National Guardsmen and reservists have been placed on active duty, with the president authorized to activate up to 180,000. How many more will come from Utah is speculation, but Matthews emphasized that Utah troops have not been disproportionately singled out.
Nationally, 9.8 percent of all national guardsmen and reservists have been called to active duty, while in Utah it is 11.3 percent.
"There is no justification for charges that Utah is being unfairly dealt with," Matthews said. "That is our fair share, as far as I am concerned," Matthews said.
He added the slightly higher percentage of Utahns involved in Operation Desert Shield is due in part to Utahns' expertise in medical areas and the overall preparedness of Utah units.
Matthews said 598 troops from the Utah Air National Guard and Army National Guard have been called up, 756 from the Army Reserve, 170 from the Marine Reserve and 87 from the Naval Reserve.
As a percentage of the overall Utah population, more Utahns are probably involved in Operation Desert Shield than other states. Utah ranks ninth nationally in the percentage of military-age population in the National Guard or reserves.
Col. Barrie Vernon, the judge advocate general for Utah troops, also told the governor that steps are being taken to ensure families left behind do not suffer financial hardships.
The Utah National Guard will be approaching the 1991 Legislature on a series of "Desert Shield Relief Acts" to protect the rights of guardsmen and reservists called to active duty.
Among the measures the Legislature will address will be a guarantee of health care to family members, refunds of license fees paid but not used and allowing doctors to discontinue malpractice insurance without liability while on active duty.
"We ought to encourage employers to do what they can to keep these families out of financial difficulties . . . and stop the hurt as much as we can," Bangerter agreed.
In addition to Saturday's briefing, the Murray Elks Lodge presented the governor a white flag emblazoned with a yellow ribbon and the words: "We support our troops, come home soon."
Bangerter said the flag will fly at the Capitol Monday, and "maybe we'll fly it until they come home."
Utah's 144th Evac staff will get 4-day leave from Fort Carson
The more than 400 members of Utah's 144th Evacuation Hospital unit, currently training at Fort Carson, Colo., will be eligible for a four-day Christmas pass, said Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews, Utah adjutant.
Matthews made the announcement Saturday during a meeting with Gov. Norm Bangerter.
Unit members are expected to return from Dec. 19-23, although they may be able to spend Christmas Day at home, said Maj. Bob Nelson, Utah National Guard public affairs officer. "This was an Army decision right out of Fort Carson. They may take as much as four days if they choose at their own expense," said Nelson.
Because of the financial constraints caused by the activation, the cost of the roundtrip airplane tickets during the Christmas season may be difficult to cover, especially for lower-rank unit members, officials said. Utahns wanting to help any member take advantage of his of her leave, may contact Capt. Robert Young, the hospital's chaplain, at (719) 579-1059.