With only nine days left before United Nations members are free to unleash their armies against Iraq, 80 more Utah National Guard personnel departed Sunday to serve in Operation Desert Shield and 57 more Navy reservists were ordered to stand by.
The 80 members of the Guard's 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion bade farewell to their families and friends at 8 p.m. Sunday and then boarded buses that would take them to Fort Carson, Colo. Their final destination is the Persian Gulf.As the 142nd was leaving, 52 members of the Naval Reserve's Cargo Handling Battalion Three, Detachment B320, were being notified that their 1991 annual training had been canceled and that they would be mobilized within the next two weeks. Also alerted were five Naval Reserve nurses.
An estimated 500 family members and friends were on hand at the Utah National Guard headquarters in Draper for the departure of the 142nd, whose members are primarily linguists and interrogators.
"We'll be OK," said Maj. Dee Snowball, the unit's commander. He said the last-minute flurry of diplomatic activity is cause for optimism and takes some of the ominous edge off the Jan. 15 deadline.
"My feelings right now have nothing to do with the deadline," he said, gathering his wife and five of his six children around him. "It's always hard to leave your family."
Even for those accustomed to it, adds his wife, Sharol, whom he married while on active duty 20 years ago. "We've been a Guard family for a long time," she said.
Their son, Devin, 17, is hoping to join the military soon as well. He wants to become a helicopter mechanic and later a pilot, a decision his parents support. Devin and his brothers and sisters share their father's optimism.
"Well, sort of," said Devin's younger brother, Ryan. One of the unit's lieutenant's, Mark, (reporters were asked not to use the last names of any personnel besides the commander) said he was neither optimistic nor pessimistic, "but I think we're probably closer to war."
His wife, Debbie, said, "I'm preparing for the worst and hoping for the best."
Although the unit wasn't activated until late December, Mark and Debbie said they had expected the news ever since the August invasion of Kuwait. They were notified of the mobilization two days later than everyone else in the 142nd because they were away from home celebrating their first wedding anniversary.
Both the major and the lieutenant said the unit is ready to do its job in the Persian Gulf. Although none of the 80 members who departed Sunday speaks Arabic, they are trained to elicit and exploit human and material information, a spokesman said.
"I think we'll do very well," Maj. Snowball said.
The Department of the Navy announced on Sunday that the 52 men and women of the Utah Naval Reserve Cargo Handling Battalion will report to the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Readiness Center in Salt Lake City for mobilization processing. From there, they will go on to Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, Va., where they will join three detachments from California.
After additional training at Cheatham, the reservists will be deployed outside the United States, a spokesman said, adding, "Their ultimate destination is not known."
The nurses - five from Salt Lake City and one from Ogden - will be processed for active duty on or about Jan. 17 and then will report to Fleet Hospital (Combat Zone) 20 in Fort Dix, N.J. They too will be deployed outside the United States to an unknown destination, the spokesman said.
Cargo handling battalions are trained to load and unload Navy and Marine Corps cargo from maritime prepositioning ships, merchant break bulk ships and container ships in open ocean or at pier side.
The Utah reservists' training has consisted of two weekends per quarter at the naval Supply Annex, Alameda, Calif., where they practiced cargo handling on the SS California, which is now in service in support of Operation Desert Shield. They spent their third training week each quarter handling cargo at Hill Air Force Base.
The Navy Reserve spokesman said the 52 reservists were to have left for their 1991 training over the weekend.
With the latest call up, 157 Navy reservists in Utah have been mobilized in support of Operation Desert Shield.