For the families of Utah National Guard and Army Reserve members in Saudi Arabia, no news from state headquarters will probably be the best news in the coming days.
"It's impossible for us to get any significant amount of information about the particular activities of a (Utah National Guard) unit," said Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews, the state adjutant general."We would be involved if there were casualties," he said, "We don't spend a lot of time concentrating on that publicly because we're optimists."
Maj. Gen. Donald M. Bagley, Jr., commander of the 96th Army Reserve Command, said he hasn't been given any information about Utah reserve units in Saudi Arabia. "It's still a little early. Some information will filter back later."
The reserve command at Fort Douglas is likely to hear about additional call-ups soon, he said. "We're looking at another 10 or so units" from the seven Western states in the ARCOM. "I think there are a number of Utah units involved in that. A lot of it depends on what the army does and what the possibilities are."
And while the initial air strikes over Baghdad appear to have been extremely successful, Bagley suggests there may still be great expectations for U.S. ground forces. "You've got a very capable (Iraqi) ground force in Kuwait and those guys are all pretty-well dug in in a strong defensive position. If you've got to sort those guys out in ground combat, you've got the possibility of some significant casualties."
Family members of Guard soldiers in Saudi Arabia contacted the Guard's state headquarters frequently seeking information and help with specific problems. The headquarters can provide support, but the activated state troops are under federal control now, leaving the state out of the communications chain day-to-day, Matthews said.
Even with the offensive under way, the Pentagon is not likely to keep the state headquarters more involved. The only change in operations at the Draper headquarters is an increase in security around the complex, Matthews said.
Tactics in the strike on Baghdad will hopefully keep casualties to a minimum, Matthews said. "Air strikes in this particular situation would be a way of denying (Saddam Hussein) his military assets without major human casualties on either side. And if that is sufficiently effective to reduce his interest in continuing the conflict, then we can have war with a minimum of casualties."
Even as war seemed imminent, Bagley said he was "more surprised than anybody" when the air strike started. "Right until the first reports of the air strike came through I thought they were going to solve it peacefully."