The tensions of two days of bombing in the Middle East showed at a weekly family orientation meeting at the Utah National Guard headquarters Thursday evening.
Gov. Norm Bangerter attended the meeting and told the 350 or so people in attendance who have family members on active duty in support of Operation Desert Storm that he is still feeling stunned by the events of the past few days."We're never prepared. As much as we've heard about this we're never really prepared for the shooting to start," he said.
Retired Army Col. Bob Lockwood, military aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was also on hand to give the family members an update on pending legislation that would affect Guard members and answer questions.
The questions reflected the frustration of spouses left to manage family affairs on a military salary lower than the civilian salary the soldiers left when called to active duty. They also reflected the tension felt by parents and spouses of Utah Guard members since the United States and allied bombing of Iraq started Wednesday afternoon local time.
Lockwood couldn't answer all of the questions, but people in attendance blurted out responses that sometimes appeased the crowd while heightening the tensions of the evening at other times.
"How are the guys from Utah?" one woman asked. "We haven't gotten any reports," was Lockwood's reply, followed quickly by a woman who jumped from her seat and said she'd heard from her husband, with the 144th Medical Evacuation Hospital, earlier Thursday morning.
Her report that the group was all together and safe brought welcome news to people interested in the welfare of the largest Guard unit deployed from Utah to Saudi Arabia.
Smaller support groups congregated outside the headquarters auditorium after the meeting broke up to exchange stories and concerns and see who had heard most recently from a soldier in Saudi Arabia.
Several people commented after the meeting that the auditorium is full to nearly full at each of the weekly meetings, but that tensions were higher than usual Thursday because of the added stress of the day.