The Republican National Committee has launched a massive media letter campaign through its sustaining members aimed at showing support for U.S. troops in the Middle East.

According to committee spokesman B. Jay Cooper, 500,000 packets have been sent to committee supporters urging them to send letters to the editors of local newspapers showing support for U.S. troops. The packets contain envelopes, letters to the editor preprinted with the individual's name and address, and the newspaper's name and address. The packets also include a cover letter by Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., urging supporters to combat the efforts of anti-war protesters by sending the letters."The message that needs to go out, on the airwaves and in our newspapers, is that the United States of America supports this effort and is fully unified behind our troops," Simpson says in his letter.

The committee also asks for contributions to help finance the letter campaign. Committee spokesman R. Jay Cooper said any excess funds received through the project would be given to the USO.

A number of Salt Lake-area residents who received the packets have sent the letters to the Deseret News.

Salt Lake resident Sheila Siggard said she was happy to see the committee's packet arrive in the mail. She rewrote the letter slightly before sending it to the Deseret News. "I was happily surprised. When I see the anti-war demonstrations I get really angry because I wanted to say something," she said. "They made it very convenient for us."

George Lensch, another Salt Lake resident, said he didn't even remember who sent the packet to him, but he signed the letter and sent it to the Deseret News because it expressed his feelings.

"People who contribute to a political party are activists - people who want to do something," Cooper said from Washington. Sending the letters out gives them a way to express their feelings, he said.

As of Friday, about 10,000 people had sent response cards to the committee indicating they had sent their letters to local newspapers. Cooper said he has also fielded about 40 calls from newspapers inquiring about the origin and scope of the campaign. He estimated 80 percent of the response cards came from the first mailing of 200,000 packets sent out.

The form letters read:

Dear Editor:

At a time when the men and women in our armed forces are facing their greatest test, we at home are facing a test as well. Our test is to maintain our unity and resolve, as our troops are doing in the Persian Gulf.

We don't want Saddam Hussein to take this country's tolerance for anti-war demonstrators as a signal he should wait out our resolve in a long and bloody war.

I'm outraged at the brutal treatment of our POW's. And I'm saddened to see the media give as much attention to the small number of anti-war protesters who have sprung into action. It seems that every time a few protesters pick up their signs, the cameras swarm around them, and they end up on the news.

Our soldiers have said they have a job to do and are going to get it done. I feel I have a job to do, too. And that's to stand up in strong support for our troops.

I want them to know that I and the American people are very proud of them. We are all inspired by their bravery.

I hope that you'll print my letter, and others like it, in the days ahead. Thousands of local American newspapers are reaching our men and women in uniform every day. Your newspaper may be one of them. I want the troops to know that we hold them in our thoughts and prayers every day.

Sincerely,