Utah's military officials have their sights set on bringing the troops home but encourage anxious family members to be patient as the withdrawal won't take place overnight.
"You can't just pick up and walk out of the place. You have to sort out what needs to remain and how long it needs to be there," said Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. "Once the war is over, people are going to be anxious to have their loved ones back home. The process is going to be lengthy. It isn't going to happen overnight, and they're going to need to be patient," Matthews said."There're about 3,019 individuals (from Utah) who have been mobilized. They're not all in the theater, but are in various places in support of the theater." Utahns began participating in Operation Desert Shield within a week after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. There are 36 units in the Reserves and National Guard that are involved.
Lt. Col. Bob Nelson, a Guard spokesman, said Thursday the Pentagon has announced its general policy for returning troops home will be based on their time on active duty."First in, first out will be the policy," Nelson said.
Besides the 3,019 Utah Guard troops involved, Hill Air Force Base has deployed about 1,300 active duty personnel to the Middle East.
It took more than six months to get all of the Utah troops deployed. It will likely take months to get them back - and that's after their work is finished.
"One thing we have to understand is even though the ground war looks like it's wrapped up, we're going to have to go back and clean up all those pockets that have been bypassed," said Maj. Bill Auer, spokesman for the 96th Army Reserve Command at Fort Douglas.
"We're looking at probably a month before things are tidied up. Then we start looking at the logistics of bringing them home. We took half a million (U.S. soldiers) over with all of their equipment. We've got to bring half a million back - and all of their equipment."
From a fiscal standpoint, the military would save money by sending home reserve component troops first since that would get them off the federal payroll. "That seems logical, but then that doesn't necessarily determine what happens," Matthews said.
The Army Reserve groups from Utah, the 328th General Hospital and the 1457th Engineer Battalion, are in Germany, filling slots, in part, vacated by active-duty personnel sent to the Middle East.
"We've got to bring the active medical folks back to their hospitals and clinics in Europe, and then we can bring our folks home," Auer said.
The Middle East mop up will also involve the Military Police units from Utah, and likely Arabic-speaking linguists from Utah, until prisoners of war are processed and exchanged for U.S. and allied prisoners.