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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Uncle Sam calls

Guardsman prepares for Iraq

Express Staff Writer

Army National Guard Specialist Joel Ellsworth has two jobs. The first is serving pizza. The second is serving his country.

Smoky Mountain Pizza, his primary employer, reached out Thursday, April 22, to honor and support Ellsworth in his second job serving the U.S. Army. Saturday was his last day as the service manager at the Smoky Mountain Pizza restaurant in Ketchum.

Idaho National Guardsman, Specialist Joel Ellsworth celebrated his last few days working at Smoky Mountian Pizza with a pizza party last week sponsored by his boss. He and other soldiers from the National Guard armory in Hailey await news about a pending call-up to deploy to Iraq. Express photo by Willy Cook

At the beginning of May, the citizen soldier will join the 3,500 members of the 116th Army Cavalry Brigade based at Gowen Field in Boise for an annual two-week training mission.

This year the training coincides with an alert notice handed to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne last month by the U.S. Department of Defense that the Idaho National Guard could soon be called up for active duty in Iraq.

"It could be a matter of days or weeks," said LT. Col. Tim Marsano, a public affairs spokesman for the Idaho National Guard.

Ellsworth, 27, has tossed aside his domestic duties to prepare for the possibility that he will soon be headed to Iraq.

The Idaho National Guard’s 116th Calvary Brigade, which includes 900 volunteers from support units in Montana, Oregon, Utah and North Dakota, is trained in armored tank maneuvers, Marsano said. But the soldiers will be getting special training to deal with the specific problems facing U.S. forces in Iraq.

In fact, the reconnaissance unit of the National Guard based in Hailey will be leading some of the special training. The scout unit is skilled in tasks needed in Iraq, such as establishing perimeters in hostile environments and conducting urban operations, which requires skilled soldiers to know how to safely secure large buildings, Marsano said. The soldiers would also be responsible for establishing and monitoring checkpoints and handling captured insurgents and civilians, he said.

Staff Sgt. Brian Humphreys, a guardsman on active duty who is providing security, maintenance and training at the Hailey armory, is also awaiting news about the official call-up. Humphreys, formerly a Marine Corps sniper, has made several trips to Iraq and Kuwait City. Fellow soldiers regularly ask him about being in country.

"We will set up classes and give hands on training," he said. "If we do end up getting deployed, we’re going to do something for our families to let them know we’re going to stick together and be safe,"

Although the call-up is not yet certain, Boise-based Smoky Mountain Pizza Vice President John Ryan threw the celebration for Ellsworth last week to make sure the soldier did not suddenly get away without proper recognition.

In the tradition of citizen soldiers dating back to the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord, National Guard soldiers are not expected to give up their jobs. Ellsworth gave notice because he said he wanted his employer to have time to prepare for his departure. Several friends gathered Thursday to offer their support at the pizza party.

Marsano said deployment is highly likely. The final order will come from the Pentagon and command of the Idaho National Guard would then shift from the governor to the Army and President Bush. It would be the largest call up in state history.

Ellsworth said he is willing to fight for his country.

"It is a risk you take when you join the military," he said. "I originally joined for school, but now every time I hear the national anthem it sends chills down my spine."

He said part of what makes serving in the military so meaningful is the bond between soldiers.

"It’s not until you know somebody that is going that it hits home," Ryan said. "Thanks God that everyone comes home and that families are reunited."


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