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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Guard calls Blaine County residents for Iraq duty

Soldiers say goodbye to family, colleagues

Express Staff Writer

The Wood River Valley is seeing more young people trickle out of the community to support Operation Iraqi Freedom as the first wave of National Guard forces are called-up for service.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne announced last week that the U.S. Department of Defense called a partial mobilization of the Idaho National Guard.

Hailey Elementary School Principal Tom Bailey and a slew of fifth-graders said goodbye to one of their teachers, Mark Sauvageau, last week. The Sheriff’s Office saw Administrative Assistant Heather Saunders pack up, and Smoky Mountain Pizza Manager Joel Ellsworth, of Ketchum, and the administrative staff at the Hailey Armory have also reported to duty in Boise.

The citizen soldiers are apart of the 750 Idahoans who were called up, and about 250 more troops from surrounding states, who are also part of the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade.

The entire brigade has about 3,500 members, spread across several with the majority in Idaho. The Defense Department has not announced when the rest of the brigade will be called up.

Many from the Hailey contingent begin their annual training at Gowen Field in Boise this week.

"This place has been a bee hive of activity and will be throughout the month of May," said Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, public affairs spokesman for the Idaho National Guard.

Guardsmen and women are training to provide security details necessary for operations in Iraq. They are learning how to provide convoy security, how to handle captured insurgents and many are getting familiar with the new M4 rifle, a sister of the M16. The trainees are also focusing on how to get out of mine fields, practicing with hand grenade and other weapons and doing regular calisthenics: pushups, marching and jogging.

"This mobilization is an example of how relevant the guard is to the infrastructure of the military," Marsano said.

National Guard soldiers are no longer weekend warriors, he said. They are fully integrated into the internal operations of the military.

"The initial call-up of Idahoans is taking place to prepare the rest of the 116th Cavalry Brigade for mobilization," said Maj. Gen. Jack Kane. "This first wave of soldiers is needed to ensure leadership, logistical and information needs are met when the rest of the brigade’s members are mobilized."

The advance team of soldiers will begin training at Ft. Bliss, Texas, by June 10. After Ft. Bliss, the unit will undergo more exercises at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, Calif., or the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, La., before deploying overseas.

Marsano said the brigade will likely leave for Iraq by fall and will be committed to one year of service in-country.

Bailey, who is a Vietnam veteran, said the National Guard is the closest thing the country has to a draft.

"Most people who join the guard think service will involve a national emergency or a natural disaster," he said. "When you take people and have to go to war ... the feeling of anxiety for the Guard is like being drafted into service. I hope they get good enough training to prepare themselves well."

Bailey said before Sauvageau left, his pupils bought him two trees to plant in the yard.

"They give him all the support that they can," he said. "He has lots of letter writers here."

During peacetime, each state National Guard answers to its respective governor. During national emergencies, the president reserves the right to mobilize units, putting them in federal duty status.

While federalized, the units partner with the active Army and the Army Reserves and answer to the Combatant Commander of the theater in which they are operating. In recent years Guard soldiers have served in more than 80 countries in a wide variety of operations, including peacekeeping, stabilization and nation building, Marsano said. Nearly 100,000 Army National Guardsmen are currently serving in those capacities.


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